The recent violence around the country that has caused injury and death to a number of persons raises some non-political questions about the application of insurance benefits. This discussion is based on Pennsylvania law.
There has long been exclusions in insurance policies, both auto and homeowners for intentional torts. That is, an insurance company is not going to provide coverage or defense to someone who causes injury or death on purpose. Key to those decisions of whether to provide defense and indemnification is the intention of the insured. Did they intend the result of their action, or was the harm unanticipated?
A simple example is someone who gets hit with a baseball bat. Did they get hit by the insured wielding the bat that meant to strike them and hurt them, or was the insured swinging the bat to warm up for his turn at bat and he got too close to the injured party and hit them with the bat. In the first instance, the exclusion would apply and the insurance carrier would not cover their insured for his “intentional tort”. In the second instance, he accidentally struck someone. He may have been negligent in his choice of where to warm up, but he did not mean to hurt anyone. The insurance company would provide him with a defense and indemnification and compensation to the injured person.
Let’s look at an example involving a motor vehicle. If an insured loses control of his car and runs onto a sidewalk and strikes persons through negligence or vehicle malfunction, their automobile insurance company will provide coverage for the loss, up to the limits of their policy. It becomes a problem if their policy is not sufficient to cover all of the harm that they caused. That means they are underinsured and if they don’t have coverage at all, they are uninsured. It is important to have adequate Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist coverage on your policy of insurance because it covers you and your family whether you are in your car, walking as a pedestrian, riding a bicycle, in a friends car, and many other situations where the person that causes the harm is not sufficiently insured.
When purchasing your policy, make sure that your Bodily Injury Limits are the same as your Uninsured Motorist and your Underinsured Motorist Limits. Choose FULL TORT coverage and absolutely DO NOT WAIVE STACKING. If you would like to discuss your coverages, call us, we are happy to review them with you before you ever need them.
Now, let’s consider that same situation, but the driver didn’t lose control of his vehicle, he purposely drove into a crowd of people. If he has insurance, his carrier is not going to cover the claim because he did it on purpose. There may be other entities to blame for his actions. Perhaps he used a company vehicle and the company had knowledge of his mental status or knew he was threatening to commit an act of violence. They would bear some responsibility. Or perhaps he is a member of an organization or group that advocates that kind of act. An investigation needs to be done to see how many layers there are that caused what appears to be a senseless act of violence. If the harm was caused by a sole actor who doesn’t have insurance or whose carrier is going to deny the claim because of the intent of the bad actor, then it is again important to have adequated Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist coverage on your policy of insurance.
When you purchase insurance, you should think of it as protecting you and your family, not protecting “the other guy”. It is important to purchase an adequate policy that will cover you and your loved ones in the event of an accident or an intentional act against you.
Again, If you would like to discuss your coverages, contact us, we are happy to review them with you before you ever need them. [email protected], 1-215-348-5455. Don’t wait to find out that the insurance you have is not enough for the injury that was caused.