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Topic: Uninsured Motorist

Recent Tennessee Court of Appeals Decision Finds that One Year Statute of Limitations May Not Apply to Uninsured Motorist Claims

Posted on Aug 27 2017 10:58AM by Attorney, Jason A. Lee

The Tennessee Court of Appeals in Larry Stine Bates v. Michael J. Greene, W2016-01868-COA-R3-CV, 2017 WL 3206599 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2017) dealt with an interesting issue involving the statute of limitations that applies to the filing of a claim against an uninsured motorist carrier.  The uninsured motorist carrier in this case was Shelter Insurance. The plaintiff filed suit against the defendant, the alleged tortfeasor, within one year of the accident. However, the civil warrant was returned unserved. An alias was then issued for the defendant but it was also returned unserved. Over two years after the actual accident, an amended alias civil warrant was issued against the defendant, which added Shelter Insurance Company, plaintiff’s uninsured motorist carrier, as a defendant. The uninsured motorist carrier was served over two years after the accident occurred.


As a result, the insurance company filed a Motion for Summary Judgment and claimed that the action against it was barred by the one-year statute of limitations applicable to personal injury actions. The circuit court agreed and granted the Motion for Summary Judgment, dismissing the case against the uninsured motorist carrier. The court found the one-year personal injury statute of limitations applied to the uninsured motorist claim.


On appeal, the Tennessee Court of Appeals reviewed the situation in detail. They reviewed a significant amount of prior cases as well as statutory changes to the uninsured motorist statute.  Ultimately, the Court concluded that in this case, the one-year statute of limitations for a personal injury claim did not apply. Instead, the six-year statute of limitations for a contract cause of action applied for the claim against the uninsured motorist carrier.  Multiple prior Tennessee cases have held consistent with this opinion in the past. The Court also analyzed T.C.A. § 56 -7-1206(d) which provides the following:


(d) In the event that service of process against the uninsured motorist, which was issued to the motorist's last known address, is returned by the sheriff or other process server marked, “Not to be found in my county,” or words to that effect, or if service of process is being made upon the secretary of state for a nonresident uninsured motorist and the registered notice to the last known address is returned without service on the uninsured motorist, the service of process against the uninsured motorist carrier, pursuant to this section, shall be sufficient for the court to require the insurer to proceed as if it is the only defendant in the case.


Based on this statute the Court noted that the legislator intended that a plaintiff could sue the uninsured m...

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TAGS: Uninsured Motorist, Automobile/Motorcycle Liability, Statute of Limitations Comments [0]

New Tennessee Law Clarifies that Red Light Violation Does Not Occur When Vehicle’s Front Tires Have Already Entered Intersection When Light Turns Red

Posted on Jul 6 2014 8:59PM by Attorney, Jason A. Lee

Analysis:  In the 2014 Tennessee Legislative session the Tennessee Legislature decided to clarify exactly what constitutes a red light violation in Tennessee.  The legislature amended T.C.A. § 55-8-110 which is the statute that discusses what traffic control signals mean for an intersection.  It defines and explains the meaning of the “green”, “yellow”, and “red” notifications on traffic signal devices.  The Tennessee Legislature passed Public Chapter No. 989 that added a new subsection (e) to T.C.A. § 55-8-110 as follows:


(e) It is not a violation of subdivision (a)(3), unless the front tires of a vehicle cross the stop line after the signal is red.


Subsection (a)(3) is the section that discusses the responsibilities of a driver when faced with a red light in Tennessee.  As a result of this change, it is not a red light violation unless the front tires of the vehicle cross the stop line after the signal is already red.  As a result, if the front tires are already beyond the traffic intersection line at the point when the light turns red, then it is not a red light violation under the newly amended T.C.A. § 55-8-110.  This law takes effect on July 1, 2014.


Obviously, this change in the law will come into play in automobile accident litigation across the state of Tennessee.  This new statute more clearly defines what it means to violate a red light and provides a definitive time period when a red light violation occurs (when the vehicle’s front tires cross the intersection line when the light is already red).  I am sure this statute will be heavily involved in litigated car accident cases across the State of Tennessee.  However, I think it is a beneficial clarification in the law to make a bright line test for when a red light violation occurs.  There is still plenty of room for disagreement as to whether the fr...

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TAGS: Uninsured Motorist, Automobile/Motorcycle Liability, 2014 Tennessee Legislation, Defenses Comments [1]

Uninsured Motorist – Offset of uninsured motorist coverage with workers’ compensation benefits paid

Posted on Jul 18 2012 11:24AM by Attorney, Jason A. Lee

Brief Summary:  Insurance policy language is important to determine if an insurance company is entitled to an offset of uninsured motorist coverage for workers compensation benefits paid.  If the policy contains non-specific offset language as opposed to “reduced by” language, then it must first prove that its payment would parallel a payment from another source before claiming an offset.  Generally, the uninsured motorist carrier is entitled to an offset from policy limits payable, rather than the judgment award, when it proves the total workers’ compensation offset and the UM policy limits, together, are greater than the judgment awarded to the insured.


Analysis:  The Tennessee Court of Appeals decided an interesting case which considered when an insurance company can claim an offset of uninsured motorist coverage by the amount of workers’ compensation benefits paid to its insured.  The Robert Mears v. Kendra M. Williams, W2011-02499-COA-R3-CV, 2012 WL 2832960 (filed July 11, 2012) decision addressed some long standing questions that had developed in light of the 2001 decision of State Farm Insurance Company v. Schubert, 2001 WL 584208 (Tenn. Ct. App. May 31, 2001).


In the Mears case the workers’ compensation payments totaled approximately $110,000.00.  The State Farm uninsured motorist policy limits were $250,000.00.  The total jury verdict at trial was $225,000.00.  As a result, the question was whether State Farm was entitled to an offset against plaintiff’s recovered damages for the loss or expense paid under workers’ compensation law or whether the offset should be applied to the amount of coverage payable under the uninsured motorist policy.  The State Farm uninsured motorist policy provision states:


Any loss or expense paid or payable under any workers’ compensation law, disability benefits law or any similar law will not be paid for again as damages under these (uninsured motorist) coverages. 


The trial court denied State Farm the ability to offset for the workers’ compensation benefits paid to the plaintiff from the policy limits.  The trial court relied on the Schubert deci...

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TAGS: Uninsured Motorist, Insurance Comments [0]

Jason A. Lee is a Member of Burrow Lee, PLLC. He practices in all areas of defense litigation inside and outside of Tennessee.

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Tennessee Defense Litigation Blog
Jason A. Lee, Member of Burrow Lee, PLLC
611 Commerce Street, Suite 2603
Nashville, TN 37203
Phone: 615-540-1004
E-mail: jlee@burrowlee.com