The purpose behind having insurance is to help injured parties get relief. In a world without insurance, every accident has the potential to be the financial ruin of the party judged to be at fault. Insurance policies have the effect of creating a large pool of money that can be used to provided financial backing in the post accident period. However, insurance policies will not have the effect of covering every accident that occurs in every circumstances. For example, can we expect to allow an individual who uses his vehicle as a weapon to gain the benefits of his car insurance policy? Answering questions like this are at the cornerstone of lawsuits seeking compensation when tragedy strikes in unfortunately complex ways.
Strong public policy in Louisiana indicates that any accident that occurs in the course of committing a crime should not be protected by insurance. In fact, for obvious business reasons, most insurance policies limit the insurance company’s liability with a crime exception. The Ruston City Court, Parish of Lincoln, State of Louisiana, had this concept in mind when it made a recent decision.
The defendant, Shedrick Green, was driving down a road while he was feuding with another individual in another car. At one point, the party in the other vehicle pulled into a parking lot, at which time Mr. Green pulled out a gun and began shooting. After shooting at the other vehicle, he got back into his car and continued driving. At the next stop sign, he drove into the intersection without stopping at the stop sign and his vehicle collided with the vehicle that the plaintiff, Latasha Potts, was driving. At the trial court level, Ms. Potts sued both Mr. Green and his insurance company. The trial court ruled that driving through the intersection was part of a continuation of a criminal activity. The insurance policy on the vehicle driven by Mr. Green stated that the policy did not extend to criminal actions. Thus, the trial court ruled that the insurance company was not liable because of the criminal nature of the vehicle’s use.
However, upon appeal, the appellate court looked at the circumstances differently. Mr. Green was arrested for assault and battery. According to the facts set out by the trial court, the assault and battery were completed when Mr. Green shot at the other vehicle and drove away. Any action taken after that was not in the course of a criminal activity. If Mr. Green had been charged with fleeing the scene of a crime, there could be a chance that the accident with Ms. Potts was a criminal activity. Parties who are involved in an accident expect to be protected against normal acts of negligence on the part of a driver. In this case, Mr. Green drove down the road and negligently failed to realize that he needed to stop at the stop sign. Thus, the accident with Ms. Pott was as a result of Mr. Green’s negligence, not his prior criminal actions. Criminal law should not be used as a tool to limit civil liablity. Thus, the appellate court overturned the trial court decision.
Insurance policies have the potential to deal with many different areas of law. The facts of this case show an interlocking of civil, contract, and criminal law all in one case. Thus, it is essential or any person who has been involved in a car accident to seek legal advice. Simply settling with an insurance company may not be the most effective way to retain your rights. By consulting with an attorney, finding where the law is flexible or is not as simple as first glance can mean a significant amount, like in this case.
Attorneys at the Berniard Law Firm can help answer your questions concerning you rights.