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Judge rules family's survivors from accident entitled to nothing from family's automobile policies

According to a decision signed by Judge Joseph Boles, the survivors of a woman who died in a May 2012 motorcycle accident are entitled to receive nothing from the family’s automobile policies.

According to the attorney for the estate of Julie A. Nelson, the insurance company for the man responsible for the accident has already paid its coverage limits, including $100,000 for wrongful death, and her husband’s motorcycle insurance carrier has paid its underinsured-motorist limit of $250,000.

A lawsuit filed in October 2012 by the woman’s husband Glen D. Nelson, Hammond, and on behalf of their children, Trevor J. and Collin D. Nelson, against Artisan and Truckers Casualty Company asked for underinsured-motorist benefits. Artisan insured the Nelsons’ 1996 Buick LeSabre and 2001 Dodge Grand Caravan--each with limits of $250,000 per person and $500,000 per accident.

Julie Nelson, 47, who was a passenger on a motorcycle operated by her husband, died as a result of a March 17, 2012, accident involving a pickup driven by George D. Budd, Beldenville.

Budd was subsequently found guilty of homicide by negligent operation of a vehicle and reckless driving, causing great bodily harm. He was ordered to serve six months in jail and placed on probation for three years.

In a stipulation filed with the civil case, the Nelsons’ attorney C.M. Bye said Julie Nelson was the sole breadwinner for her family, earning about $70,000 a year. Her accident-related medical expenses were $238,753. The parties in the lawsuit agreed wrongful-death damages exceeded $500,000.

The questions before Judge Boles were whether or not the coverage for the Buick and Dodge could be “stacked” on top of the benefits already received, resulting in a benefit of $500,000 from Artisan, and whether a “drive other car” exclusion in the Artisan policy negates the Nelsons’ claim for underinsured-motorist coverage.

Judge Boles found that, because of their wording, the policies issued to the Nelsons could be stacked so the coverage available would total $500,000--$250,000 for each covered vehicle. But he found a reducing clause cuts Artisan’s liability by the amounts received from the other insurance companies.

As for the final issue, the judge found an exclusion provision in the Artisan policy denies coverage if injuries are sustained while using or occupying a vehicle owned by a relative.

In this case, found the judge, the motorcycle was owned by the woman’s husband, her relative, and Artisan is relieved from liability with respect to the underinsured-motorist claim.