Uninsured Motorist Coverage And Physical Contact Rule

Here a question for your insurance law attorney … If a car swerves into my lane and I drive off the road and wreck my car to avoid the accident, does my uninsured motorist (UM) policy cover the damages?  Answer … NO!

An auto policy includes within the definition of UM vehicle a hit and run vehicle whose operator or owner cannot be identified.  This definition incorporates the Insurance Code’s requirement in Section 1952.104(3) that there be physical contact when the owner or operator of the reported UM vehicle is unknown or unidentified.  This is further illustrated in the 1986, Texarkana Court of Appeals opinion, Goen v. Trinity Universal Insurance Company.

Likewise, a drive-by shooting in which there is no collision does not meet the UM physical contact requirement.

An insured may recover when a hit-and-run auto hits another auto, which consequently hits the insured’s auto, as was seen in the 1972, Houston Court of Appeals [1st Dist.] opinion styled, Latham v. Mountain States Mutual Casualty Co.  This is often referred to as the “indirect contact rule.”  This rule does not apply when an unidentified vehicle does not actually hit any car, discussed in the 1991, Eastland Court of Appeals opinion, Guzman v. Allstate Insurance Company.  Nor does it extend to objects left in the road, as discussed in the 1995, Texas Supreme Court opinion styled, Republic Insurance Company v. Stoker.

To prove entitlement to UM benefits, the insured must establish the tortfeasor’s negligence, the amount of damages suffered by the insured, and the fact that the tortfeasor is uninsured or underinsured.  Numerous Texas court cases establish these requirements.

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