Family Members Suing Family Members: The Triumph of Insurance Lobbying Efforts.

Every once in a while you will see a case in the news that talks about one family member suing another family member. Recently, there was the case of the aunt who sued her nephew for accidentally injuring her when he exuberantly greeted her at his birthday party. The internet reaction was extremely harsh on the aunt. But there was something that most people wouldn’t consider.

Let’s suppose that the parents of the child feel responsible that the child acts out, they’ve told him over and over not to grab people, jerk people, or jump on people. Further, the family feels terrible that their son has injured someone. But wait, the family has homeowner’s insurance that should cover a visitor to their house getting injured. Family members are among the people who you most want your insurance to cover. Can the aunt get her medical bills paid? Well, she should be able to. But when you make a claim against the insurance company, they know that a jury is going to look askance at an aunt suing her nephew. So, what do they do?  Deny the claim.

But wait. The family that bought the insurance wants the insurer to pay for the aunt’s medical bills. The family may well invite the aunt to sue the son because the insurance company denied coverage. But shouldn’t there be a different way? Yes.

In a world that was not dominated by big money insurance, one would actually file the lawsuit against the insurance company that denied the claim—not against the nephew that caused the injury. For example, in Louisiana, if you get in a car wreck, you do not sue the other driver—you sue the other driver’s insurance company. This is called a direct action.

However, in almost every other state, we have to sue individuals and not insurance companies. Why? Because the insurance company lobbies are so strong that they not only have passed laws that prohibit us from suing the insurance company directly, there are even laws that prohibit attorneys from mentioning during trial that a defendant has insurance.

So the next time you notice a family member suing a family member, realize it is likely because the insurance company has denied a valid claim.