Uninsured Auto Coverage
Uninsured car insurance under a standard Massachusetts Auto Insurance Policy acts as personal accident insurance for the named insured and household members, and operators and passengers of an insured motor vehicle. This compulsory coverage provides benefits if you are involved in a motor vehicle accident and the person responsible for the accident has no bodily injury insurance coverage (uninsured car insurance is mandated by M.G.L. Chapter 175, Section 113L). Under the current Massachusetts policy, the term “accident” is defined as “an unexpected, unintended event that causes bodily injury or property damage arising out of the ownership, maintenance or use of an auto.” So what happens when an injury is caused by an intentional or reckless act on the part of the uninsured driver although completely unexpected from the perspective of the insured?
In one recent case, a Massachusetts Superior Court judge determined that the insured’s perspective prevails when interpreting the term “accident” in the context of uninsured motorist coverage. In that case, an insured motorcyclist was injured when an uninsured driver pulled up next to his motorcycle while both vehicles were traveling 35 to 40 mph on the highway, stuck his arm out the window, and randomly fired three gunshots in the direction of the motorcycle, striking the motorcyclist. The motorcyclist retained control of his motorcycle and did not realize he had been shot until after he stopped and tried to dismount his motorcycle. The motorcyclist and uninsured driver were unknown to each other and had no communication with each other. The motorcyclist thereafter made claim under his motorcycle insurance policy for uninsured motorist benefits. The insurer denied the claim contending that the incident was not an “accident” as defined in the policy, and that the injury did not arise out of the uninsured driver’s “use” of his vehicle. The insurer then filed for a declaratory judgment in Superior Court.
Victim’s Injuries Unexpected/Unintended
On cross-motions for summary judgment the trial court judge found in favor of the motorcyclist. The judge noted that Massachusetts courts broadly construe the word “accident” in the context of insurance coverage and reasoned that from the perspective of the motorcyclist, the insured who paid for the coverage, his injuries were unexpected and unintended, and thus accidental. The judge remarked that to adopt another view would require the insured to prove that the acts of an uninsured motorist were not reckless or intentional. The judge further reasoned that the policy did not contain an exclusion for injuries caused by intentional or expected acts, although it excluded coverage in other specific circumstances, and that an objectively reasonable insured, reading the relevant policy language, would expect to be covered under the undisputed facts. Addressing the insurer’s argument that the uninsured driver’s firearm, not his vehicle, caused the motorcyclist’s injuries, the judge concluded that without the use of his uninsured vehicle, the driver would not have been able to keep up with the motorcyclist, who was driving 35-40 mph on the highway, in order to inflict his injuries, such that there was a sufficient causal connection between the driver’s use of his uninsured vehicle and the injuries inflicted.
If you or a loved one were injured in a car accident, obtain a copy of our Free Report, Some Straight Talk About Insurance Companies and Your Car Accident Claim. In addition, you can contact Attorney Allison now for a free consultation by calling 978-740-9433 or filling out our free consultation form. We look forward to talking to you about your claim.