A Louisiana insured’s auto liability insurance policy will include UM coverage at the same limits as the bodily injury liability coverage in the policy, unless the insured properly completes and signs a form prescribed by the Commissioner of Insurance rejecting, selecting lower limits, or selecting economic-only coverage. La. R.S. 22:1295. Thus, a person buying an automobile insurance policy can reject uninsured/underinsured motorist bodily injury coverage (UMBI) by completing a UMBI form. The consequence is that if a person rejects the coverage and is subsequently in an automobile accident caused by an uninsured or underinsured driver, the person will not have any protection under his or her own insurance policy to compensate him or her for personal injury damages. See Bulletin No. 08-02 for a copy of the UM rejection form. The form is conclusively presumed to become part of the insurance contract. The date on the insurance contract is sufficient for identifying the effective date of the revised UM form.
In Duncan vs. USAA, 2006-CC-363 (La. 11/29/06), 950 So. 2d 551, the Louisiana Supreme Court reviewed the form and assigned six tasks which are required to successfully complete the waiver form:
- Initial the selection or rejection of coverage chosen;
- If limits lower than the policy limits are chosen (available in options 1 and 3 on the form), then filling in the amount of coverage selected for each person and each accident;
- Printing the name of the insured or legal representative;
- Singing the name of the named insured or legal representative;
- Filling in the policy number (this requirement was removed by Bulletin 08-02); and,
- Filling in the date.
The Duncan tasks must be completed before the signature. Gray vs. American Cont’l Cas. Co., 07-1670 (La. 0/26/08), 977 So. 2d 839. For example, the insured cannot sign and initial a blank form and turn it in and have the insurance company or agent complete the other requirements. The date and amount of coverage in options 1 and 3 can be filled in by someone other than the insured (e.g., the insurance agent) as long as the insured or named representative signs and initials the form, thus, indicating a decision. See Lynch v. Kennard, 09-282 (La. 05/15/09), 12 So. 3d 944.
A UM rejection is invalid if it omits the policy number when a policy number is available at the time the waiver is signed. Duncan, supra; also see Tate v. Unitrin Auto & Home Ins. Co., 5 So. 3d 1014 (La. 3 Cir. 2009). However, filling in the policy number is not essential to a valid UM coverage waiver when the policy number “does not exist at the time the UM waiver form is completed.” See, e.g., Carter v. State Farm, 964 So. 2d 375, 376 (La. 2007); Gray, supra.
“[N]o Louisiana court has ever held [that] the waiver must be limited only to a single page.” Nova Casualty Co. v. Guy’s Towing Serv., Inc., 14-0207 (La. W.D. 5/29/15), 2015 WL 3463646. Beyond the six Duncan requirements, the UM statute provides no additional guidance as to how the form should physically appear, and neither the statute nor the jurisprudence requires a uniform format to be used by all insurers or a specific document of a required length be used in order to effectuate a valid UM waiver. Id.
Insurance companies, attorneys and accident victims need to be careful when reviewing UMBI rejection forms. If the forms are not properly completed, the insurance company issuing the car insurance policy may have to provide UM coverage even though the person, people or company that bought the policy did not pay for UM coverage. However, Louisiana courts generally do not award UM coverage, when the person or company purchasing liability coverage did not pay for UM. Consequently, Louisiana jurisprudence upholds the validity of UMBI rejection forms, even when the technical requirements of Duncan, supra are not completely followed.
If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident or has questions about UM coverage or rejection, contact Lawyer Don D’Aunoy today. Lawyer Don’s office is in Metairie, but he routinely represents clients in surrounding areas including Laplace, Gretna, Kenner and New Orleans. Click here for a list of additional areas that Lawyer Don serves. Lawyer Don also makes free house calls and his consultations are free in personal injury cases.