Do you Really Know What Your Auto Insurance Covers?

Most of
the time, auto insurance is fairly straightforward. You’re typically covered
for damage to your own car, and for damage you might do to other cars or
property. You’re covered for injuries to yourself or others in an accident, for
car theft, and possibly for roadside assistance or a rental car if your own car
breaks down.

But auto
insurance can cover a lot of other things that you might not expect. That’s why
it’s always good to talk to a lawyer whenever there’s an injury or accident –
only a lawyer on your side can determine the full extent to which you might be


Charles Walega tied a 1,500-pound gun safe to the hitch of his pickup truck
with a rope, so he could move it in order to sell it. As his wife was driving
the truck, dragging the safe along the driveway, it flipped over and injured
Charles’ leg.

couple’s insurance company – State Farm – claimed that the accident wasn’t
covered because the truck wasn’t being driven on a public road and because it
was being used as a “tool” rather than as a means of transportation.

But the
Michigan Court of Appeals sided with the Walegas. The court said it didn’t
matter that the truck was on a private driveway, and it didn’t matter that it
was being used to drag a safe, because people use pickup trucks to drag or pull
things all the time. Dragging a safe is more unusual than hauling a boat, but
it’s the same idea.

Richard Sloane was a highway construction worker who was working with another
man to lay asphalt near a shopping mall, using a front-end loader and a dump

two different drunk drivers – both of whom had just been kicked out of the same
bar – crashed into the construction vehicles. Sloane was pinned between them
and injured.

The two
drunk drivers didn’t have enough insurance to compensate Sloane’s family, so
the family sought coverage under the auto insurance policies on the two
construction vehicles.

again, the insurance company argued that the accident wasn’t covered – this
time because Sloane wasn’t driving, using, or getting out of the vehicles at
the time of the accident.

But the
Virginia Supreme Court sided with the family, and said Sloane was generally “using”
the vehicles as part of his construction work when he was injured.

► Eleanor Borriello hired a company to transport her via
a wheelchair van to an adult day-care center. The van employees parked on the
street, strapped Eleanor in her wheelchair, and began bringing her outside. One
of the employees slipped on Eleanor’s front porch, and Eleanor fell down the
porch stairs.

Travelers, which insured the van, said the accident wasn’t
covered under the automobile policy because it had nothing to do with the van

But the highest court in Massachusetts disagreed. The
Travelers policy said that it covered accidents involving “loading and
unloading” a vehicle. In this case, the workers were carrying Eleanor
downstairs as part of their attempt to “load” her into the van.

► Marcia Rhodes was driving on a two-lane road which had
been reduced to one lane while a tree trimmer worked in the area. The tree
trimmer had parked his pickup truck in one lane and was grinding a stump near
the roadway. A police officer directed Marcia to stop and wait for oncoming
traffic, at which point a truck driver behind her, who wasn’t paying attention,
crashed into her.

sued the truck driver, but she was also able to collect from the tree trimmer’s
auto policy. The reason: The accident arose out of the trimmer’s use of the pickup
truck when he parked it in such a way as to block traffic.

are countless other cases like these in which an auto insurance policy covered
an injury in a way you might not expect. Unless you consult an attorney, you’ll
never know if you’re receiving all the compensation to which you’re entitled.

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