Insurance companies sued by passenger seeking court settlement

Kelly Holleran May 6, 2009, 11:00am

A woman who was injured in an accident is blaming two insurance companies for not paying her $180,000 she says she won in a lawsuit against their insured driver.

Melissa Charlton filed a suit May 4 in Madison County Circuit Court against United Automobile Insurance Company and Bernardi Insurance Company.

Charlton says she was a passenger in a vehicle Steven Baucom was driving west on Illinois 156 in Monroe County on April 5, 2005, when Baucom lost control of the vehicle, struck an embankment and crashed.

Before the accident occurred, Baucom had applied for automobile insurance coverage from United and had paid an insurance premium on the coverage, according to the complaint.

When applying for insurance coverage, Baucom was read questions off an application for insurance coverage by a representative for Bernardi Insurance Agency, the suit states. The application was sent on-line the same day.

Afterwards, Baucom received an automobile liability insurance identification card from United that was supposed to be good for coverage from March 23, 2005, until May 23, 2005, the suit states.

Following Baucom's accident, he called United to report it to the claim department, the complaint says.

However, United denied Baucom's claim in correspondence dated May 15 and canceled his coverage, saying Baucom made a material misrepresentation by failing to disclose a prior speeding ticket, Charlton claims.

But never while Bernardi Insurance Agency was asking questions to Baucom during his application process did the Bernardi representative ask if he had any speeding tickets, the complaint says.

"There was no misrepresentation made by Baucom on his application," the suit states. "The failure to disclose any speeding ticket to United Auto Insurance is not a material misrepresentation. United Auto Insurance wrongfully canceled Baucom's insurance policy."

United denied Charlton's claim for coverage over her accident with Baucom, according to the complaint.

So, as a result of injuries she sustained in the accident with Baucom, Charlton filed a complaint against him in Monroe County Circuit Court. The suit was settled on May 5, 2008, for $180,000.

During the court proceedings, United refused to provide defense for Baucom in violation of Illinois insurance code, Charlton alleges.

She says United should be liable for the $180,000, plus 60 percent of the amount the court finds she is to recover against the company, $60,000 and the excess of the amount the court finds the party entitled to recover.

Barnardi Insurance Company breached its duty of care by failing to ask Baucom whether he had any speeding tickets to complete his application, by leaving questions blank on the application for coverage, by failing to investigate questions that were left unanswered, by failing to determine in a timely fashion whether Baucom had been accepted for insurance coverage and by failing to bind the coverage Baucom had requested, according to the complaint.

In the five-count suit, Charlton is seeking a judgment in excess of $250,000, plus costs and other relief the court deems just.

Michael J. Brunton of Brunton Law Offices in Collinsville will be representing her.

Madison County Circuit Court case number: 09-L-454.

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