Janssen Malloy LLP recently obtained a combined $150,000 policy limits recovery for an couple injured in a head-on collision near Brookings, Oregon. Janssen Malloy LLP partners Michael Crowley and Megan Yarnall handled the matter. Dennis and Trudy Hunt, on their way to move into their just purchased home in Brookings, were struck head-on by a motorist driving a pickup truck who crossed over the double yellow lines into their lane on the highway. The severity of the impact trapped Mr. Hunt in his vehicle for almost 2 hours before emergency personnel could extract him from the wreckage. He suffered a fractured femur, a head injury, and was ultimately airlifted to a hospital in Medford for surgery. Mrs. Hunt had been cradling her husband’s head and neck during his extraction from the vehicle, and was covered with blood from her husband’s head wounds. Her injuries were only addressed after she ensured her husband’s injuries were treated at the hospital. The defendant driver had only a $25,000 per person auto liability coverage, and was without any other assets to satisfy a judgment for the injuries he caused. After the defendant’s insurer tendered (agreed to pay) the policy limits, the Hunts turned to their own insurance carrier, Geico, for compensation under their own underinsured motorist (“UIM”) coverage.
Geico took the position that the Hunts were only entitled to an additional $25,000 each in UIM coverage, refusing to follow Oregon law which allows “stacking” (added to the coverage of the underlying defendant) of UIM coverage. Geico asserted a credit or setoff for the $25,000 each received from the defendant’s policy from their $50,000 per person in UIM coverage, contrary to Oregon law which specifically permits the UIM policy limit to be “stacked.” The Hunts had moved from Idaho, where they had purchased their Geico policy, and Geico argued Idaho did not permit such “stacking” of coverages. However, the Geico policy itself provided that its coverages were to comply with laws of the state in which a collision occurred; Oregon does provide for the UIM coverage to be separate and additional to that of the defendant. Despite letters from counsel outlining the applicable law, Geico continued to refuse to pay the full combined limits. Only after Mr. Crowley and Ms. Yarnall filed a insurance bad faith and breach of contract lawsuit against Geico Insurance in Curry County Circuit Court did they finally concede that the Hunts were entitled to the full policy limits for which they had paid Geico the required premium.
The Hunts’ case illustrates the need for injured persons to have experienced and seasoned trial counsel to advocate on their behalf against even their own insurers to achieve justice and full compensation. Janssen Malloy LLP partner Megan Yarnall is licensed to practice law in Oregon as well as California, which allows our firm to handle matters in both state and federal court in Oregon. Ms. Yarnall and Mr. Crowley have handled complex civil rights/wrongful death litigation in federal court in Oregon, and are currently representing other clients in southern Oregon in personal injury matters. The attorneys at Janssen Malloy LLP stand ready to assist clients in northern California and southern Oregon.