Let’s talk about what it means to be “upon” a vehicle, says the SC Supreme Court in recent case Farm Bureau v. Kennedy. The case generally hashes over what it means to be in a car or truck under underinsured motorist (UIM) car insurance policies and the public policy governing these cases.
In the business owner’s Farm Bureau auto insurance in this case, for a personal injury to be covered by the policy the person injured must have been occupying the insured vehicle at the time of injury. This is generally true of such car insurance policies. The car insurance contract helpfully defined occupying as “having actual physical contact with an auto while in, upon, entering, or alighting from it.” If you think that adds much meaning to “occupying,” let us know in the comments.
Generally, it is pretty obvious whether someone is occupying the relevant vehicle. Those are the easy cases. In this case, the plaintiff had actually been leaning on the tailgate of the insured vehicle (occupying the vehicle by being upon the vehicle) right before a truck was coming straight for him. He then fled the path of the truck. He came into contact with the insured vehicle again when the truck from which he was fleeing pinned him against the insured vehicle.
Farm Bureau argued that the injuries occurred after he lost contact with the vehicle, and since he was not upon the insured vehicle, he was not a covered person under the UIM policy.
The plaintiff argued that to expect a person to not flee danger or forfeit their insurance coverage is unconscionable, and for that reason, the plaintiff should be a covered person.
The Court agreed with the plaintiff and argued that UIM coverage must be read broadly, for reasons of public policy, and that the UIM statute may prevent the reading of the contract offered by Farm Bureau.
The full opinion is appended below the break.
If you or someone you know has been injured or killed in a car accident or any other accident, you need the help of a serious accident attorney like those at Reeves, Aiken & Hightower. Call us at 877-374-5999, or contact us at this link, to schedule a free, private consultation. We can help you evaluate your claim and get you the recovery you deserve.