Dealership's insurance could pay for bicyclist's car accident injuries

A bicycle accident caused by a collision with a motor vehicle can result in serious injuries for the bicyclist. If the collision is due to the negligence of the car driver, then that driver should be responsible for compensating the victim.

However, what if other parties, beyond the driver behind the wheel, are also responsible for compensating the victim? And what if that party’s insurance company refuses to pay for the injuries? The Indiana Court of Appeals case of Auto-Owners Ins. Co. v. Bill Gaddis Chrysler Dodge, Inc. provides an example.

A son “purchases” a car from his family’s dealership

The victim in this case was riding his bicycle when he was struck by an automobile driven by an 18-year-old male. The driver initially stopped, but then fled the scene. He subsequently turned himself into police. The bicyclist later brought a negligence lawsuit to receive compensation for his injuries resulting from the collision.

As later discovered, the driver had “purchased” the car from a dealership owned by his grandfather, where his father, who he lived with, was a salesman. The son had not paid any money to the dealership for the car. Instead, he had given his father approximately $300 in cash, with the remainder added to his father’s “account,” to be deducted from the son’s salary at a later date. This was the car the son was driving on the day he hit the bicyclist.

The dealership had an insurance policy that could be used to compensate the innocent victim’s injuries, but the insurance company asked the court to find that the insurance policies should not provide any payments, since the son, rather than the dealership, owned the car.

Did the driver “own” the car?

However, despite the insurance company’s allegations, the evidence presented also supported the reasonable inference that the dealership owned the car at the time of the accident.

First, the dealership had not transferred the title of the car to the son prior to the accident, and he had never actually paid for the car, but instead had simply “charged” it to his father’s account with the dealership. Second, the son had previously driven a car owned by the dealership when he worked delivering pizzas without owning that car. Third, the son had neither registered the car nor purchased insurance at the time of the accident. Finally, after the car accident, the dealership had sold the car at auction, the proceeds from that sale were used to credit the father’s account with the dealership for the cost of the car, and the excess proceeds from that sale were not paid to the son. Thus, the car did not necessarily belong to the son, and the dealership’s insurance company could potentially be made to pay for the bicyclist’s personal injuries.

Holding all responsible parties accountable

At the moment a bicycle-car collision occurs, the focus needs to be on attending to any injuries. However, in the aftermath of the accident, it is important that all responsible parties are held accountable. If you are injured due to the negligence of others, seek an experienced attorney who has handled a broad range of claims and understands how to overcome any potential barriers-including the resistance of insurance companies-to ensure you receive the compensation you deserve.

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