East Texas Appellate Court Says Car Accident Litigant Can’t Depose UM/UIM Adjuster Until She Has Judgment Against Responsible Motorist

When someone has been involved in an east Texas car accident, they often assume that their own insurance company will “take care of them” if the person who caused the accident was uninsured or did not have enough insurance coverage to fully compensate those injured in the crash.

While it is true that those who pay for uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage have a contractual right to be paid for damages such as medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering up to the limits of such coverage, payment of these funds is not automatic and can be a surprisingly protracted process, especially for those who think they and their insurance company are on the “same side” when it comes to UM/UIM claims. Actually, the opposite is true.

Facts of the Case

In the case of In re Liberty County Mutual Insurance Company (Case No. 01-17-00363-CV; Court of Appeals for the First District of Texas), an uninsured/underinsured motorist insurance carrier sought relief from a district court’s order compelling discovery allegedly related to severed and abated claims. The matter arose from a dispute concerning a car accident that occurred in 2014 between the insurance company’s insured and a vehicle driven by another person, who was allegedly uninsured. The insured’s lawsuit included both contractual and extra-contractual fraud claims, as well as statutory claims based on the insurance company’s alleged failure to pay benefits due under the policy.

The trial court severed and abated all of the plaintiff’s causes of action except for the breach of contract and declaratory judgment claims. Discovery proceeded, but the insurance company objected to certain discovery requests by the insured on the ground that the requested information was irrelevant to the current causes of action, insisting that there was no cause of action for UM benefits until the underlying tort case between the insured and the allegedly negligent driver was resolved. The trial court denied the insurance company’s motion to quash the insured’s notice to take the deposition of a certain claims adjuster. The insurance company filed a petition for a writ of mandamus, seeking relief from the appellate court.

Decision of the Court of Appeals

The Texas Court of Appeals conditionally granted relief to the insurance company, directing the trial court to vacate its order compelling the adjuster’s deposition and granting the insurance company’s motion to quash. According to the court, the insured did not yet have a justiciable cause of action against the insurance company for UM benefits. Although the information that the insured wanted might become relevant at some time in the future, this would not happen until the insured obtained a judgment establishing that the other party was liable for the car accident, that the other party was uninsured or underinsured, and that the insured was entitled to a certain amount of damages for her injuries in the accident.

Get Help with Your East Texas Car Accident Case

Established east Texas car accident attorney Earl Drott has over three decades of experience helping those who have been injured by others’ negligent and reckless driving. For a free case review, call Earl Drott Law at 903-531-9300 and schedule an appointment concerning your Tyler, Smith County, or east Texas car, truck, or motorcycle accident.

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