Insurance Coverage and Road Rage in Alabama
In Alabama, an insurer would not likely be obligated to provide insurance coverage for its insured in instances of road rage or other criminal acts tangentially related to the use of a vehicle.
Suppose an insured driver is operating his vehicle on Hwy 280 in Birmingham (which is undoubtedly the most frustrating stretch of roadway in Alabama) and becoming incensed at the inexplicable stop-and-go traffic around him, suddenly exits his vehicle, tears a windshield wiper off, and starts pummeling a nearby motorcyclist with it. The incident began while the insured driver was operating his vehicle and the battery was carried out using a part from the vehicle, but does that trigger an event for which there is insurance coverage under a personal automobile policy?
Or suppose in a commercial setting that a city bus driver has had enough of a particularly boisterously obnoxious patron. The driver pulls the bus over to the edge of the roadway, walks down the aisle, and drop-kicks the patron in the chest. Will the commercial automobile carrier be on the hook for claims arising from the bus driver battering the patron while on the bus?
Certainly, both insurance policies will have language that preclude coverage for intentional, tortious acts of the insured drivers, but the question arises whether an Alabama court will apply the exclusion where the insured vehicle was somehow involved in the commission of the road rage.
The answer is that the insurer would not likely be liable to provide insurance coverage for its insured in these instances. Criminal acts of road rage, such as battery, break the causal connection between the use of the automobile and the injury, because no standard of reasonableness would suggest that the insurer intended to insure against such acts. See Allstate Ins. Co. v. Skelton, 675 So.2d 377, 381 (Ala. 1996); see also Lee v. Burdette, 715 So.2d 804 (Ala.Civ.App. 1998). The mere fact that the use of a vehicle preceded the harm sustained as a result of a condition created by the use of the automobile is insufficient to bring the harm within the automobile insurance policy’s coverage. See Id. Additionally, antecedent use of an automobile is distinct from harm arising from a condition created by the use of the automobile, and such later harm does not arise from the use of an automobile and is not covered. See Id.
Photo by LaggedOnUser.