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South Carolina high court reverses in case of worker hurt in car accident

Posted On: Apr. 6, 2023 11:21 AM CST

South Carolina

The South Carolina Supreme Court reversed a lower appeals court ruling that found a woman injured in a car accident with her co-worker behind the wheel was entitled to collect uninsured motorist benefits.

The high court, in a case decided in January but publicized Thursday, ruled that plaintiff Stephany Connelly was not permitted by law to recover uninsured motorist benefits after she was injured in a car accident.

Ms. Connelly was a passenger in a vehicle driven by her co-worker, Freya Trezona, when she was injured in an accident. The two were working at the time.

Because workers compensation benefits didn’t fully redress her injuries, Ms. Connelly filed a claim for uninsured motorist benefits with insurers for herself and Ms. Trezona.  

Both companies denied the claim, determining the injuries should be covered by comp.

Ms. Connelly sued, seeking declaratory judgment that both insurers provide coverage. The parties disputed language in the uninsured motorist statute involving “legally entitled to recover.”

A trial judge and an appeals court both subsequently determined the language to be ambiguous, allowing the suit to proceed.  

The high court reversed the lower rulings, finding that phrase to be unambiguous.

“Because the [comp] Act prevents Connelly from ever becoming ‘legally entitled to recover’ from Trezona under these facts, we reverse,” the court wrote.

Although the accident happened during working hours, the two women were riding in a vehicle owned by Ms. Trezona and covered by her auto insurance policy.

Ms. Connelly had her own auto policy containing uninsured motorist coverage.