Insurance Law Lesson 77: Injury in a Vehicle

Car insurance in Michigan is required to include first party no-fault benefits and also liability benefits. If there is a car accident injury, in the classic sense, look to these coverages. But what about in a non-classical sense? If the injury just happens to involve an auto, then coverage may lie elsewhere.

In the case of Thornton v. Allstate Ins. Co., the plaintiff, a cab driver, had been shot during a robbery of his cab. 425 Mich. 643 (1986). He sought no-fault PIP benefits for his injuries. But, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that such coverage was not implicated. The Court explained:

“The connection in this case between the debilitating injuries suffered by Mr. Thornton and the use of the taxicab as a motor vehicle is no more than incidental, fortuitous, or ‘but for.’ The motor vehicle was not the instrumentality of the injuries… The mere foreseeability of an injury as an incident to a given use of a motor vehicle is not enough to provide no-fault coverage where the injury itself does not result from the use of the motor vehicle as a motor vehicle. Likewise, the mere absence of foreseeability would not necessarily preclude coverage.”

This can impact liability insurance as well, where an injury may take place in or around a vehicle, but where the injury could have occurred whether or not the vehicle was “being used as a motor vehicle.” An armed robbery would likely be excluded from coverage. But, there are instances where negligent injury incurred in a vehicle would be covered by general liability — as opposed to auto — insurance.

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