Third Circuit Court Broadens Scope of When Uninsured Motorist Coverage May Apply, Benefiting Pennsylvania Victims
A recent opinion of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals favors a broader reading of insurance policies despite the fact that insurance companies consistently argued for narrow interpretation of the phrase “arising out of” the use of a motor vehicle. The “arising out of” clause interpreted by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals was one of the broadest interpretations of the necessary causal link between the use of the uninsured vehicle and the injury to the insured which held that an accident caused by a box laying the middle of the road arose out of the use of an uninsured vehicle.
In the case of Allstate Property and Casualty Insurance Company v. Squires, 667 F.3d 388 (3rd Cir. 2012), a pickup truck was driving on a country road in Pennsylvania when the driver swerved to avoid a cardboard box lying in the middle of the road. The driver, who was seriously injured, filed a claim for uninsured motorist benefits with his insurer Allstate. He submitted that because the box had fallen from an unidentified and therefore uninsured vehicle, the accident arose out of the use of a vehicle. Allstate stipulated that an uninsured vehicle had dropped the box but dismissed the claim due to the fact that the injuries caused by the box and not a vehicle and any causal connection between the injury and the “use of an auto” was too tenuous to support an uninsured motorist case in Pennsylvania.
The Court was faced with interpreting the “arising out of” language of the Allstate policy and had to address the issue “whether an accident caused by a box which fell from an uninsured motor vehicle can be attributed as a matter of law to the “ownership, maintenance, or use of an automobile”. The Third Circuit Court centered its analysis on a chain of causation and constructed a broad interpretation of the policy language in favor of the insured rather than narrowly interpreting it in favor of the insurance company’s position which would have denied coverage to the claimant.
The Court noted that while “arising out of” means causally connected, it does not implicate “every incidental factor that arguably contributes to an accident”. The Court also suggested that injuries sustained in an accident must be attributable to the common causes of a vehicle. The Court stated that transporting a box as cargo was determined to be a common use of vehicles and represents a favorable ruling for insurers and plaintiff insured in automobile accidents. Perhaps the pendulum of insurance coverage is swinging in a more lenient fashion towards Pennsylvania insureds.
The Pennsylvania car accident law firm of Reiff & Bily has over three decades of experience representing those catastrophically injured and family members of those wrongfully killed as a result of automobile accidents. We always offer a free, no obligation consultation toll free at (800) 421-9595 or online at www.reiffandbily.com. We have successfully handled thousands of uninsured and underinsured motorist claims since 1979.