As many of you know, our firm has been leading the fight in Missouri against insurance companies who refuse to pay the promised coverage. We won an important victory in Long v. Shelter regarding underinsurance coverage (coverage you purchase to pay when the defendant driver doesn’t have enough insurance to pay for all the damages). The Missouri Supreme Court recently denied transfer of the case, which means that the opinion from the Court of Appeals is good law. That is great news for consumers in the State of Missouri.

The trial judge and the Western District Court of Appeals said that pursuant to Missouri law and the language in the car insurance contract, Shelter was not entitled to a set-off (or credit) for payments by the defendant driver. In this case, the defendant driver killed a wonderful man who was father, husband and son and even Shelter admitted the damages exceeded any possible insurance coverage. The defendant driver had $50,000 in coverage and the plaintiff had purchased $100,000 in underinsurance coverage. Every consumer would think that Shelter would pay $100,000. Shelter, however, sought to get a credit for the $50,000 paid by the defendant driver, despite the promise on the declaration sheet to pay $100,000. Under the Long case, Shelter now has to pay the full amount promised.

The other important principle in this case related to stacking (or combining multiple policies). In this case, the family had purchased multiple policies from Shelter, all of which listed the deceased as an insured and all of which provided underinsurance coverage. While Shelter gladly accepted the premiums, they refused to pay under each of the policies. The trial judge and the Court of Appeals held that based upon the contract language, the family was entitled to collect under each policy, thereby stacking the coverages.

Attorneys must closely examine the language of the various policies and understand the details of the multiple Missouri Court of Appeals decisions on set-off and stacking. At the end of the day, consumers should expect for insurance companies to pay for the promised coverage and the Long decision protects all Missourians seeking to enforce their rights. I was proud of the courageous Long family who proudly fought for years against a powerful and well financed insurance company. Please do not hesitate to contact our firm if you have questions about collecting all the promised underinsurance coverage.

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