Tennessee Court Analyzes Insurance Policy Exclusions in Car Accident Cases

Most people purchase car insurance with the expectation that the insurance will provide coverage in the event of a car accident. If a car owner fails to comply with the terms of the policy and is subsequently injured in an accident, however, he or she may be denied any coverage or benefits pursuant to exclusions under the policy. Recently, the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee analyzed policy exclusions in a case in which a car accident was caused by an unlicensed driver who was intoxicated at the time of the accident. If you were involved in a car accident in Tennessee and your insurance company is attempting to deny you coverage you should meet with a skillful Tennessee car accident attorney to discuss your options for recovering benefits.

Factual Background

It is alleged that the car owner was involved in an accident in which he rear-ended another driver. At the time of the accident the car owner did not have a valid license. Additionally, he admitted to the investigating officers that he had been drinking and failed multiple field sobriety tests. He was ultimately charged with and convicted of driving under the influence.

It is reported that the other driver filed a lawsuit against the car owner, seeking costs, and compensatory and punitive damages for the harm she sustained in the accident. The car owner was insured by the plaintiff insurer. The insurer subsequently filed a declaratory judgment action and a subsequent motion for summary judgment, seeking an edict from the court that it was not obligated to provide the car owner coverage under the terms of the policy.

Interpretation of Insurance Policy Exclusions

Policies of insurance are analyzed under contract principles. Thus, unless the terms of an insurance policy are ambiguous, it will be enforced as written. In the subject case, the policy contained and exclusion for coverage for injury resulting from criminal acts.  The court noted that other courts have sustained a denial of insurance coverage pursuant to an illegal acts policy exclusion when there was conclusive evidence that the insured driver was driving while under the influence.

Further, the court stated that there was no evidence that the accident and the other driver’s subsequent injuries was caused by anything other than the car owner’s intoxication. Specifically, the undisputed evidence of the case showed that the car owner was drinking prior to the accident and was unable to pass multiple field sobriety tests. Thus, the court found that the policy exclusion for criminal acts barred coverage for the car owner. Further, the court noted that the policy also barred coverage for any punitive damages. Accordingly, the court granted the insurer’s motion for summary judgment.

Speak with a Knowledgeable Tennessee Car Accident Attorney About Your Case

If you were involved in a car accident and your insurer subsequently denied you coverage or benefits, you should meet with a trusted Tennessee car accident attorney to discuss whether you may be able to pursue a claim for benefits. Attorney Eric Beasley is a proficient attorney who can analyze the circumstances surrounding your accident and craft persuasive arguments in favor of your recovery of benefits. Mr. Beasley can be reached through the form online or at 615-859-2223 to set up a consultation to discuss your case.