On October 3, 2012, Patrick Bailey was injured when he was struck on a Florida roadway by an uninsured motorist while working at a jobsite for his employer, Claim Jumper, Inc. Mr. Bailey was on site as an operator of a flatbed crane truck used to lift and move heavy items throughout the site.
However, at the time when he was struck, he was actually standing outside of the vehicle, approximately 10-20 feet away, where he was observing the operation of the crane by a coworker. The truck was running to operate the crane, but it was not moving. Mr. Bailey stood in that location outside of the truck for approximately thirty minutes before he was struck by an uninsured vehicle after the driver allegedly lost control of it.
Subsequently, Mr. Bailey sued State Farm, his employer’s insurer, for uninsured motor vehicle coverage for the damages he sustained in the incident. Mr. Bailey was not a named insured on the policy, though he claimed he was covered as an employee of the named insured, and that coverage should be extended to him due to his use of the insured truck while working for Claim Jumper, Inc.
The Florida court ruled, in examining the language of the State Farm policy, that coverage would only be extended to Mr. Bailey if he was “occupying” the insured truck. Prior Florida court rulings have defined “occupying” as “in or upon, entering into or alighting from.” Essentially, Florida courts have ruled that for uninsured motorist coverage to extend to a person who is not physically inside the vehicle, that person must be in reasonably close proximity to the vehicle, touching the vehicle, entering or exiting the vehicle, etc. In Mr. Bailey’s situation, since he had been standing between 10-20 feet away for a period of almost thirty minutes, he was deemed not to have been in close enough proximity to the vehicle to be afforded the uninsured motorist coverage.
Situations like these arise every day, especially on the dangerous roadways of South Florida. There are no guarantees that the insurance policy you have will provide coverage in the event of an injurious incident, as the coverage will be dictated by the circumstances of the incident and the specific language in your policy. In spite of this, it is our position that uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage is the most cost-effective, and likely, the most potentially useful form of “disability type” insurance that any motorist can purchase. We strongly recommend getting the highest amount of uninsured/underinsured motorist insurance benefits you can afford, because our experience has taught us that it can be one of the best insurance benefits you can have in the event you are injured in a car accident where the at-fault driver has little or no coverage.
For more information on this topic or any other, feel free to contact the Schulman Law Group at (954) 349-3300 or at info@www.schulaw.com