Jackson v. Wis. County Mut. Ins. Corp. – Deputy Denied Employer’s Underinsured Motorist Coverage

Law enforcement officers have some of the toughest and most dangerous occupations. When injuries occur in the course of that work, financial compensation may be available to cover those injuries in a myriad of means.
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However, in one case out of Wisconsin, Jackson v. Wis. County Mut. Ins. Corp., a deputy was denied underinsured motorist coverage through her employer’s insurer for injuries sustained to her foot when a driver ran it over after she gave him directions. She was helping to guide him back into traffic when the accident occurred.

Asheville car accident attorneys recognize that typically workers’ compensation serves as a sole remedy for compensation in most states, though laws can vary from place-to-place. That means if you choose to pursue workers’ compensation, you will not be able to pursue any other kind of action against your employer. However, you might still be able to file a third-party lawsuit. (In this case, for example, it would mean legal action against the driver of the car.)

Because our attorneys are experienced in handling both types of claims, we can better advise you on the best course of action for your situation.

In the Jackson case, the officer filed an underinsured motorist claim with her employer’s insurance company following the accident, asserting that she was “using” the driver’s vehicle under the term’s of the policy because she was essentially in control of it. Throughout broad interpretation of the policy, she indicated that the had asked the driver to pull over into a parking lane to speak with him about some matter. She did so, and then she proceeded to give him directions to a location at his request. She then indicated that she would “help” him get back into traffic.

She then began to step in front of the vehicle and walked on the walkway when the driver pulled forward and struck her foot.

By her account, she was “using” the vehicle because she was in the process of “manipulating” it, or in the alternative, making some “other use” of the vehicle. She had not at that point stopped traffic or guided the driver into traffic at the time of the incident.

Per state law, use of a car can include not just driving, but operating, manipulating, riding in and “any other use.”

The circuit court granted summary judgment to the insurer, but the appellate court reversed, finding favor with the deputy. However, the state supreme court reversed once again, finding in favor of the insurer.

The court conceded that state law had allowed for the term “using” in car insurance policies to carry a broad definition. However, the justices insisted it could not be without limitation. The court indicated that essentially, this was a case of a non-driver, preparing to guide but not yet guiding a vehicle driven by another person. It was an issue not yet addressed before a court in that state. To permit recovery on those grounds, the court found, would not be consistent with setting fair limitations on the word “use” in the insurance policy language.

Contact the North Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:
Jackson v. Wis. County Mut. Ins. Corp., June 10, 2014, Wisconsin Supreme Court

More Blog Entries:
NC Appeals Court Weighs Liability for Injuries “Arising Out Of” Vehicle Use, June 4, 2014, Asheville Car Accident Attorney Blog

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