Earlier this month, an appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case involving a motorist who was injured in a car accident while riding in the car of an acquaintance. The case required the court to determine if the insurance company could refuse to cover the accident based on an argument that the driver was using his vehicle as a “public or livery conveyance.” Ultimately, however, the court concluded that was not the case and found in favor of the plaintiff. The case is important for Washington, D.C. car accident victims because it illustrates a common exception in many insurance policies.
Insurance is designed to cover the costs of an accident. However, the policy language governs which types of accidents are covered. Many insurance policies have a “public or livery conveyance” exception, meaning when the driver is using the vehicle to transport people or goods for money. For example, an accident involving a taxi-cab may trigger this exception.
The Facts of the Case
One day, the plaintiff offered a ride to an older woman who was walking into town. The plaintiff had previously provided the woman with rides into town for $7. This time, however, the woman did not reach out to the plaintiff in advance; he just noticed she was walking as he drove past and stopped to see if she wanted a ride.
On the way into town, another driver opened the car door directly into the plaintiff’s car. The plaintiff turned his head to see what had occurred and injured his neck. The plaintiff filed a claim with his insurance company, seeking compensation for his injuries.
The insurance company, however, denied coverage, arguing that the plaintiff was operating his vehicle as a public or livery conveyance. Indeed, the plaintiff’s insurance policy did have language excluding coverage when the accident occurred while the vehicle was being used as a public or livery conveyance.
The plaintiff argued that there was no indication that he accepted money from the woman. The woman testified that she had planned to pay him, but that there had been no discussion of payment prior to the accident and that she never did actually pay him. There was also no evidence that the plaintiff provided rides to the general public.
The court concluded that, even though the policy language excluded accidents when a car is for-hire, the evidence was insufficient to establish that the plaintiff was acting in such a capacity when he was involved in the accident. The court explained that, as a general matter, the burden rests with the insurance company to establish an exception to coverage exists.
The court looked at the definition of “public or livery conveyance,” determining that the term requires a person to open their services up to the public at-large. Here, there was no evidence that the plaintiff provided transportation services to the general public, even if he was planning on getting paid for transporting the woman. Thus, the court concluded the accident did not fall within the exclusion.
Have You Been Injured in a Washington, D.C. Car Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a car accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. However, it is likely that you will need to deal with at least one insurance company along the way. The dedicated Washington, D.C. personal injury attorneys at the law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC have extensive experience taking on even the largest insurance companies on behalf of their injured clients. Call 410-654-3600 to schedule a free consultation with an attorney today.
More Blog Posts:
Court Dismisses Premises Liability Lawsuit Against Coffee Shop, Finding Parents Bore the Responsibility to Keep Children Safe, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, March 19, 2018
Court Dismisses Premises Liability Case Due to Plaintiff’s Knowledge of Hazard That Caused His Injury, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, March 2, 2018