To be covered under most auto insurance Personal Injury Protection (PIP) provisions, a person needs to be “occupying” a vehicle.

“Covered person” as used in PIP coverage means the named insured or any family member while occupying or when struck by a motor vehicle designed for use maily on public roads or a trailer of any type.  “Covered person” also includes any person occupying the covered auto with the named insured’s permission.

Most PIP claims arise out of accidents when an insured, a family member, and/or a friend of the insured are “occupying” an insured vehicle.  The policy contains a very broad definition of “occupying.”  For example, when an insured injured himself in the act of getting out of the car, the Fort Worth Court of Appeals held that the insured was “occupying” the vehicle.  This was decided in 1976, and the case was styled, Berry v. Dairyland County Mutual Insurance Co.

Personal Injury Protection or PIP is insurance that can be purchased with auto insurance .  It is unique in its coverage.

One Texas court has construed “motor vehicle accident” narrowly in the context of PIP coverage.  Specifically, it held that “motor vehicle accident” does  not include all accidents that occur in a motor vehicle.

In the 1996, Houston Court of Appeals [1st Dist.] opinion styled, Schulz v.  State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co., Schulz’s passenger ordered him out of the truck and fatally shot him.  The appeals court upheld summary judgment in favor of State Farm, which had denied coverage because PIP benefits provide for payment of damages as a result of “a motor vehicle accident.”  According to the court a motor vehicle accident does not include all accidents that occur in a motor vehicle.  Because there was no casual relationship between the vehicle and the victim’s death, there was no “motor vehicle accident.”  Therefore, Schulz was not entitled to recover PIP benefits simply because a covered vehicle may have been used in his demise.

Insurance lawyers will be looking to see what happens in a case taken up by the Texas Supreme Court.  The case is an appeal from the Amarillo Court of Appeals who had agreed with the trial court decision to compel arbitration.

This is a dispute between an insurance agency “The Altman” and Jody James Farms (JJF) and is a petition for review.

The conflict began in 2010 after JJF purchased a Crop Revenue Coverage Insurance Policy from Rain and Hail LLC.  Altman Group was the insurance agency which sold the insurance to JJF through Rain & Hail LLC.

Insurance lawyers can tell prospective clients that most pages in an insurance policy are pages explaining exclusions and limitations to what a policy will pay.  This is no different when it comes to auto insurance.

The standard auto policy does not provide med pay coverage for any person for bodily injury occurring during the course of employment if worker’s compensation benefits are available for the bodily injury.  This exclusion is discussed in the 1963, San Antonio Court of Appeals opinion styled, Williams v. Employers Mutual Casualty Co.  Thus, med pay coverage will apply only if the insured does not have worker’s compensation benefits available to him or her.

Like the liability coverage, med pay coverage does not extend to the named insured while he or she is occupying a vehicle, other than his or her covered auto, which is owned by him or her or furnished or available for his or her regular use.  This was discussed in the 1965, Tyler Court of Appeals opinion styled, Vaughn v. Atlantic Insurance Company.  To extend such coverage would force the carrier to accept a greater risk without receiving a corresponding premium.

Medical Payments Coverage in an automobile policy is also known as Med-Pay coverage.  Med-Pay is an optional coverage.  Under this coverage, the insurance company agrees to pay “reasonable expenses incurred for necessary medical and funeral services because of bodily injury caused by accident and sustained by a covered person.”  This insuring agreement uses the term “caused by accident” as opposed to the more specific phrase “auto accident” used in liability in the liability insuring agreement.  This coverage defines “covered person” as the named insured or any family member while occupying or being struck by a motor vehicle.  Also, any person occupying the named insured’s covered auto is entitled to med pay coverage.  The coverage for those persons other than family members, however, is limited to occupancy in a covered auto.

According to the 1973, Waco Court of Appeals opinion, Dhane v. Trinity Univers. Ins. Co., med pay coverage is generally broader than PIP coverage.

Unlike any other provision in the Texas Auto Policy, Texas courts have ruled that med pay benefits can be “stacked.”  These courts include the Austin Court of Appeals in the 1969, opinion styled, Harlow v. Southern Farm Bureau Cas. Ins. Co. and the Houston Court of Appeals in the 1961, opinion styled, Southwestern Fire & Cas. Co. v. Atkins.  In other words, an insured may receive med pay benefits as if the benefits were being paid on two separate policies when a single policy covers two automobiles and the premium charged on the policy has been paid separately on each automobile.  Stacking is only allowed with med pay benefits according to the 1978, Texas Supreme Court opinion styled, Holyfield v. Members Mut. Ins. Co.

CNBC published an article in February 2018, titled, “Florida Shootings May Complicate Insurance For Gun Owners.”

To start with, gun owners need to know that most homeowner policies are not going to cover situations where a person has to use a gun.  The policies will cover accidents but not other types of occurrences.

The insurance company Chubb has decided to stop underwriting an insurance policy for gun owners called NRA Carry Guard.  This policy covers gun owners in the event they face legal repercussions following firearm incidents.

Most insurance lawyers don’t see this type of coverage, but for those who do, here is a little information.

Ocean marine insurance insures overseas shipments by vessel or aircraft.  Ocean marine coverage can also be provided on a vessel to insure against any loss or destruction to the boat, barge, or other vessel.  This is explained some in the 1965, Southern District of Texas opinion styled, Gulf Coast Trawlers, Inc. v. Resolute Insurance Co.

Coverage on the vessel usually insures against “perils of the sea” or any “marine peril.”  The sinking of a vessel that occurred due to an open valve in calm waters while the vessel was docked was not a “peril of the sea” according to the 1972, Southern District of Texas opinion styled, Commercial Union Insurance of New York v. Daniels.  One court explained the phrase “perils of the sea” within marine policy includes “all kinds of marine casualties” involving the sea and are distinguished from the mere act of being on the sea.  This case was the 1963, Southern District of Texas opinion styled, U.S. National Bank of Galveston v. Maryland National Insurance Co.

Flood insurance premiums are calculated based upon geographic maps setting forth the boundaries for various flood zones.

Because most property insurance policies covering property at fixed locations exclude flooding, flood insurance must be purchased separately.  In 1969, Congress created the National Flood Insurance Program to administer the sale of flood insurance.  National flood insurance is available directly from the Federal Insurance Administration or through hundreds of private insurers who participate in federal insurance programs.  The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reinsurers private companies against flood losses.

Contract claims must be filed in federal court, and are subject to strict requirements of the policy and federal law.  Insureds still have the right in the Fifth Circuit to bring suit on extra-contractual claims under state law against a flood insurer, according to the 1993 opinion, Spence v. Omaha Indem. Ins. Co.  It should be noted that there is a disagreement in this area as to whether the National Flood Insurance Act of 1968, preempts state law in this area.

Insurance lawyers who work in rural areas of Texas will see situations involving crop insurance.

Some insurance companies sell property coverage to mitigate against the risk of loss to farm crops caused by environmental perils including drought, flooding, hail or other weather conditions.  Crops can be insured under various types of insuring agreements including coverage limited to losses caused specifically by hail.  Crop insurance is also available through the Federal Crop Insurance Corp. (FCIC), an agency of the federal government designed to facilitate the placement of crop insurance through private insurance companies.  The placement of a policy through the FCIC does not automatically create a federal question jurisdiction over such claims.  (Keep in mind that for most people, the local State District Courts and County Courts are more favorable venues to fight with an insurance company than is a Federal Court).  The 1997, Eastern District of Texas opinion styled, Bullard v Southwest Crop Insurance Agency, is a case which decided that not all FCIC cases have to be heard in federal court.  Insureds under crop policies maintain all of the traditional contractual and extra-contractual remedies against their crop insurance company.  This also, was stated in the Bullard case.  An insured may elect to sue the FCIC if a dispute develops over a crop claim, but any such suit must be brought in a United States district court otherwise possessing jurisdiction to hear the dispute.

Crop policies are usually sold with one of the traditional cause of loss forms — broad, special, or basic.  Hail policies also frequently require the injured plants to be in a certain state of growth or development at the time of injury or damage from hail in order to be covered.

Here a question for your insurance law attorney … If a car swerves into my lane and I drive off the road and wreck my car to avoid the accident, does my uninsured motorist (UM) policy cover the damages?  Answer … NO!

An auto policy includes within the definition of UM vehicle a hit and run vehicle whose operator or owner cannot be identified.  This definition incorporates the Insurance Code’s requirement in Section 1952.104(3) that there be physical contact when the owner or operator of the reported UM vehicle is unknown or unidentified.  This is further illustrated in the 1986, Texarkana Court of Appeals opinion, Goen v. Trinity Universal Insurance Company.

Likewise, a drive-by shooting in which there is no collision does not meet the UM physical contact requirement.