Criminal Acts And Automobile First Party Insurance

Victims of crime in Dallas, Fort Worth, Arlington, Grand Prairie, Mansfield, Bedford, Hurst, Euless, Burleson, Granbury, or other places in Texas might wonder, What happens if I get injured when I am the victim of a crime? The answer is a lawerly answer: It depends.
The Pittsburg Tribune-Review published an article on December 1, 2010, that gave some insight into a possible answer to the above question. The article was authored by Rich Cholodofsky and is titled, “Firm Denies Benefits To Mt. Pleasant Township Family of Slain Samaritan.”
According to the article, an Erie insurance company asked a Westmoreland County judge for permission to withhold benefits to the family of a Good Samaritan who was shot to death as she tried to assist the wife and daughter of her alleged killer.
The Erie insurance company is Erie Insurance Exchange. Erie says the policy benefits should not have to be paid because the policy which is an automotive insurance policy, does not cover the type of loss incured by the insured. The insured, Stacey Feiling of Mt. Pleasant Township was killed after being shot in the face. She was driving her car when she was flagged down by an injured woman seeking help. The woman and her 16 year old daughter had been shot by her husband, who has since been charged with 1st degree murder and other offenses.
Erie says the benefits should be rightfully denied because the death of Stacey Feiling did not arise out of the use or maintenance of a motor vehicle or from a motor vehicle accident and resulted from the use of a weapon. This was the language in the policy. Because of this the estate of Stacey Feiling are precluded from recovering first-party benefits according to Erie.
In this case the insurance laws of the State of Pennsyvania will apply.
This blog deals primarily with Texas insurance laws. Based on the facts described in the article in the Pittsburg Tribune-Review, Texas law would probably not allow recovery for the death of Stacey Feiling. However, this is a general statement and no one should walk away without making the claim for benefits. Consultation with an experienced Insurance Law Attorney is vital before giving up.
In Texas, the Texas Supreme Court has already ruled in a case wherein the claimant was a passenger in a vehicle when the claimant was injured in a drive-by shooting. The insurance company denied first-party insurance benefits and the Texas Supreme Court ruled in favor of the insurance company when they upheld the denial of benefits.
In another case involving a shooting the courts in Texas allowed a claim for first-party benefits. The facts in that case were that a child was climbing into a pickup truck when he accidently caused a gun in the pickup truck to discharge and cause injury.
What is relevant is that each case has it’s own fact pattern to be looked at and in conjunction with the facts of any given case the policy language has to be carefully read to see if there are any benefits that may be available to the claimant.