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State Farm Auto Insurance Sued for Emotional Distress

Tennessee Supreme Court Finds for State Farm Auto InsurancePost Date September 12, 2012 - If you ever wonder why auto insurance rates seem to be so high;  today’s post will help you understand.  Frivolous law suits are a major contributor to rising auto insurance rates.  A recent ruling for the highest count in the state of Tennessee is an example of the problem.  Although the defendant, State Farm Insurance Auto Insurance Company was found not to be liable – the legal fees cost State Farm Auto Insurance nearly one million dollars.

The Tennessee Supreme Court ruled against parent’s whom filed an emotional distress law suit claim against State Farm Auto Insurance Company after the death of their son Michael Garrison.  As a parent myself, I can’t imagine the pain they are going through.  Although this may seem heartless, As an Auto Insurance Agent;  it’s obvious emotional distress is not covered under the bodily injury portion of any auto insurance uninsured motorist coverage.

Michael Garrison died seven years ago in June 2006.  Michael was the victim of a car accident which was not his fault. To compound the incident; the-fault driver was uninsured.   Michael’s parents filed a $75,000 wrongful death claim and ultimate law suit when State Farm Auto Insurance  denies the claim under the uninsured motorist  portion of their State Farm Auto Insurance Policy.  State Farm Auto Insurance company denied to pay for Garrisons for emotional distress stating the such claim is not and would never be covered under the bodily injury portion of  and uninsured motorist coverage.

State Farm Auto Insurance not liable for emotional distress claim

Although the insurance laws in Tennessee mandate any automobile liability policy needs to include uninsured motorist coverage.  Uninsured Motorist  provides compensation for compensatory damages. If you are involved in an accident with another at fault driver whom does not have uninsured motor vehicles because of bodily injury, sickness or disease, including death, resulting from injury, sickness or disease.” On the other hand, the Garrisons’ policy stated that it shall provide coverage “bodily injury to a person and sickness, disease, or death that results from it. The Garrisons took the position that emotional distress must fall  under the definition of “sickness and disease”.  This was a position a lower court earlier agreed with. Ultimately; a Tennessee District Court of Appeals and finally found for State Farm Auto Insurance at the Tennessee State’s Supreme Court.

In their decision, Tennessee Supreme Court stated, “We conclude that in the context of purely emotional injuries, the phrase ‘bodily injury,’ as defined in the policy before us, is unambiguous.” The ruled; Bodily injury does not include “emotional harm”.  Bodily injury only refers to physical injury such as a broker leg or soft tissue damage.


Michael E. Dortch
President &  Managing Agent
Corporate Home Office
618 South Broad Street
Lansdale, Pennsylvania  19446
(800) 807-0762  ext. 206