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 compensated. For example… ► 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. The 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 truck. Suddenly, 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. Once 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 itself. 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. Marcia 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. There 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.


About John Fagan

John is a Jacksonville native who grew up on the First Coast. He graduated from Bishop Kenny High School in 1975 and went to college at Florida State University where he completed a 4-year program in 3 years. John graduated from the Florida State University College of Business in 1978 and went straight into Florida State University College of Law. While in law school, John earned a position on the prestigious Law Review Board serving as its Business Editor. As a law student, John studied in the Oxford program. He also interned with the Florida Legislature working in the Florida House of Representatives Criminal Justice Committee. John was admitted to the Florida Bar in 1981. John began his legal career as a law school intern in the State Attorney's Office in Jacksonville in 1981. After his internship, legendary State Attorney Ed Austin hired John as a full-time Assistant State Attorney for the Fourth Judicial Circuit (Clay, Duval, and Nassau Counties). As a prosecutor, John tried jury and non-jury trial on charges ranging from DUI to Murder. In 1983, John moved from the State Attorney's Office to begin his career in private practice. He has practiced law for 30 years on the First Coast. For the last 20 years, John and his family have made Clay County their home. John limits his practice to personal injury and disability cases. While there are many fine attorneys in Clay County, John is one of only a few Clay County attorneys who limit their practice to personal injury and disability cases. John takes pride in helping clients resolve injury claims in ways that avoid the stress, uncertainty, and the expense of unnecessary litigation. Professional Activities John is the past President of the Clay County Bar Association and has served on the Board of the Clay County Bar Association from 2009-2013. He is an active member of the Florida Bar, and the Federal Bar of the Middle and Southern Districts of Florida. He is also a member of the American Association of Justice, the Florida Association of Justice, the National Organization of Social Security Claimants' Representatives, and the National Organization of Veterans' Advocates. Service to the Community John is involved in the Clay County Community serving as a member and Director of the Rotary Club of Orange Park, of the Clay County Bar Association, and the Putnam County Bar Association.
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