Fatal Wreck in Cumming Georgia Illustrates Complexity of Insurance Coverage Analysis

We are representing the Syed family for a tragic crash that also took the life of Caroline Addlesburger and her mother Tracy Bieler on August 7, 2013. In a sadly familiar series of events, Mrs. Bieler was driving down a steep hill on a wet road with unsafe tires when she lost control and crossed in the Syed’s lane and hit them head on. Our client’s daughter broke her leg and underwent an ORIF (Open reduction internal fixation) procedure to put a rod into the femur. A tragic combination of speed, bad judgment and poor maintenance led to the loss of life.


I spoke with the adjuster from State Farm, who insured the Bieler vehicle, and our conversation illustrates how confusing coverages can be in what seems to be a simple case. The Bieler vehicle apparently has a $100,000/$300,000 policy. Given that there are four injury claims in this crash, there is the potential for one claimant to be underinsured for the event. The Syed child has a significant surgery, Mr. Syed’s emergency room along is over $10,000 and then there is the death of Addlesburger and an injury to the 11 year old passenger in the back seat.

We will use this fact pattern to analyze the insurance coverages.

For my clients, there is a the liability policy with Bieler to pursue of $100,000/$300,000 meaning that at maximum they will each receive $100,000. State Farm is still exploring to see if there are umbrella or other excess liability insurance policies that may cover the injuries. The family may then purse their own Underinsured Motorist insurance, to the extent it exists.

The father of Addlesburger will hold the child’s wrongful death claim. The first inquiry is whether that claimant can pursue $100,000 or whether under the resident relative exclusion, the liability coverage will shrink to $25,000. It is hard to say without reviewing the policy, but that is the first stumbling block. If the child was held with joint custody, then the father’s underinsured motorist insurance may provide an additional layer of coverage for the loss of the child. If there are other policyholders in the father’s house then those underinsured motorist policies might also stack. Are you with us so far?

Then there is the claim of the unrelated child in the Bieler vehicle. She has a claim on the $100,000/$300,000 liability policy of State Farm but will be competing with the other claimants. Her next level of insurance will be her own family’s underinsured motorist insurance. One of the keys to both the passenger and Addlesburger case will be making sure they put all possible underinsured motorist policies on notice.

The final area of inquiry is the issue with the tires. If there is a repair shop
None of this makes this crash any less tragic, but it does illustrate the horribly complex levels of insurance coverage and analysis implicit in complex crashes.