Appellate Court Finds Good Samaritan Should Have Been Covered Under Insurance Policy When Assisting Motorist in Need

Car insurance is mandatory in Virginia and should help injured accident victims get back on their feet after being involved in a serious Virginia car accident. However, the reality is that insurance companies are for-profit companies that view claims as “expenses” that should be minimized. Thus, in most cases, insurance companies will either deny an accident victim’s claim for compensation or offer a low-ball settlement figure in hopes of quickly resolving the matter in as inexpensive a way as possible.

Deployed AirbagsEarlier this month, a Rhode Island court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case involving a good samaritan who was seriously injured when she exited her car in an attempt to assist another motorist who had just been involved in an accident. The case is a good example of how Virginia car accident victims may encounter difficulties when dealing with insurance companies, and how an attorney’s assistance may make a difference in whether an accident victim receives compensation for their injuries.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was a passenger in a car being driven by a friend. The two were on their way to a grocery store and had pulled into a space in the store’s parking lot. After parking the car, the plaintiff and her friend got involved in a conversation and stayed in the car for a few minutes. During this conversation, the plaintiff heard a loud noise that turned out to be a car accident that had occurred on an adjacent street.

The plaintiff and her friend exited the vehicle and approached the scene of the accident to provide assistance to those involved. As the plaintiff approached, she walked around behind one of the vehicles to get the license plate number. While she was behind the vehicle, another motorist who was approaching the collision failed to see the stopped cars and crashed into the wreckage. The plaintiff was injured as a result of this subsequent accident.

The plaintiff filed a claim with the company that insured the driver that crashed into the stopped vehicles. However, that driver’s insurance coverage was limited and failed to cover all of the costs associated with the plaintiff’s injuries. The plaintiff then filed a claim with her friend’s insurance company, under that policy’s underinsured motorist provision. However, the claim was denied because the insurance company determined that she was not “occupying” the vehicle at the time she was struck.

The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against her friend’s insurance company in hopes of forcing the insurance company to cover her claim. However, the court hearing the case agreed with the insurance company and dismissed the plaintiff’s claim. The plaintiff then appealed to a higher court.

On appeal, the plaintiff was successful in getting the lower court’s decision reversed. The appellate court explained that courts do not take a literal approach when determining if a motorist is “occupying” a car. Instead, the court considers the surrounding circumstances of the accident. Here, the court noted that while the plaintiff had reached her final destination, she heard the accident before she had gotten out of the car and gone into the store. Thus, her trip was not complete. Additionally, the court wanted to encourage motorists to fulfill their duty to provide assistance to motorists in need, and by rejecting the plaintiff’s claim, the court was concerned that future motorists may decide not to provide assistance in the future.

Have You Been Injured in a Virginia Car Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been involved in any kind of Virginia car accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. Attorney Charles B. Roberts and his team of experienced Virginia personal injury lawyers have extensive experience assisting Virginia car accident victims with seeking the compensation they need and deserve from those responsible for their injuries. Call 703-491-7070 to schedule a free consultation with Attorney Charles B. Roberts to discuss your case today.

See More Blog Posts:

Summary Judgment in Virginia Personal Injury Cases, Virginia Injury Lawyers Blog, July 5, 2017.

Court Determines Accumulated Rainfall May Constitute Dangerous Condition, Depending on Surrounding Circumstances, Virginia Injury Lawyers Blog, June 26, 2017.