Court Rejects Underinsured Motorist Claim Following Horse-Drawn Carriage Accident

Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case involving an interesting insurance issue that can come up in many Florida car accident cases. The case required the court to determine if the defendant insurance company was proper to deny the plaintiffs’ claims arising from a rear-end accident involving a horse-drawn carriage.Ultimately, the court concluded that one plaintiff’s claims could proceed to trial for a determination of whether coverage existed, while the other plaintiff’s claims were insufficient as a matter of law.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs were the driver and passenger of a horse-drawn carriage that was rear-ended after participating in a Christmas parade. The passenger-plaintiff was injured in the collision and filed a claim against the driver-plaintiff. That claim is not the subject of this case.

This case involved both plaintiffs’ claims against a defendant insurance company that happened to insure both plaintiffs. The defendant insurance company carried the driver’s liability policy as well as an unrelated policy of the passenger plaintiff. Both the driver and the passenger filed claims with the insurance company. The driver claimed that the insurance company should cover the passenger’s injuries, and the passenger filed an underinsured motorist (UIM) claim.

Both policies contained exceptions to coverage that the insurance company claimed exempted it from liability. Specifically, the insurance company claimed that it was not liable under the driver’s liability policy because that policy contained an exclusion for accidents involving an animal “during a fair, charitable function, or similar type of event[.]”

The insurance company also claimed that it was not liable for the passenger-plaintiff’s UIM claim because that policy only provided coverage for accidents involving “underinsured motor vehicles” as defined in the policy. The company pointed out that the policy defined an underinsured motor vehicle as a “land motor vehicle or trailer of any type.” Since the carriage could not be towed by a motorized vehicle, the insurance company claimed that it was not considered a trailer, which was defined in the policy as “a vehicle designed to be pulled by a … private passenger auto or pickup or van.”

In a pre-trial motion for summary judgment filed by the insurance company, the trial court found in favor of both plaintiffs. The insurance company appealed.

On appeal, the court affirmed the denial of the insurance company’s motion insofar as it applied to the driver. The court explained that a jury should determine if the Christmas parade fit within the term “similar type of event.” If so, coverage should be denied.

The court reversed the denial of the insurance company’s motion as it applied to the passenger, agreeing that the horse-drawn carriage was neither a “motor vehicle” nor a “trailer” as defined in the policy. As a result, the passenger plaintiff will be permitted to recover, if at all, only through the driver’s policy.

Have You Been Injured in a Florida Vehicle Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Florida vehicle accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. However, as you can see, complex insurance issues may arise in even a case that initially seems straightforward. The dedicated South Florida personal injury attorneys at the law firm of Friedman, Rodman & Frank have extensive experience dealing with difficult insurance companies on their clients’ behalf. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case, call 877-448-8585 today.

More Blog Posts:

Verdict in Favor of Patient Reversed by Court Due to Patient’s Failure to Prove Causation, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published April 19, 2017.

Court Dismisses Slip-and-Fall Case Based on Plaintiff’s Failure to Provide Specific Location of Injury, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published May 4, 2018.

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