Legal Memorandum: "Occupying" a Vehicle and UIM Coverage

Issue: Was a peace officer who was hit by another motor vehicle while outside of the squad car ‘occupying’ his or her vehicle, within meaning of insurance policy of the driver of the other motor vehicle?

Area of Law: Insurance Law
Keywords: Occupying; Uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage
Jurisdiction: Federal, Illinois, Louisiana, Minnesota
Cited Cases: 484 N.W.2d 256; 303 N.E.2d 505; 484 S.E.2d 417; 321 N.E.2d 285; 768 So. 2d 97; 357 N.E.2d 556; 691 So. 2d 665; 182 N.W.2d 190
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 08/01/2000

Numerous cases from throughout the country discuss the issue of what it means to be “occupying” a vehicle in terms of uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage.  For a general treatment of this issue in Illinois, reference should be made to the cases of Salinas v. Economy Fire & Cas. Co., 43 Ill. App. 2d 509, 357 N.E.2d 556 (1976); Allstate Ins. Co. v. Horn, 24 Ill. App. 3d 583, 321 N.E.2d 285 (1974); and Lumbermen’s Mut. Cas. Co. v. Norris, 15 Ill. App. 3d 95, 303 N.E.2d 505 (1973). 

Although the court in Ashy v. Migues, 768 So. 2d 97 (La. Ct. App. Apr. 5, 2000) determined that the plaintiff was not a named insured, it did not agree with the lower court’s determination that the plaintiff was not occupying his vehicle at the time of the accident.  In resolving this issue, the Ashy court once again referred to the earlier court decision in Valentine v. Bonneville Ins. Co., 691 So. 2d 665, 669 (La. 1997).  The court then agreed that no coverage can be afforded to an individual on the basis that they were occupying a motor vehicle unless the individual was doing a job which had a “substantial nexus” to the vehicle.”  Id.

In Valentine, the court determined that the plaintiff severed the nexus with his vehicle when he took up the duty of directing traffic.  Valentine, 691 So. 2d […]

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