An injured woman settled for $400,000.00 after she was hit by a golf cart driven by an intoxicted driver. The plaintiff in this case was walking after leaving an outdoor concert in Peachtree City. She was then struck by a golf cart driven by a man who was later arrested for DUI. The Defendant in the case was leaving the outdoor concert and had parked his golf cart near the golf cart path. As the defendant pulled onto the path, he struck the plaintiff and kept going until a passersby stopped him and removed the key from the golf cart. It was reported that the Defendant was not aware that he had hit the injured lady. The Plaintiff’s injuries included two broken bones in her leg, and her medical bills totaled $75,000.00.
The Defendant’s insurance company fought to exclude liability coverage under the Defendant’s homeowner’s insurance policy. The company argued that the golf cart was excluded from the Defendant’s liability coverage. The insurance company then filed a complaint for declaratory judgment arguing “policy exclusion”.
The court; however, held that the wording in the insurance policy was “unclear”. The policy attempted to include an exclusion for golf carts based on the number of people the cart was designed to carry. Further the court held that the language in the insurance policy was ambiguous and coverage exclusions must be clearly defined.
Although the policy limit in this case was $500,000, the reasoning for settling at $400,000 was to persuade the insurance company to just settle the case and be done with it.
Though this case dealt with a homeowners insurance policy, automobile insurance policies, health and even life insurance policies are often filled with exclusions. For example, some life insurance policies may exclude certain behaviors they consider “risky”, e.g., scuba diving, sky diving, etc.
Auto insurance policies may have exclusions for injuries caused by intentional acts, for example, attempting to hit someone with a car. Also, exclusions have been held valid where an individual has allowed an unlicensed driver to operate the vehicle. There may be incidents where an individually is actually named as an excluded driver, for example where the person has a poor driving history.
When renting a vehicle, the rental car company typically asks for the identity of all anticipated drivers who will or may be operating the rental vehicle. Any other drivers not listed may be excluded under the insurance policy in the event of an accident, injury or death.
Another example in auto insurance policies may be the “business use “ exclusion. The insurer may seek to exclude coverage if an accident occurs while the vehicle is in use for business purposes (under a personal auto insurance policy). Although, this exclusion is not as widely pursued by insurance companies.
The bottom line is, when signing up for any insurance, read the fine print and direct your intention to the section on exclusions. You may think you are insured when, in fact, you may not be when the accident, injury or loss occurs. If you have questions or would like to discuss your legal matter, contact: Anthony Overton Van Johnson & Associates, P.C. at 678-882-7355, or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org for a free consultation.