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Insurance Duty to Cooperate Cases By Injury Lawyer

This page within Virginia Tort Case Law is a compilation of cases reported by the Virginia Supreme Court and summarized by Brien Roche dealing with the topic of Insurance Duty to Cooperate and the related topic of personal injury. For more information on insurance see the pages on Wikipedia. 

Insurance Duty To Cooperate-Statutes

See Va. Code § 38.2-2204(C) indicating that for non-cooperation of insured to be policy defense, insurance company must show prejudice. If insurance company has actual notice of suit papers having been served, then mere failure of insured to turn suit papers over to insurance company shall not be defense to insurer in regards to motor vehicle insurance. 

Insurance Duty To Cooperate-Cases

1997 Angstadt v. Atlantic Mut. Ins. Co., 254 Va. 286, 492 S.E.2d 118. 

In this declaratory judgment action brought by insurance carrier, carrier asked for issue out of chancery. Defendant could have filed plea in equity which raises single issue which, if proved, constitutes absolute defense to suit. With plea in equity, jury verdict is binding and conclusive. Whereas with issue out of chancery, jury verdict is simply advisory. In this case trial court chose not to accept jury verdict and entered judgment in favor of insurance carrier finding lack of cooperation by insured. Issue in this case was whether insured willfully failed to cooperate. Trial court found that insured did willfully fail to cooperate when he had been advised on more than one occasion of need to appear for deposition on certain date and time pursuant to court order and he failed to appear without excuse. Coverage denied. 

1995 Angstadt v. Atlantic Mut. Ins. Co., 249 Va. 444, 457 S.E.2d 86. 

Declaratory judgment action wherein carrier denied coverage due to failure of insured’ s employee to appear for deposition resulting in default judgment. Insurer pled collateral estoppel contending that issue of non-cooperation had been previously litigated in underlying action by entry of default judgment. Collateral estoppel not applicable in this instance. In addition, Supreme Court ruled that evidence of default judgment was not admissible since that is not relevant as to issue of non-cooperation and in addition is highly prejudicial. 

1984 Dan River, Inc. v. Commercial Union Ins. Co., 227 Va. 485, 317 S.E.2d 485. 

Insured was sued in discrimination action on October 24, 1969. Insured notified carrier of suit on March 16, 1977. Insurer properly denied coverage due to late notice. There was no waiver of this to deny under Va. Code § 38.1-389.1 [now § 38.2-2226] simply because carrier failed to give notice within 20 days after its discovery of breach. That statute has no effect upon contractual relations between insured and insurer. Purpose of statute is to provide prompt notice to claimant so that he may take steps to protect his rights. 

1983 State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v. Davies, 226 Va. 310, 3 10 S.E.2d 167. 

Intersection accident case wherein insured failed to appear at trial. Her pretrial statement to insurance company indicated there was viable defense. Court refused to apply per se rule that would permit insurer to show merely that insured failed to appear at trial so as to deny coverage. Court likewise refused to require insurer to show that bad insured appeared result at trial would have been different. Instead, court took middle road and held that when insurer shows insured’s willful failure to appear at original trial deprived carrier of evidence which would have made jury issue of insured’s liability and supported verdict in his favor, insured has established reasonable likelihood result would have been favorable and has carried its burden of proving prejudice. 

1982 Lord v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 224 Va. 283, 295 S.E.2d 796. 

Substantial compliance with notice provisions in automobile liability policy is required as condition precedent to recovery of medical payments; 173-day delay constituted breach of notice provision. 

1982 Liberty Mut. Ins. Co. v. Safeco Ins. Co., 223 Va. 317, 288 S.E.2d 469. 

Insurance duty to cooperate. Fifty-one day delay between accident and notice to insurer was breach of policy’s notice condition. No justification offered for delay. Carrier gave timely notice of this defense under § 38.1-389.1 [now § 38.2-2226]. 

1982 Erie Ins. Exch. v. Meeks, 223 Va. 287, 288 S.E.2d 454. 

Insurance duty to cooperate.Burden on plaintiff to make prima facie case that insured met the conditions precedent to recovery under the policy. 

1980 State Farm v. Porter, 221 Va. 592, 272 S.E.2d 196. 

Insurance duty to cooperate.Insured involved in hit and run accident and sued by plaintiff. Insured gave no notice of accident and did not forward suit papers. Default entered and plaintiff sued State Farm. Failure to give notice will bar recovery even though no evidence of prejudice.

1966 State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v. Douglas, 207 Va. 265, 148 S.E.2d 775. 

Insurance duty to cooperate.Provision in policy requiring notice of accident be given to insured as soon as practicable is valid provision and condition precedent to insurer’s liability. Notice, thus, must be given within reasonable time. For case in question, under circumstances, 65 days after accident not unreasonable. 

1964 North River Ins. Co. v. Gourdine, 205 Va. 57, 135 S.E.2d 120. 

Willful failure of insured to give notice of accident and forward suit papers is enough for insurance company to avoid liability without showing prejudice. Here judgment was entered because of insured’s failure to forward suit papers. Judgment vacated. Insurance company still had duty to defend. 

1960 Nationwide Ins. Co. v. Gentry, 202 Va. 338, 117 S.E.2d 76. 

Insurance duty to cooperate.Failure to cooperate must be in some substantial and material respect and in determining whether alleged failure was in fact substantial and material jury could consider whether company was prejudiced. Plaintiff, insured by defendant, was involved in accident. He gave police correct account of accident. He claims he gave claims adjuster same account but expressed some misgivings about that version. He signed statement written by claims adjuster which differed materially from version given to police. Court instructed jury that if plaintiff told adjuster true facts then fact that written version contained untrue version was not failure to cooperate. 

1958 Cooper v. Employers Mut. Liab. Ins. Co., 199 Va. 908, 103 S.E.2d 210. 

Insurance duty to cooperate.Insured gave prompt notice of accident but failed to forward suit papers to carrier and failed to provide any other cooperation. Cooperation clause of policy had been breached. Prejudice is not requirement for denial of coverage. 

1957 Mason & Dixon Lines v. United States Cas. Co., 199 Va. 221, 98 S.E.2d 702. 

Insurance duty to cooperate.Question of whether insured has given timely notice of accident is usually for jury. Insured contended that notice was given to agent. 

1952 Shipp v. Connecticut Indem. Co., 194 Va. 249, 72 S.E.2d 343. 

Insurance duty to cooperate. Ordinarily question of whether insured has failed to give cooperation contemplated by policy is question of fact. Burden is on carrier to establish this lack of cooperation. If it is proved that insured willfully breached cooperation clause in material or essential particular, it is not necessary for insurance company to go any further and show that it was prejudiced by such breach. 

1949 State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v. Arghyris, 189 Va. 913, 55 S.E.2d 16. 

Insurance duty to cooperate.To constitute breach of cooperation clause by insured, there must be lack of cooperation in some substantial and material aspect. Technical or inconsequential lack of cooperation or misstatement to insurer is immaterial in such respect. Prejudice is not prerequisite to denial for coverage. 

1943 Temple v. Virginia Auto. Mut. Ins. Co., 181 Va. 561, 25 S.E.2d 268. 

Insurance duty to cooperate.Notice of accident and information of any demands made upon or actions brought against insured are conditions precedent to right to recover on policy.


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