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Tim Nelson


A personal injury lawyer posing for a photograph.

The great jurist, Oliver Wendell Holmes, once wrote that, “even a dog knows the difference between being kicked and being tripped over.”  Even though the consequences may be the same, from the dog’s perspective, intentmakes all the difference.  Most people don’t realize it, but in the world of insurance, the same general principal applies.  In other words, two exact actions, with the same consequences, are treated differently because of the intent behind those actions.  One action may result in insurance coverage, while the other action might not.

For example, if a homeowner is out in their front yard practicing their golf swing, and some one walks up, unbeknownst to the homeowner, and is struck in the head by the club and sustains serious injuries, the homeowner would likely be covered by his homeowner’s insurance policy.  If however, the homeowner intentionally hit the person with the club, causing the same injuries, there would likely be no coverage under the “intentional act” exclusion contained in most insurance policies.  In fact, the homeowner would likely also be charged with criminal assault.  Intent makes all the difference.

Another example, taken from actual case law, is where a person trying to commit suicide, steers their vehicle directly into the lane of an oncoming vehicle, and causes serious injury or death.  Insurance coverage for those injuries would likely not be covered under the policy insuring the suicidal driver.  If, on the other hand, a highly intoxicated driver falls asleep, or otherwise swerves into the lane of an oncoming vehicle, those same injuries to the other persons would be covered under the drunk driver’s liability policy.  Again, intent makes all the difference.

The reason and policy behind these exclusions is that the cost of insurance is based upon actuarial and other statistical data, which factors in the likelihood of events and claims. To provide coverage when there is an intentional act, takes the control out of the hands of statistics and randomness, and places it squarely in the hands of the policyholder.  This is simply an unacceptable transfer of power and control from the insurance company to the insured.  It is also against public policy insomuch that it allows someone to purchase protection for what may be an intentional and illegal act.

It is important for all consumers of insurance to understand exactly what coverage they are paying for.  If you have any questions about insurance coverage, feel free to contact Nelson Personal Injury, LLC today for a free consultation.

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