Most insurance companies sell drivers a type of coverage that is supposed to provide benefits if a driver runs them off the road. This is called UIM coverage (shorthand for uninsured motorists coverage). However, the insurance companies contend there is no coverage if the claimant is unable to provide "independent corroborative evidence" of the hit-and-run vehicle other than the claimant's own story.
This is what happened to Scott Smith after he was run off the road by a vehicle that drove left of center and almost hit Scott head on. In order to avoid the crash, Scott swerved to the right, drove off the road, and straight into several trees.
Scott suffered injuries as a result of the crash, and turned the claim into his insurance company to help pay his medical bills and other losses. But his insurance company rejected his claim contending Scott couldn't produce any "corroborative evidence" of the hit-and-run driver -- other than evidence that was derived from his own testimony.
The case went all the way to the Ohio Supreme Court who ruled in Scott's favor recently, reversing prior bad rulings which had once supported the insurance companies' position. Smith v. Erie Insurance Company, 2016-Ohio-7742.
Scott Smith was able to win the case because, according to the Supreme Court, the wording in the insurance policy did not require "additional testimony" or "independent third party testimony." The Court ruled that Scott's phone conversation with a 911 operator immediately following the accident -- when he was in peril -- could form the basis of additional evidence supporting his testimony. Likewise, Scott's statements to the police officer could also constitute corroborative evidence, since Scott could face criminal liability if he knowingly made a false statement to the police.
While Scott was able to win coverage in his claim, not all insurance policies are drafted the same. We certainly expect insurance companies to re-draft their contracts in the future to get around this ruling. Therefore, it is important that injured parties' lawyers scrutinize these contracts and aggressively advocate for coverage on behalf of the injured person.