Insurance Law Lesson 19: Occurrence

General liability coverage for “bodily injury” and “property damage” must typically be caused by an “occurrence.”

Occurrence is an insurance term of art. Every “occurrence” definition that I can recall begins with the words “an accident.” The ISO (see Lesson 18) general liability form (CG 00 01) defines an occurrence as “an accident, including continuous or repeated exposure to substantially the same general harmful conditions.”

But, the policies do not define the work “accident.”

Under Michigan law “an accident is an undesigned contingency, a casualty, a happening by chance, something out of the usual course of things, unusual, fortuitous, not anticipated, and not naturally to be expected.” Frankenmuth Mut Ins Co v Masters, 460 Mich 105, 114 (1999).

If the insured intends to cause harm, “it is irrelevant whether the harm that resulted … was different from or exceeded the harm intended.” Id.

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