WA Case Update: UIM Coverage: A Broad Interpretation of Injuries “Arising out of” Vehicle Use

From the desk of Kyle Riley: When does an injury “arise out of” vehicle use for UIM coverage purposes?

Claims Pointer: In order to provide a clear rule to determine when an injury “arises out of” vehicle use for the purposes of insurance coverage, the Washington Supreme Court concluded that an injury arises out of vehicle use if there is some causal connection between the use of the vehicle and the resulting injury. A causal connection may be found through some aspect of vehicle use, where neither the vehicle itself nor an attachment of the vehicle directly caused the injury.
Kroeber v. GEICO Ins. Co., No 91846-5 (January 14, 2016).

Plaintiff was shot outside a bar by Matthew Atkinson, who opened fire while he was driving an uninsured truck belonging to a friend. Atkinson claimed that he did not intend to injure anyone with his shot; and later claimed he did not know he was shooting where people were standing. There are factual disputes about whether Atkinson’s truck was stopped or in motion at the time he opened fire, and whether he accelerated rapidly away from the scene.

Plaintiff filed a claim with Defendant, GEICO Insurance Company, to recover damages under the UIM coverage provision of her own automobile insurance policy. The relevant parts of the policy provide that GEICO is liable to an insured where the insured is legally entitled to recover from the owner or operator of an underinsured motor vehicle due to bodily injury sustained from an accident. The policy further states that liability of the owner or operator for these damages must arise out of the ownership, maintenance or use of the underinsured motor vehicle. GEICO denied Plaintiff’s claim, asserting that her injuries did not arise out of the use of Atkinson’s truck. Plaintiff sued GEICO, claiming that she was entitled to UIM coverage.

The case was removed to the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington, and the district court found that the shooting...

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