You may recall several months ago in Fort Myers the case of the a North Fort Myers mother who lost her legs after a horrific collision on I-75 when she pulled over and assisted the victim of a previous car accident. She survived the crash and has since returned to work, though she will require ongoing treatments and assistance.
A very similar situation occurred several years ago in Rhode Island and now, the Rhode Island Supreme Court has decided that the Good Samaritan victim in the crash is entitled to collect underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage from the insurer who provided a policy for the vehicle in which she was a passenger prior to being struck. Insurer initially denied the UIM claim, asserting victim was not “occupying” the insured vehicle at the time of the crash, and therefore was not entitled to coverage.
While the trial court agreed with defendant insurer, the Rhode Island Supreme Court vacated, holding plaintiff was entitled to recover UIM benefits under the terms of the policy.
According to court records, plaintiff and her then-boyfriend, owner of the vehicle insured by the UM/ UIM policy in question, left a restaurant and pulled into a nearby parking lot so driver could run into a store. Plaintiff then heard the sound of a nearby auto accident. She and her boyfriend then ran over to the scene of the crash. Plaintiff’s boyfriend called 911 while plaintiff went to the back of the cars to get the license plate numbers. While looking down, someone yelled, “Car!” A third vehicle struck the two vehicles who had been in a crash.
Plaintiff was struck, and seriously injured as a result of the car accident.
Plaintiff later settled the claim against the operator of the vehicle that struck her. However, she asserted she had not been fully compensated for her serious injuries. She then filed a claim with her boyfriend’s auto insurer, seeking UIM compensation. Insurer rejected the claim, finding the policy only afforded protection to passengers who were occupying the vehicle at the time of the incident. Plaintiff, insurer argued, was not occupying the vehicle.
Occupying, as defined in the policy, means to be in, entering into or alighting from.
Plaintiff filed a lawsuit and the case went to trial in 2015. She argued she was entitled to coverage in light of the broad interpretation of the word “occupying” as set forth by previous case law in that state. Trial court sided with defendant, but the state supreme court vacated.
The court was asked to consider whether a Good Samaritan injured while rendering roadside assistance could be considered “occupying” an insured vehicle for purposes of UM coverage. The court ruled that yes, it could.
Here in Florida, a claimant in this situation would also be able to depend on compensation from his/ her own personal injury protection (PIP) policy, or the one applying to vehicle in which they were a passenger. PIP is part of the state’s no-fault insurance law that would provide coverage for medical bills and a portion of lost wages.
Call Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, at 1-800-646-1210.
Hudson v. GEICO Insurance Agency, Inc., June 16, 2017, Rhode Island Supreme Court
More Blog Entries:
Injury Attorneys Must Often Fight for Underinsured Motorist Benefits, June 9, 2017, Car Accident Attorney Blog