Accident And Uninsured Motorist Coverage

Sometimes figuring out what is an “accident” for uninsured motorist (UM) coverage is tricky.

In the 1999, Texas Supreme Court opinion styled, Mid-Century Insurance Company of Texas v. Lindsey, found coverage for the plaintiff, who was seated in the driver’s seat of a parked vehicle.  In a truck next to Linsey’s parked vehicle, a child tried to enter the cab by climbing through the back window.  In doing so, the child accidentally contacted a loaded shotgun, causing it to discharge and strike Lindsey in the head.  Lindsey’s carrier denied coverage on the grounds the injury did not “arise out of the use” of the vehicle and because the event was not an “accident.”  The court opined that an accident need not be an auto accident or collision; rather, it looked to the child’s intent and the reasonably foreseeable effect of his conduct to determine whether an accident had occurred.  Because the child did not intend to discharge the gun or injure Lindsey, and because neither result was reasonably foreseeable, the court determined Lindsey’s injury was caused by an accident.  Further, the court determined that Lindsey’s injury “arose out of the use” of the vehicle due to the fact that the accident was caused by the child’s attempt to enter the vehicle.  In reaching its decision, the court relied more on the fact that the child’s acts were unexpected and unintentional than on the role of the vehicle in the accident.

In a 2000, El Paso Court of Appeals opinion styled, State & County Mutual Fire Insurance Co. v. Trinity Universal Insurance Cos., a woman had been hit by a car as she tried to escape from the insured’s van after the driver had attempted to sexually assault her.  The court identified the following three-prong test under Lindsey for construing the “use” requirement of UM coverage: 1) did the accident arise out of the inherent nature of the automobile; 2) did the accident arise within the natural territorial limits of the automobile; and 3) did the automobile itself produce the injury (rather than merely contributing to the cause of the condition that produced the injury).  Applying these factors, the court found that the accident arose out of the use of the vehicle as a vehicle because “but for the vehicle and its position on the highway,” the woman would dnot have died from being struck by traffic.  Furthermore, she died on a roadway, which was “within the natural territory of the vehicle.”  But under the third factor, the use of the van was merely incidental in producing the victim;s death; it did not itself produce the injury.  The court noted that the victim was not struck by or pushed from the van; she did not fall from it; ans she was not injured by it.  Therefore, the Lindsey test was not satisfied.