My client’s friend was parked parallel to the street blocking a parking lot driveway. My client approached the passenger-side window from the sidewalk and started talking to the driver. That’s when a different vehicle reversed out of the driveway and pinned my client between the two cars.
The car that reversed out of the parking lot had a minimum liability policy of $15,000. The at-fault driver’s insurance company quickly paid out the policy limits.
I conducted an investigation and found out that my client’s friend had underinsured motorist coverage on his policy in the amount of $25,000. Based on my experience handling car accident cases, I knew that her friend’s underinsured motorist coverage extends to people that are “in, upon, entering into, or alighting from an insured vehicle.”
This includes all persons who are in close proximity to any insured vehicle for reasons essentially related to its use (i.e., talking to the vehicle’s driver). (Atlantic Mutual Ins. Co. v. Ruiz(2004) 123 Cal.App.4th 1197, 1211 [plaintiff was insured when he was approximately one foot from the covered vehicle and attempting to speak to its driver].)
In California, you are not allowed to stack the recovery, meaning my client could not recover $25,000 from her friend’s insurance on top of the $15,000 she recovered from the at-fault carrier. In California, recovery from underinsured coverage is offset by the amount collected from the at-fault carrier. In this case, for example, my client was able to recover an additional $10,000 from her friend’s insurance for a total of $25,000 from all carriers.