You Can’t Split Your Claims

split claimsI was in court a few weeks ago at the cashier’s window and I overhead a gentleman asking some questions on how to serve an insurance company.  I generally try not to listen to other people’s business when in court, it can be personal, but on the other hand, I also try to help if I can.  The gentleman was involved in a motor vehicle collision and was unhappy with the offer for the total loss of his vehicle.  He was suing the insurance company for what he thought was the fair market value.  I asked a few questions and learned that he was also injured as a result of the collision and had started a bodily injury claim with the same insurance company.  He was nowhere near the statute-of-limitations, so I stopped him from filing his lawsuit.

The gentleman I spoke to in court that day was splitting his claim.  Unless there is a law otherwise, you must file all claims arising out of a single event against the same person (or company) at the same time.  That means if you have both property damage and bodily injury claims, you cannot sue for one, wait until the other claim ripens, and then file for the other.  The effect is that after the first claim has been resolved, the other claim dies.  It is important not to make such a mistake.

Of course there are statutory exceptions.  For instance, you are permitted to file a PIP lawsuit separate from any other liability-based or uninsured/underinsured lawsuit. But, it is important not to extinguish one set of rights by pursuing another.

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