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Insurance Mix-Up Leads to Fatal Accident Not Being Covered by Insurer

By Jack H. FarnbauchMay 1, 2020

An ambulance that crashed into a car and killed its driver was not covered under an insurance policy, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled April 7, 2020. As a result, the insurer had no obligation to either the ambulance service or its employee.

At the time of the accident, Markel Insurance Company insured United Emergency Medical Services’ fleet of ambulances. But the ambulance that crashed – referred to as Ford #4497 – was not listed on the policy.

Before the accident, confusion about adding the ambulance to the policy took place in an email exchange between United administrative director Steven Pavek and Jack Rosen with Insurance Service Center, who served as Markel’s agent. Pavek had emailed Rosen, requesting to add Ford #4497 back onto the policy and that a different ambulance be removed, but Pavek never followed up on the request.

Months later, Ford #4497 crashed into a vehicle driven by Chester Stofko, who eventually died from injuries sustained in the collision. At that point, the ambulance had never been formally added back to the policy. Eventually, United’s owner found a copy of Pavek’s email and forward it to Rosen, who claimed it was the first time he had seen it.

Lillian Rau, as personal representative of Stofko’s estate, filed a lawsuit in state court against United and the ambulance’s driver to recover damages. She argued that it was nevertheless covered by the policy because before the crash, United sent Rosen an email requesting that the vehicle be added to the policy.

The suit was thrown out in the U.S. District Court, ruling in Markel’s favor. Rau then appealed to the 7th Circuit Appeals Court. But in affirming the district court, the 7th Circuit noted that the cases cited by Rau were not based in Indiana Law and were otherwise distinguishable.

Regardless of whether the contested email was sent or received, the 7th Circuit concluded it was undisputed that neither Center nor Markel accepted or responded to United’s request to reinstate coverage for Ford #4497. Thus, Markel did not endorse any such change to the policy and the ambulance was not covered. It’s important for all those with insurance policies to make sure that the insurance policy is actually in effect before relying upon it.

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