The Mobile Press Register recently reported on an interesting case pending in Mobile County involving a State Farm insured who was an innocent victim of a high speed chase. On November 14, 2006 Francilla Ridgeway was injured when a State Trooper vehicle collided with her vehicle at an intersection in Chickasaw, AL. Ms. Ridgeway entered the intersection on a green light and did not see or hear the approaching Trooper vehicle. The Trooper was engaged in a high speed pursuit of a fleeing motorist who had led law enforcement on a 30-40 minute high speed chase throughout the Mobile, Saraland and Chickasaw area. The fleeing motorist, Daniel Gibson, was driving a highly modified Ford Focus and admitted to traveiling in excess of 140 miles per hour and driving recklessly as he attempted to evade the pursuing law enforcement officers.
Ms. Ridgeway originally named Gibson as a defendant in the civil action claiming his negligence or wantonness caused the collision with the Trooper vehicle. Mr Gibson's insurance company paid their liability limits but the amount was insufficient to cover the full extent of Ms. Ridgeway's injuries. Under her policy with State Farm, Ms. Ridgeway has "underinsured" motorist coverage which provides additional benefits if an at-fault driver does not have enough liability coverage. State Farm denied Ms. Ridgeway's claim and never offered any underinsured motorist benefits to her claiming the collision was not Mr. Gibson's fault but rather Ms. Ridgeway's fault for not seeing the oncoming Trooper even though she entered the intersection with a green light.
Steve Moore, Ms. Ridgeway's attorney said he elected not to sue the Trooper involved in the incident because he did not believe he did anything wrong. "While some people may look at this situation and say the Trooper should have backed off from the pursuit or maybe he should have gone through the red light at a slower speed, I just felt legally the person who should be accountable is the person who caused this situation to begin with and that is Daniel Gibson." State Farm "stands in the shoes" of Mr. Gibson for any damages he may legally owe Ms. Ridgeway per the terms and conditions of the underinsured motorist provisions of their policy with Ms. Ridgeway. "They do not want to pay benefits that Ms. Ridgeway paid a premium for so they argue that the accident wasn't Mr. Gibson's fault and have forced their insured to litigate this case," said Moore.
The Mobile Press Register online at al.com has more on this story.