Appellate Court Dismisses Insurance Company’s Appeal in Case Involving Subrogation Claim in Automobile Accident Lawsuit in East Texas

Each car accident case in Texas must stand on its own merits. The specific facts – as well as the particular parties – that are part of a given accident will inform the ultimate outcome of the case.

The more parties and claims that arise from a particular collision, the more complex the litigation is likely to be. Even in a simple crash involving only two individuals, it is wise to consult an attorney before speaking to the at-fault driver’s insurance company.

Speaking with counsel is even more important when multiple parties and/or multiple claims are involved. An experienced east Texas car accident attorney can help protect the victim’s legal rights as the case moves forward through the court system.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case arising in the 15th District Court for Grayson County, Texas, the original dispute concerned an injured worker’s claim against the estate of a man who had allegedly caused a 2018 automobile accident in which the worker was injured. The workers’ compensation company that covered the worker’s employer at the time of the crash sought to assert a subrogation right, alleging that it had paid out nearly $2 million in medical benefits and almost $100,000 in indemnity benefits to the worker or on his behalf. Supposedly relying on the statement of the worker’s attorney, the insurance company agreed to waive its subrogation rights because it believed that the defendant’s insurance policy limits were only $30,000.

After the worker settled his case against the negligent driver’s estate for a sum “well in excess of” the alleged policy limits, the insurance company sued in intervention to enforce its right of subrogation. The trial court denied the insurance company’s amended petition in intervention, as well as its motion for apportionment of the settlement proceeds and its motion for a new trial asking the trial court to vacate its judgment. The insurance company sought appellate review of the lower court’s ruling.

Decision of the Court

The Court of Appeals for the Sixth Appellate District of Texas at Texarkana granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss the insurance company’s appeal for want of jurisdiction. On appeal, the worker asserted that the insurance company’s notice of appeal was untimely. In reviewing the procedural posture of the case, the appellate tribunal found that the trial court had signed the final judgment on March 2, 2020. Thus, under Texas law, the insurance company should have filed its notice of appeal within 30 days, that is, on or before April 1, 2020. The insurance company did not file its notice of appeal until July 1, 2020.

Although the insurance company averred that it was not actually appealing from the trial court’s final judgment but, instead, from a separate order entered on June 2, 2020, pertaining to the insurance company’s petition in intervention (and related motions), the court of appeals found this contention unavailing. Because the insurance company’s appeal was untimely, the appellate tribunal lacked jurisdiction to consider its substantive arguments. Therefore, the proper course of action was for the court of appeals to dismiss the insurance company’s appeal.

Seek Advice from an East Texas Attorney

Automobile accident lawsuits can be very complicated, especially when the accident occurred during the course and scope of the accident victim’s employment. If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident in Tyler or Smith County, call Earl Drott Law at 903-531-9300 to schedule an appointment to discuss your caseĀ at your earliest convenience. Please be mindful that there is a limited amount of time for filing a claim; with very limited exceptions, untimely claims will be dismissed by the courts.

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