Personal Injury Protection And Lost Income

Dallas insurance lawyers and those in Mesquite, Garland, Irving, Richardson, and other places will occasionally run across issues related to Personal Injury Protection (PIP) claims. In that regard, when it relates to an issue regarding lost wages, it would be good to know about the 1979, case, Slocum v. Union Pacific Insurance Company. This opinion was issued by the Houston Court of Appeals.
Here is what it tells us:
Slocum brought this suit to recover lost income based on the coverage afforded by the PIP clause of his automobile insurance policy. Union Pacific’s motion for summary judgment was granted on the sole ground that Slocum was not a wage earner or income producer.
Randy Slocum, an engineering student, accepted an offer of summer employment and was to begin work as an offshore “roustabout” on the Tuesday following the Memorial Day weekend. However, he was involved in an automobile accident over that weekend and did not report to work as planned due to the injuries received. His claim was denied by the insurer, the United Pacific Insurance Company.
PIP coverage is regulated by Section 1952.151 of the Texas Insurance Code. The relevant portion of that article provides in the case of an income producer, payment of benefits for loss of income as the result of the accident; and where the person injured in the accident was not an income or wage producer at the time of the accident, payment of benefits must be made in reimbursement of necessary and reasonable expenses incurred for essential services ordinarily performed by the injured person for care and maintenance of the family or family household. . . .
Slocum’s insurance policy contained an endorsement, the standard PIP provision, which defines a wage earner or income producer as “a person who at the time of an accident was in an Occupational status where such person was earning or producing income. . . .”
In his response to Union Pacific’s motion for summary judgment Slocum presented summary judgment evidence that he had accepted an offer of definite employment to begin on the first working day after the accident. The affidavit of the employer set forth the conditions of the employment and showed the minimum wage Slocum would have earned. Slocum had worked for a different employer the previous summer and had earned a scholarship paying him $500.00 a semester for each of the two intervening semesters.
The PIP outlined in the Insurance Code is a type of no-fault insurance designed to provide benefits to the insured and family for injuries sustained in automobile accidents. Neither the statute nor the policy definition of income producer can be so strictly construed as to deny recovery of lost income by one who, like Slocum, had accepted a firm offer of employment, was to report for work at a definite time and at a set rate of compensation, but was prevented by injuries sustained in automobile accident from enjoying the fruits of his labor. It was error for the trial court to hold, as a matter of law, that Slocum, because he had not yet reported for work, was not in an “occupational status” at the time of the accident. In light of this holding that at least a fact question was presented as to whether Slocum was a wage earner or income producer as defined in the policy, it was unnecessary to decide whether the policy definition of “wage earner” or “income producer” was in conflict with the Insurance Code. The judgment appealed from was reversed and the cause was remanded for trial.