OAI: Wash. Auto Insurance Case Highlights "Phantom Car" Issue

Seattle, WA, August 19, 2011 --(PR.com)-- A Washington state couple has lost its breach of contract lawsuit against Farmers Insurance in a case that hinged on the alleged existence of a so-called “phantom car” the couple claimed had forced them off the road.

Underinsured motorist (UIM) policies often cover motorists for damages caused by vehicles that don’t actually strike the insured car, but even top rated auto insurance providers may refuse to pay claims without evidence of that second vehicle.

That was what happened to Michael and Brenda Osborne after they reported that they had to veer off a road in Skagit County in April 2009 to avoid crashing into an oncoming vehicle.

The Osbornes filed a claim for bodily injury and property damage benefits through their UIM policy, but Farmers denied it, citing a lack of proof that there was a phantom vehicle.

The couple sued, alleging breach of contract by Farmers, but a trial court dismissed their lawsuit.

A phantom vehicle is "a motor vehicle which causes bodily injury, death, or property damage to an insured and has no physical contact with the insured or the vehicle which the insured is occupying at the time of the accident,” according to Washington law.

State statutes require that new or renewed UIM auto insurance policies cover motorists for damages caused by phantom, underinsured and hit-and-run vehicles. But state law also says that the facts of an accident involving a phantom vehicle must be corroborated by evidence other than the testimony of the alleged victim.

Source: http://apps.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=48.22.030

The Osbornes’ policy likewise required independent proof of the second vehicle, the appeals court found.

“The policy provides that where the UIM insured alleges a second vehicle was involved in an accident but there was no physical contact between the insured vehicle and the alleged second vehicle, the ‘facts of the accident must also be verified by someone other than you or another person having an underinsured motorist claim from the same accident’ in order for the insured to pursue a UIM bodily injury claim,” the appeals court opinion states.

The court, finding that the Osbornes failed to provide any evidence to support their claim of a phantom vehicle, upheld the trial court’s dismissal of the case.

To read more about this and other insurance issues, go to http://www.onlineautoinsurance.com/companies/ratings/ where you will find informative resource pages and a free-to-use quote-comparison generator that consumers can use to get sample premiums for many vehicle makes and models.

Online Auto Insurance
Gregor McGavin