The Definition of "Accident"

Auto liability insurance normally covers bodily injury and property damage to others caused by an accident arising out of the ownership, maintenance, or use of the insured motor vehicle. As you can guess, there have been many decided cases and arguments over what facts trigger liability insurance and fall under the phrase, “arising out of the ownership, maintenance, or use of the insured vehicle,” and we have blogged about that before. Just as many cases exist trying to define what constitutes an “accident.”

In State Farm v. CTC Development Corp., 720 So.2d 1072 (Fla. 1998), the Florida Supreme Court ruled that the general rules of construction for insurance policies apply to the undefined term of “accident.” The Court also ruled that the term “accident” should be construed in favor of the insured and that the term encompasses not only accidental events, but also personal injury or damage neither expected nor intended from the standpoint of the insured.

This ruling expands the definition of an “accident,” along with the case of National Merchandise v. United Service Automobile, 400 So.2d 526 (Fla. 1st DCA 1981). In that case, the Court held that liability insurance covered damages for a child’s death resulting from the child consuming drugs that were located in the car in which she was traveling. The Court noted that only a minimal connection is needed between the use of the vehicle and the injury experienced and they relied on the fact that the car was being used to transport drugs and therefore the car’s liability insurance was triggered.

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