Uninsured Motorist/Workers' Comp Claims

An individual who is "on the job" at the time of an accident caused by an uninsured driver, has the additional challenge of dealing with the workers' compensation system.   A recent case handled by Janssen Malloy LLP illustrates the challenges involved.

Janssen Malloy LLP represented a Humboldt State University ("HSU") Fisheries Technician employee who was injured when an uninsured driver struck his vehicle with enough force to cause it to roll over.  Because the injured driver was within the scope of his employment with HSU at the time of the incident,  a parallel workers' compensation claim proceeded after his injury.

After establishing that the defendant driver was uninsured, the injured plaintiff pursued an uninsured motorist claim with his own insurance carrier.  The workers' compensation insurer (on behalf of the injured plaintiff's employer) attempted to assert a California Labor Code lien reimbursement right out of his recovery from his own uninsured motorist claim.

California’s Uninsured Motorist Act states that the uninsured motorist insurance carrier (plaintiff’s carrier) does not have to pay any of the medical expenses that were paid through the workers' compensation insurer if the injured party was within the scope of their employment at the time of the injury.  Despite this, the workers' compensation insurer attempted to assert a Labor Code lien reimbursement right out of the recovery.

California’s Uninsured Motorist Act does not allow for such lien reimbursement by the workers' compensation insurer for the logical reason that the injured plaintiff was not compensated from his own insured motorist coverage for any payments made by the workers' compensation insurer; to allow the workers' compensation insurer to assert such a lien reimbursement would be taking funds from the injured plaintiff that were not recovered from his/her own uninsured motorist coverage.  This issue had to be litigated in order to educate the workers' compensation insurer that their position was not in accord with California law.

The above case example illustrates some of the challenges facing a person injured through no fault of their own, who not only has to contend with their own insurance carrier’s coverage issues but also simultaneously deal with attempts at workers' compensation lien reimbursements that are not permitted under California law.

There are a significant number of uninsured drivers in the Humboldt County community.   An individual’s best investment is to purchase the highest level of uninsured motorist coverage he/she can afford, as this may be the only guaranteed coverage.

Janssen Malloy LLP highly recommends that injured parties consult with experienced counsel to protect their interests and to achieve full compensation for their injuries.