The Contact Rule For Uninsured Motorist Coverage

Dallas insurance lawyers should be aware of the “contact rule” as it relates to uninsured motorist coverage on an automobile. A 1972 case styled, Latham v. Mountain States Mutual Fire Insurance Co is a good example of how the “contact rule” works. This case comes from the Houston Court of Appeals [1st Dist].
As a premise for the case, it is important to start with the statute governing this rule. The statute is found in the Texas Insurance Code, Section 1952.104. It says that for there to be coverage under the uninsured motorist portion of a policy that “…, actual physical contact must have occurred between the motor vehicle owned or operated by the unknown person and the person or property of the insured.”
Here is some of the relevant information in Latham:
This is a summary judgment case from which Latham appealed.
The Lathams alleged that while their car was stopped in a line of traffic in obedience to the command of a police officer, a car immediately behind them was struck from the rear by a pick-up truck and propelled into their automobile. As a result of this collision they suffered personal injuries. The pick-up truck left the scene of the accident, and neither the driver nor the owner of the truck can be identified.
They allege that the pick-up truck was a hit-and-run vehicle which negligently caused bodily injury to the plaintiffs; that such injuries arose out of physical contact (at least indirectly) of such pick-up truck with plaintiffs’ vehicle; and that they are covered by Latham’s automobile insurance policy.
The paragraph of particular concern reads:
… “hit and run automobile’ means an automobile which causes bodily injury to an insured arising out of physical contact of such automobile with the insured or with an automobile which the insured is occuping at the time of the accident provided (a) there cannot be ascertained the identity of either the operator or the owner of such hit and run automobile;…
It is contended that the Lathams’ petition establishes that there was no physical contact between the car occupied by the Lathams and the one alleged to be a hit-and-run car In looking at this case, this court said, “The question of what constitutes ‘physical contact’ of one automobile with another appears to be one of first impression in this state. The cases from other states in which the exact question has been presented hold that indirect contact satisfies the policy requirement. Where a car A strikes car B and propels it into car C, there is physical contact between Car A and Car C within the meaning of such a provision. We agree with this interpretation.
Thus, this court reversed and remanded this case back to the trial court.
There are many cases in law books dealing with situations where it is discussed whether or not uninsured motorist protection is available for recovery. An experienced Insurance Law Attorney will know these cases and be able to provide guidance on what situations will provide coverage and which situations will not provide coverage.