Some of the car crash cases we see don’t involve an injured driver but rather involve passengers in a car where the driver was negligent. Because there are often family relationships involved in these situations some special rules and considerations apply.
For example, one of the types of these claims we see with some frequency is the spousal injury case. These happen when the member of the couple who is driving negligently causes a collision. And that accident injures the passenger spouse. Not surprisingly, many people don’t want to deal with the conflict caused by an injury claim as part of their marriage. After all, who wants to sue their own husband or wife? In addition, sophisticated clients don’t understand how in a community property state like Idaho, they can even sue the spouse and have it mean anything financially.
What is good know is that Idaho law does a good job of balancing the social need of making sure an injured person is compensated by a negligent person AND protecting the marital relationship.
Under Idaho law, an injured spouse can recover for the damages inflicted on them by a negligent spouse in a car crash only up to the amount of available insurance coverage. If that insurance coverage that was bought and paid for was not available the insurance companies would get a windfall and be allowed to keep money that should be paid out for compensation. This would have the costs of the injury borne in part by a non-negligent injured spouse. Because our society believes in personal responsibility, the law makes sure that the negligent spouse’s insurance provides appropriate compensation to the injured spouse.
In addition, the law recognizes that the money paid an injured spouse is not community property. That money is treated as separate property that is paid to, and for the benefit of, the injured spouse.
However, Idaho law also limits the recovery to the amount of the insurance coverage available. This rule was put in place to address one of the reason such claims were precluded in some eras of the law. As the Idaho Supreme Court put it in one case it is “feared that family harmony in certain areas would be disrupted because of the acrimony engendered when family members are pitted as adversaries against each other, and because a judgment might erode the family financial base.” The court rejected that argument in a case where the insurance company tried to avoid providing the coverage it sold by asserting in its contract that no family members could assert claims against each other. That case called Farmers Insurance Group, v. Reed, 712 P.2d 550 (Idaho 1985), made sure that insurance companies couldn’t use exceptions in the insurance contract to weasel out of providing appropriate compensation to injured family members.
Even though the law lets a family member pursue a claim, as successful injury lawyers, we understand that the family relationship must still be handledwith respect and compassion. We always make sure that the family understands that one important way of understanding the meaning of negligence is “making a mistake.” Once a client and the negligent spouse or family member understands that definition, it is easier to move forward with the claim—even if a lawsuit has to be filed.
The insurance companies and their adjusters will use the discomfort people have in asserting a fair claim against a loved on in an effort to pay less money. To be sure that everyone is treated fairly in these situations you almost always need a lawyer. Call us if you have any questions at (208) 386-9119. We can held you understand your situation wherever you are in Idaho and thinking about hiring a good personal injury lawyer.