The Defendant, GEICO Insurance Company, had issued an insurance policy to the Plaintiff which provided uninsured coverage. The Plaintiff had a daughter of college age, who was leaving the State of Colorado to attend school elsewhere. When the Plaintiff notified GEICO that his daughter would be attending school elsewhere, GEICO required the Plaintiff to purchase an additional insurance policy which would provide coverage to the Plaintiff’s daughter while she attended school out of state.
The Plaintiff was not aware, and GEICO certainly did not notify the Plaintiff, that the Plaintiff’s existing policy would cover the Plaintiff’s daughter as she attended school out of state. In Colorado, the Uninsured Motorist Statute is broadly worded to protect consumers that lack knowledge of the intricacies of the insurance business. The Statute requires insurers to provide coverage to all “resident relatives”. A student who attends school elsewhere, though they may be over the age of 18, is typically considered a resident relative, even if they attend school out of state, and the parents’ policy will cover them wherever they go, as long as they remain a student. In essence, GEICO required the Plaintiff to purchase an unnecessary policy.
The Plaintiff was seriously injured in an automobile accident here in Colorado. He made a claim for uninsured benefits under his original policy, and under the additional policy he had purchased for his daughter, attending school out of state. As the named insured on that second policy, GEICO was required to pay him the benefits of that policy.
GEICO argued that they were not obligated to pay benefits under the second policy (the out of state policy), because they had restricted coverage under the terms of that policy strictly to the vehicle that the daughter would have been driving while she attended school out of state. In Colorado, such restrictions are invalid, as coverage follows the consumer, not the vehicle.
The Sawaya Law Firm, through attorney Drew Haywood represented the Plaintiff in a Declaratory Action in Federal Court against Defendant GEICO. After hearing the case, and oral arguments, the Court ruled in the Plaintiff’s favor.
The Court’s ruling is favorable for Plaintiff’s statewide, because it preserves the sanctity of the Uninsured Motorist Statute. It clearly establishes that an insurance company may not circumvent Colorado Law by attempting to classify certain policies as out of state policies.
In closing, the key takeaway points from the ruling are this:
- If an uninsured policy is issued in Colorado to Colorado consumers, it must meet the terms of Colorado Law, even if a driver anticipates driving the vehicle elsewhere during the policy period;
- Uninsured coverage in the State of Colorado follows the person, NOT the vehicle. Therefore, if you have coverage, it doesn’t matter what vehicle you are driving or in what vehicle you are riding;
- Under Colorado law, if any member of the household has an uninsured policy, that policy may well cover any and all other members of the household, even if those members of the household are over 18;
- Colorado’s Uninsured Motorist Statute, C.R.S. § 10-4-609 is very expansive. If you have been involved in an accident, make sure to discuss with your family members any and all insurance policies taken out by any family member. That policy just might provide you with coverage, even if the accident isn’t your fault.
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