Insurance Definition Of “Accident”

The title of this blog topic should be “Insurance Company Gone Wacko”.

The case at issue here is from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.  It is styled, Frederking v. Cincinnati Insurance Company.

This case involves Frederking being injured by an insured of Cincinnati who was intoxicated at the time of the automobile wreck.  The insured caused a wreck between the vehicle he was driving and the vehicle being driven by Frederking, causing injury to Frederking.  A jury found in favor of Frederking and Cincinnati refused to pay based on their assertion that the wreck was not the result of an accident as that term is used in the policy.

The interpretation of an insurance policy is a job of the courts.  The policy at issue does not define the term accident.  As a result, the courts are left to give this undefined term its generally accepted or commonly understood meaning.

Thankfully, this court ultimately decided that as a matter of plain meaning and common usage, the term “accident” plainly includes drunk driving.

The Texas Supreme Court has defined the term “accident” as a fortuitous, unexpected, and unintended event.  Put another way, the term “accident” is defined by what it excludes and what it excludes is intentional acts.  The term “auto accident” refers to situations where one or more vehicles are involved with another vehicle, object, or person.

There is no way to describe the wreck in this case as anything other than an “accident” in that no one contends that the insured intended his vehicle to collide with Frederking’s vehicle nor did he have hopes of causing the wreck.

Cincinnati argues that drunk driving collisions are not “accidents” because the decision to drink and later drive, was intentional, even though there was admittedly no intent to collide with another vehicle.

This Court, thankfully, then went on to explain and discuss why Cincinnati’s position was idiosyncratic.  The Court pointed out that Cincinnati’s position would not just effect drunk drivers, but also apply to wrecks where a person was texting, eating, doing makeup, etc, would not be accidents.

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