I Paid My Car Insurance Premium So I’m Insured Right?

April 4, 2019

It is a well-known fact that in order to drive a car, the law requires you to have car insurance. This is just one example of a situation where a person may be required to have insurance by law. Because this insurance is required, it is generally assumed that a person will continue to be insured as long as they continue making payments. This, however, isn’t always the case. Many people are unaware that the insurance company can make the decision to no longer insure you whenever they want, which can be surprising and upsetting, and can lead to some legal issues. At minimum, the person must deal with the inconvenience of finding new insurance coverage. At worst, a serious incident can occur where a person may have an incident, such as a car accident, and the insurance company will deny coverage. Gruenloh Law recently was able to help a client who faced a similar situation. Our client was in a car accident and when she made a claim on her insurance, was shocked to discover that the insurance company had attempted to stop insuring her about a month prior. After trying to unsuccessfully to deal with the insurance company and figure out exactly why her coverage was being denied, she contacted us for help. South Carolina law requires that in order to not renew an insurance policy, the insurance company must give the person 30 days notice. See Bannister v. Ohio Cas. Ins. Co., 314 S.C. 388, 389, 444 S.E.2d 528, 529 (Ct. App. 1994). Additionally, in order for that notice to be considered adequate, the insured must actually receive the notice and be aware of the fact that their policy will not be renewed. See Edens v. S. Carolina Farm Bureau Mut. Ins. Co., 288 S.C. 435, 343 S.E.2d 49 (Ct. App. 1986). Upon receiving notice that your insurance is not being renewed, a person has 15 days to request in writing that the issue be reviewed. S.C. Code Ann. § 38-77-120. Through our investigations, we were able to determine that the insurance company sent a letter to our client informing her that they would not renew her insurance policy. The letter the insurance company sent, however, was sent to the wrong address. Due to a typographical error, the insurance company entered her mailing address incorrectly and she never actually received the letter. After numerous conversations with the company informing them of their error and lack of compliance with the law, the insurance company still refused to extend coverage to our client. Because our client contacted us immediately, our attorneys were able to contest the denial of coverage. Our attorneys lodged a formal complaint with the South Carolina Insurance Commissioner on behalf of our client, and shortly thereafter the insurance company reviewed the situation and extended coverage to our client. After coverage was granted, our client was able to successfully make a claim and get the money that she deserved. In order to protect your rights, it is important to contact an attorney immediately. If you or anyone you know has been improperly denied coverage by their insurance […]

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A Clerk of Court May Not “Administratively” Dismiss a Case Without Authorization and If It Attempts to Do So, Such Judgment is Void

March 4, 2019

Imagine on the eve of trial, after years of litigation, countless hours of work and tens of thousands of dollars in expenses, you’ve finally settled your case at mediation. The Defendants have agreed to pay a sum that your client begrudgingly accepts because – well, its money and it’s just enough. It is agreed that the Defendants will pay within 30 days and, upon payment, the lawsuit will be dismissed. Because the trial is imminent, the settlement is communicated to the trial court. In all communications with the court it is clear that no dismissal has been authorized, agreed to, or requested. The Defendants fail to pay the compromised settlement amount within 30 days thereby breaching the settlement agreement. You elect to move forward with the trial rather than moving to enforce the settlement agreement on the compromised amount. The only problem is that you learn the clerk of court inexplicably signed a Form 4 dismissal – not only removing your case from the docket but also dismissing it with prejudice. You petition to the trial court to vacate the dismissal because it was not authorized by the parties, or signed by a judge. Problem – the trial court denies your motion to set aside the errant judgment and says that your only remedy is to enforce the settlement. This occurred with one of our cases. We took the matter up with the Court of Appeals who reversed the trial courts ruling and found that the clerk of court’s dismissal was void and that it should have been set aside. The Defendants then asked the Supreme Court to consider the matter and, recently, the Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals holding that such a judgment is void.  The following summary provides more detail and the complete Court of Appeals and Supreme Court Opinions are available here. The underlying action included claims of breach of contract, constructive fraud, conversion, and tortious interference with contractual relationship. The parties reached a settlement agreement at mediation for a confidential sum to be paid within 30 days of the agreement. Prior to payment, the parties contacted the Dorchester County Clerk of Court to inform them that a settlement was reached. It is clear that no dismissal has been authorized, agreed to, or requested. Rather the parties indicated that they would submit a stipulation of dismissal when the settlement had been consummated and that the case was not to be dismissed until then. Despite these communications, the Clerk of Court removed the case from the trial docket and dismissed the matter. The firm attempted to get the matter restored to the trial docket when payment was not made in 30 days. After contacting the court, the firm was informed for the first time that the case had been dismissed. We filed a Rule 60 Motion which the trial court denied without offering any reasoning. We filed a Motion to Reconsider which was likewise denied without any written reasoning or opinion. The trial court’s dismissal left us with the options of enforcing the settlement or appealing the ruling. We chose to appeal. On appeal, the South […]

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