Court Addresses Ambiguity in Insurance Contract in Recent Georgia Personal Injury Lawsuit

Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Georgia car accident case involving an insurance dispute. According to the court’s opinion, a woman suffered injuries while she and her husband were visiting their friend’s home to look at a pickup truck he owned. When the couple arrived, the truck’s owner moved the car about eight feet forward so that they could walk around and inspect the vehicle. The owner parked the car on an incline, placed it on neutral, and set the emergency brake. The owner asked the woman to pull the “hood latch” but warned her to avoid the emergency brake. However, the woman inadvertently pulled the emergency brake, and the vehicle rolled off and ran her over. The couple filed a lawsuit against the owner, alleging that the woman suffered multiple injuries and damages because of the owner’s negligence. The truck owner sought coverage under his homeowner’s policy; however, the insurance company denied coverage.

When an individual suffers injuries or damages in a Georgia accident, they may file a lawsuit against the at-fault party or a claim for damages with the other party’s insurance company. In many cases, the at-fault party’s insurance provider will try to deny coverage by pointing to specific terms in the insurance contract. Often this leads to undue delays and requires the injured party to endure a lengthy legal battle with the at-fault party or their insurance company.

In this case, the insurance company argued that in addition to other circumstances, their policy does not provide coverage for injuries that arise out of the “ownership, maintenance, use, or loading of motor vehicles.” The trial court found that the truck was in “use” when the accident occurred, because the parties were evaluating the vehicle’s operability and functionality. The appeals court found that there are ambiguities regarding the term “in use.”

Under Georgia law, if a contract includes ambiguous terms, courts must engage in contract construction and resolve the ambiguity. Generally, ambiguous terms are construed strictly against the insurer, exclusionary terms are strictly construed in favor of the insured, and the contract should be read in accordance with what an insured party could reasonably expect.

Here, the appeals court found that the trial court incorrectly concluded that the vehicle was “in use” during the accident. The evidence shows that the parked truck was not being used as a vehicle, because the parties were merely inspecting it. Ultimately, the court found that the insurance company cannot evade their obligation to defend the homeowner in the suit against him to avoid paying damages to the couple.

Have You Suffered Injuries in a Georgia Accident?

If you or a loved one has sustained injuries in a Georgia car accident, contact McAleer Law for immediate assistance. The attorneys at our firm represent clients in a wide variety of Georgia personal injury cases, including slip and fall accidents, car crashes, and wrongful death claims. We understand that accidents can have long-lasting financial, physical, and emotional consequences on an injury victim and their family. and we work tirelessly to mitigate these effects and get our clients the compensation they deserve. We have recovered millions of dollars on behalf of Georgia injury victims and consistently strive for absolute client satisfaction. Contact our office today at 404-622-5337 to schedule a free consultation with a Georgia accident attorney on our team.

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