As a law-abiding, responsible citizen of the great state of Colorado, you not only follow the rules of the road but the rules of automobile insurance coverage. In turn, we bet that you expect one simple thing out of it: that when an unfortunate situation occurs and you must rely on such coverage following an accident, you will get what you paid for.
What if that weren’t the case? What if there were some time limitations to your coverage that you missed? What if those limitations allowed the insurance carrier to stop paying for certain benefits before the typical deadline for filing a lawsuit under Colorado law? Well, that’s exactly what happened in the case of Allen v. United Services Automobile Association (USAA) just last year. This situation and its disappointing conclusion serve as a lesson for every person who carries any kind of automobile insurance coverage.
What Happened in the Case
For most citizens, Allen v. USAA would probably seem like a cut-and-dry case. Mr. Allen had been injured in an automobile accident, and his insurance policy included reimbursement of medical expenses that arose from a covered accident. The coverage in dispute in the case is commonly referred to as Med Pay coverage. There was no dispute between Mr. Allen and USAA that the policy was to provide $5,000 of Med Pay coverage. The problem is that his policy only covered medical expenses that he incurred within one year from the date of the accident. In Allen’s case, his medical expenses passed the one-year mark and, therefore, USAA denied Allen’s claims under his Med Pay coverage before he reached his $5,000 policy limit.
Why the Statute of Limitations Didn’t Matter
Given the standard, Colorado’s three-year statute of limitations on filing an auto accident lawsuit, a reasonable person may believe that they could submit claims against their Med Pay coverage for medical bills incurred within three years from the date of an accident, but the court made it clear in Allen v. USAA that this is not accurate. Mr. Allen, and other USAA customers with similar circumstances, filed a class action lawsuit against USAA, but the judge found in favor of USAA. The plaintiffs then attempted to appeal the decision on two counts, first citing the doctrine of reasonable expectation and then claiming that USAA had violated Colorado’s Med Pay statute, but the initial legal decision of denial was upheld on both counts. The court determined that USAA did not create a reasonable expectation that it would pay claims for medical expenses incurred after the policy’s 1-year limitation for Med Pay claims and that USAA didn’t violate Colorado’s Med Pay statute, which does not dictate how long such coverage has to pay claims.
Insurance Companies Are Not on Your Side
If we were to ask you right now what your auto insurance policy specifically states about any limitations or exclusions for specific claims, we’d bet that many of you wouldn’t know anything about them or wouldn’t be sure. That’s not surprising. Insurance policies are written by professionals whose sole purpose is — as much as we hate to say it — to save insurance companies money and not pay you. Sure, insurance companies regularly pay out on claims, but they are the ones who write the policies, so it’s important to know what your policy says so that you can get the most out of the policy that you purchased.
The Importance of Hiring an Attorney Immediately
The verbiage in your insurance policy is extremely important for you to know and understand, but let’s face it — unless you’re an attorney, certain things may be missed or misunderstood. The case of Allen v. USAA highlights exactly why you must have an experienced attorney to fight on your side, someone who deals with insurance policies on a regular basis and can pinpoint any limitations in order to maximize your coverage after an accident. Doing so immediately following an accident is imperative so that you don’t get into a similar situation as outlined by the Allen v. USAA case.
The team of experienced attorneys at Mintz Law Firm has handled countless auto accident claims and will help ensure that you receive fair and just compensation. If you or a loved one has been involved in an accident, give us a call for a free, no-obligation consultation today.