Kroeber v. Geico Ins. Co. – Auto Insurance Benefits Sought After Shooting

We all know that auto insurance exists because innocent victims of car accidents shouldn’t have to pay for damages they incur due to someone else’s negligence. thegunblackwhite

But there are some cases in which the term “accident” has encompassed situations that don’t involve a traditional crash of two automobiles. Across the country, courts have held that personal injury protection coverage includes injuries that might not necessarily involve the collision of two vehicles, but rather arises out of the vehicle – even when the connection between the injury and the vehicle use is remote.

For example, if you slip-and-fall while exiting the vehicle, courts have held that no-fault auto insurance coverage would apply. However, if you slip-and-fall after you’ve already gotten out of the vehicle, that probably wouldn’t be covered. 

It’s all going to depend on the individual circumstances, but that’s why it’s always worthwhile to speak with a Florida injury lawyer, even if you aren’t sure whether an incident might be covered.

An odd question along these lines was raised in Kroeber v. Geico Ins. Co., where plaintiff sought coverage from an auto insurance carrier that covered a vehicle that a gunman driving when he fired several shots near a bar, seriously injuring plaintiff. Now normally, auto insurance (or any insurance, really) will not cover injuries sustained as a result of intentional acts. There are some exceptions, but usually, you’re facing an uphill battle.

In this case, even though the gunman later pleaded guilty to the crime of “drive-by shooting,” he insisted his intention was never to injure anyone. He stated he was merely trying to fire into the air, and he didn’t realize he was shooting into an area where people were standing. Plaintiff had gotten into an altercation with the gunman earlier in the evening. There was dispute about whether, after shots were fired, the gunman accelerated away from the area quickly.

Plaintiff filed a claim with the defendant auto insurance company (her own) seeking underinsured motorist coverage for her injuries. She alleged she was legally entitled to this compensation because her injuries arose out of the use of a motor vehicle and were not the result of an intentional attempt to harm.

Insurer denied this claims, arguing the injuries in question did not arise out of the gunman’s use of the truck.

Plaintiff then sued insurer in a Washington trial court, and the case was later removed to a federal district court. That court certified the following questions for the Washington Supreme Court:

  • Whether an injury to an injured pedestrian “arose out of” an intentional firing of a gun from an uninsured vehicle;
  • Whether it’s relevant that the user intended to harm someone when firing the gun.

The court answered that yes, injury to a pedestrian by way of an intentional firing of a gun from an uninsured vehicle may be considered to “arise out of” use of that vehicle and no, it didn’t matter whether the gunman’s intent was to harm someone when he fired that gun.

This was a liberal interpretation in favor of the innocent public, and the court cited several other historical examples to support this kind of action.

Still, the court was careful to say it’s not enough that a vehicle is merely the site of an accident or incident, but rather it has to in some way contribute to the injury. That means there is some causal connection between the use of the vehicle and the injury.

If you have been injured in an accident, contact the Hollander Law Firm at 888-751-7777 for a free and confidential consultation. There is no fee unless we win.

Additional Resources:

Kroeber v. Geico Ins. Co., Jan. 14, 2016, Washington State Supreme Court

More Blog Entries:

University of Miami v. Ruiz – Birth Injury Vicarious Liability, Jan. 7, 2016, Fort Myers Injury Attorney Blog