[author: Aaron Mandel]
We thought our readers would be interested in this case from Connecticut involving the state’s cap on self-insurers’ liability for un/underinsured motorists. Although the case came down from the Connecticut Supreme Court in September, we thought it was worth noting in light of the upcoming holiday travel season.
In Garcia v. City of Bridgeport, 51 A.3d 1089 (Conn. Sept. 11, 2012), the Connecticut Supreme Court determined that Connecticut law caps self-insurers’ liability for uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage at $20,000 per person and $40,000 per occurrence.
There, Garcia, an employee of the City of Bridgeport, suffered injuries in a motor vehicle accident caused by an underinsured motorist. Garcia recovered $50,000 from the motorist’s insurer, and filed a claim with the city for the balance of his damages. The city, which self-insured its uninsured/underinsured obligations, denied Garcia’s claim on the ground that he already recovered damages in excess of the minimum $20,000-per-person limit for uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. Garcia sued, alleging that the city’s uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage was unlimited because there was no pre-accident writing demonstrating the city’s election to provide lesser limits of liability.
Although Connecticut law requires that “insurers” notify and obtain the informed consent of their insureds of this election prior to an accident (see Conn. Gen. Stat. § 38a-336(a)(2)), the Connecticut Supreme Court concluded that this notification requirement did not apply to self-insurers. The court reasoned that “a self-insurer is both the insurer and the insured, so a construction of this statute that requires an equivalent notice by a self-insurer and a corresponding request by a self-insured is untenable and unnecessary to protect the insured.” After noting that the “essential and fundamental concern of [Connecticut's] motor vehicle liability scheme” was to guarantee minimum coverage, the court concluded that, under section 38a-336(a)(2), a self-insurer’s uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage obligations are limited to the statutorily prescribed minimums of $20,000 per person and $40,000 per occurrence.