Intended Injury May Affect Insurance Coverage

We sometimes get calls about injuries that result from fights, horseplay, goofing around, etc. Of course the individual who caused the injury, when he or she was fighting or goofing around, is responsible for their conduct, and the resulting injuries. But more then likely the person is not able to provide adequate compensation for the injuries that he or she caused. It is hoped that the person had some form of insurance that may provide coverage for the acts and the injuries. More then likely that insurance will be homeowners, or maybe renters insurance.

A recent case discussed this potential coverage, in State Farm vs. Frake. In this case, the persons were intoxicated, and horsing around. One of them stuck out their arm, and hit the other in the groin, causing serious injuries. Eventually the appellate court concluded that there was no coverage (under a renters policy), because there was not an “accident”. The primary argument by the insured was whether or not the injury was intended, and if not, it was therefore an accident. The court said that it is not the consequences of the act that is controlling, but rather, were all of the acts that resulted in the injury intended. If all of the acts were intentional, then there is no coverage. If there is one aspect in the series of events in the act that is not intentional, but rather accidental or not intended, then it is accidental, and there is coverage. For example, a person speeding in a car is intentional. But hitting someone else while speeding is not intentional, and therefore there is coverage, because it was accidental.

The court also cited other cases that discussed this issue. First it is important to note the language that all of the acts that led to the injury must be intentional. In an earlier case ( State Farm vs. Superior Court), the court noted that when kids were horsing around a pool, one of the kids picked up another, and thru him in the pool. That kid landed on a step in the pool, and was seriously injured. The court held that the picking up of the kid was intentional, but landing on the pool step was not, and therefore it was “accidental” and therefore coverage. Again, one of the series of events in the conduct was not intentional.

The court held that the person picking up the kid miscalculated (therefore not intentional, but rather accidental) the force necessary to throw the kid into the pool steps. He thought he was just throwing him into the deep end, and miscalculated that the force that he used would cause the kid to end up further into the pool on the steps.

As you can see, intended injury may affect insurance coverage, and legal arguments regarding coverage for these kinds of acts can be tricky, but it is the coverage that is needed in order to be compensated for one’s injuries. It is up to the attorney for the defendant to make sure that his client says what is necessary to get the coverage, and it is up to the plaintiff’s attorney to properly plead the case in order to assist in that coverage.