Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a car accident case requiring the court to interpret the language of a statute defining an “uninsured vehicle” for the purposes of determining whether an accident is covered under an underinsured vehicle clause of an insurance policy. The case presents an important issue for Virginia accident victims insofar as it illustrates the difficulties victims may have when dealing with insurance companies after a serious accident.
Ultimately, the court concluded that the accident fell within a policy exclusion because the vehicle the plaintiff was operating at the time of the accident was “furnished for his regular use.”
The Facts of the Case
The plaintiff worked for a logging company. As a part of his job duties, he would transport lumber using a large company-owned truck. The agreement between the plaintiff and his employer allowed for the plaintiff to keep possession of the truck after work hours, although in practice the plaintiff usually dropped the truck off at his workplace before heading home for the day.
One day, the truck got a flat tire. As the plaintiff was fixing the tire road-side, the tire blew off the vehicle, injuring the plaintiff as a result. The plaintiff’s employer did have insurance coverage, but the plaintiff’s injuries exceeded the coverage amount under that policy, so the plaintiff filed a claim with his own insurance company under the uninsured motorist provision of the policy.
The insurance company rejected the plaintiff’s claim, arguing that specific statutory language excluded the accident from coverage. The insurance company pointed to the definition of “uninsured motor vehicle” as defined by state code, noting that an “uninsured vehicle” was defined as “a motor vehicle, other than a motor vehicle owned by or furnished for the regular use of the named insured” for which there is inadequate insurance coverage.
The insurance company thus argued that, since the truck was made available for the plaintiff’s regular use, it did not qualify as an “underinsured vehicle” under the policy. The court agreed, finding that although the plaintiff rarely did use the vehicle after work hours, it was furnished for his regular use. As a result, the court held that the accident was not covered under the plaintiff’s insurance policy and dismissed the plaintiff’s case.
The court was not convinced by the plaintiff’s argument that the insurance company’s interpretation of the statute violated another state statute requiring that all vehicles have a certain amount of uninsured vehicle protection. The court explained that the previous cases requiring coverage did not involve vehicles that were furnished for an employee’s use. Here, the court explained that the vehicle in question was indeed insured and was also made available for the plaintiff’s regular use. Thus, it was not considered an “uninsured vehicle.”
Have You Been Injured in a Virginia Car Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Virginia car accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. Attorney Sidney Schupak is a dedicated Virginia personal injury lawyer with decades of experience handling all types of complex Virginia personal injury cases. To learn more, and to speak with Attorney Schupak about your case, call 703-491-7070 to schedule your free consultation.
See More Blog Posts:
Court Rejects Plaintiff’s Product Liability Case After Finding Warnings Were Adequate, Virginia Injury Lawyers Blog, April 18, 2018.
Court Discusses the Doctrine of Imputed Negligence in Recent Car Accident Case, Virginia Injury Lawyers Blog, May 4, 2018.