The Importance of Uninsured Motorist (UM) Coverage Shown Again
The Kentucky Court of Appeals recently ruled in State Farm v. Slusher (decided February 27, 2009), that the estate of a worker killed by a co-worker's negligent operation of their employer's vehicle could also collect the uninsured (UM) motorist benefits on the deceased employee's own vehicle coverage. This case is an affirmation of the basic principle that coverage that is paid for should yield paid benefits. It is also an illustration of how helpful UM coverage is to families.
Donald Slusher worked as coal truck driver for Bell County Coal Corporation. A co-worker failed to properly apply the parking brake on a coal truck and, as a result, Slusher was killed. Workers compensation benefits were paid because he was killed on the job in the course of his employment.
Slusher's estate filed suit against State Farm seeking recover of uninsured (UM) beneifts of $50,000 under a policy that Slusher had with State Farm on his own vehicle. State Farm argued that its payment of UM benefits was precluded by the payments of workers compensation benefits.
The Court of Appeals rejected State Farm's argument because the "essential facts" determining coverage were that negligence caused Slusher's death and the estate's damages exceeded the limits of the workers compensation benefits by at least $50,000, the policy limits. In addition, the UM coverage was paid for with the "reasonable expectation" that hte benefits would be paid where other remedies were insufficient.
Although the amount of workers compensation benefits paid to Slusher's family on account of his death, it was surely some fraction of what he would have earned. The UM benefits his estate was able to collect will help ease the financial loss caused by his death.