If hit by an uninsured or underinsured motorist while at work, an employer’s insurance may not cover the damage. While everyone in Louisiana who has a liability policy is required to have uninsured motorists coverage, they can receive an exception by signing a waiver. This can leave accident victims in the dust with tons of heavy medical bills and debt for making a decision they may not have fully understood. Ecolab, Inc. employee Lyndon Doyle found himself in this situation not this lucky.
On January of 2008, Doyle was injured in a car accident while driving a vehicle owned by Ecolab. His injuries resulted in medical bills totaling over $25,000. The woman who hit him, Aniece Smith, did not have enough insurance to cover all of Doyle’s injuries. Because Doyle’s employer Ecolab had a liability insurance policy issued by National Union, Doyle sought the full policy limit from National Union under the uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM) liability provision.
While National Union admitted that a policy covering Doyle existed, they denied that UM coverage was available because Ecolab signed waivers of that coverage on February 4, 2003, and December 18, 2003. Because of the company’s prior decision, Doyle had to argue that both waivers were invalid or not executed in accordance with the law. While originally arguing that the February 4th waiver was invalid because it did not contain a policy number nor the company name in the designated place, the plaintiff chose to concede that the waiver was valid, placing all emphasis on the second argument.
In order to win, Doyle had to argue that the second, December 18 waiver was invalid and that it superseded the properly executed February 4th waiver. To argue that it superseded the first, Doyle had to show that it was signed during the original policy term and not in conjunction with a renewal nor change in coverage. National Union admitted that the December 18 waiver was invalid but asserted that it was signed pursuant to a renewal, and thus did not supersede the first, valid waiver. The court finally decided that the second waiver was simply a renewal, and did not supersede the first because the signed waiver forms were identical and the Ecolab representative who signed both, assumed he had signed the second pursuant to a renewal.
Because the second improper waiver was simply a renewal, it did not supersede the first, properly executed waiver. Thus the UM waiver was in effect at the time of Doyle’s accident, and National Union did not have to pay him anything to help with his medical debt resulting from the accident.
This case illustrates an unfortunate reality: the decisions of your employer can gravely affect your ability to recover from an accident. By hiring the best available attorney, you can make sure that no possible avenue of recovery is missed. This may be the only way to get help with the massive amount of medical debt that may result from an accident while working.
If you think you deserve coverage or that you have been denied the appropriate amount, contact the Berniard Law Firm at 1-866-574-8005 to consult an attorney who can help you understand the policies and whether an insurance company owes you coverage.