Alabama Appellate Court Reverses Dismissal of Subrogation Complaint in Car Accident Claim and Reviews Rules Regarding When Leave to Amend is Proper

Knowing which parties to include in a lawsuit and ensuring that you have alleged the right causes of action against each party can be difficult, especially if you recently experienced a car accident resulting in Alabama personal injuries for the first time. At The Reeves Law Firm, we have handled numerous car accidents on behalf of Decatur and Huntsville residents and have the experience it takes to ensure that your lawsuit is approached carefully and thoroughly.

A recent case discusses a situation where a party sought leave to amend its complaint to add a different defendant.  In that case, a woman suffered injuries in a car accident.  She had an insurance policy that included underinsured-motorist (UIM) benefits. The woman notified her insurer that she and other driver’s insurer had settled her claim against that driver for the driver’s policy limits of $25,000. The woman’s own insurer did not consent to the settlement and paid the woman $25,000. The woman then died. Her insurer brought a claim against the other driver seeking reimbursement of the $25,000 in UIM benefits that it had paid to its own insured.

The other driver filed a motion to dismiss, or for summary judgment in the alternative, alleging that because the woman had died her personal injury claim was exhausted and that her insurer could not maintain a claim against the other driver because it sued as a subrogee of the woman. The UIM insurer disputed this claim and argued that the claim survived the woman’s passing and that it had a right of reimbursement from the other driver’s insurer, not from the other driver as an individual. The insurer sought leave to amend its complaint to add the other driver’s insurer as a defendant, which the trial court did not rule on.

The trial court dismissed the insurer’s complaint as filed outside the statute of limitations. The UIM insurer alleged that because the two-year statute fell on a Sunday, filing on the following Monday was appropriate. The court disagreed and denied its post-judgment motions for relief. The insurer appealed on several grounds, alleging that the court erred by not allowing it leave to amend, that it had a valid subrogation claim against the other driver and the other driver’s insurer and that it filed its amended complaint within the statute of limitations.

Reviewing these allegations, the appellate court concluded that the lower court erred by failing to grant the insurer’s motion for leave to amend the complaint to add the other driver’s insurer as a party. It reversed the lower court’s denial of the insurer’s post-judgment motion for relief. According to Alabama law, when a court grants a motion to dismiss, the other party is deemed to have an automatic right to amend the complaint within 10 days from the day that the order dismissing the action is entered. It also noted that allowing an amendment is particularly important where the court dismissed the complaint for failure to state a cause of action. Based on this, the court remanded the action for further proceedings.

If you were hurt in an Alabama car accident, contact our compassionate and responsive personal injury professionals today. We have witnessed firsthand how difficult a car accident can be for the victim, especially when it comes to navigating the legal system and ensuring that insurance companies are treating you fairly. We offer a free consultation to help you learn about how we can assist you so call us now at 256-355-3311 or contact us online.

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