Court Determines Good Samaritan Was “Occupying” Vehicle While Providing Road-Side Assistance, Requiring Insurance Company to Cover Accident Victim’s Claim

Anyone who has been injured in a South Florida car accident knows how difficult it can be dealing with insurance companies. In many cases, insurance companies will seek out ways to settle claims for as little as possible or deny claims outright. Earlier this month, an appellate court in Rhode Island issued a written opinion in a car accident case involving a passenger’s claim against the driver’s uninsured motorist protection policy. The court concluded that the insurance company improperly denied coverage because the woman was “occupying” the vehicle at the time of the accident, and her claim should have been approved.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was the passenger in a friend’s car. The two were on their way to the grocery store and had pulled into the parking lot when they began talking in the car. As they were talking, the plaintiff heard a loud bang and turned her head to see that two cars had collided on an adjacent road.

The plaintiff exited her friend’s vehicle and approached the scene of the accident. She walked around the back of one of the vehicles involved in the accident to get its license plate number. As she was looking down at the license plate, another vehicle crashed into one of the cars involved in the initial accident. The plaintiff was struck by one of the cars and was injured as a result.

The plaintiff initially filed a claim against the insurance company of the driver who crashed into the wrecked cars. However, the plaintiff’s claims were not completely covered by that driver’s policy, so the plaintiff filed a claim against her friend’s insurance policy. That claim was denied because the insurance company determined that the plaintiff was not “occupying” the vehicle at the time of the accident, as is required in the policy language.

The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit to compel the insurance company to approve her claim. However, the trial court agreed with the insurance company, finding that the plaintiff’s injuries occurred while she was not occupying the vehicle, and the insurance company was free to reject her claim. The plaintiff appealed.

On appeal, the plaintiff was successful in getting the lower court’s ruling reversed. The appellate court determined that the plaintiff’s injuries occurred in a manner suggesting she was “occupying” the car, even though she was not physically in the car at the time of the accident. The court explained that the event causing her to get out of the car (i.e., the accident) occurred while the plaintiff was still technically mid-trip. The court explained that the plaintiff was in the car and had not yet gotten out of the car to go into the store when she heard the accident. The court also considered other factors, ultimately coming to the conclusion that the plaintiff was “occupying” the vehicle when she was injured. As a result, the court reversed the lower court’s decision that dismissed her complaint.

Have You Been Injured in a South Florida Car Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in any kind of South Florida car accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. As the discussion above indicates, insurance companies often look for ways to deny even the most seemingly meritorious claim. In many cases, when insurance companies do make a settlement offer, it is a lowball offer made in hopes of making the case go away for as little as possible. Don’t trust the insurance company to tell you what your claim is worth. Contact the dedicated South Florida personal injury attorneys at the law firm of Friedman, Rodman & Frank. With extensive experience assisting clients in all types of car accident cases across South Florida, we know what it takes to succeed on behalf of our clients. Call 877-448-8585 to schedule a free consultation today.

More Blog Posts:

Court Limits Truck Owner’s Liability, Finding that He Loaned Truck to At-Fault Driver, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published July 6, 2017.

Who Is Responsible in Florida When Someone Causes an Accident Using a Borrowed or Stolen Car?, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published June 19, 2017.

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