If you cause a collision while driving your automobile, chances are your insurance carrier will voluntarily provide you coverage on a claim brought against you by the persons with whom you collided. But what if someone brings a claim against you for injuries suffered while unloading cargo from your vehicle? Generally, claims arising from loading and unloading activities are deemed covered under motor vehicle insurance policies, unless the policy language specifically excludes such claims. But what if your carrier denies you coverage for the claim and you disagree with the carrier’s decision? What should you do?
You have a remedy under New Hampshire law if you believe your insurance carrier should provide you coverage on a claim where your carrier denies coverage. You can file a complaint for declaratory judgment under a New Hampshire statute, RSA 491:22. The Legislature created the statutory remedy of declaratory judgment to provide a mechanism for a court to resolve doubts as to the rights, status or legal relations existing between parties. Through declaratory judgment, an insured can obtain a court ruling as to whether an insurer must provide the insured coverage on a claim.
The declaratory judgment statute is favorable to insureds in terms of proving coverage. Where an insurer denies coverage, the burden of proving lack of insurance coverage is on the insurer. In addition, an insurer must pay the reasonable attorney’s fees and litigation expenses of an insured who proves coverage.
An insured seeking a court declaration that an insurer must provide coverage has a limited time to do so, however. A declaratory judgment case must be filed within six (6) months of the date a lawsuit is filed that gives rise to the question of insurance coverage. As the New Hampshire Supreme Court has explained, the 6-month limitation period applicable to declaratory judgment actions is enforced to encourage early determination of insurance coverage questions.
If you have an insurance coverage question, you should consult an experienced practitioner such as Benjamin T. King, Esquire, at Douglas, Leonard & Garvey. Attorney King can be reached at (603) 288-1403 or fill out our online contact form.