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Issaquah Law Group - Injury Litigation Attorneys

TRUST: Personal injuries are personal. Which is why the attorneys at ILG treat every client and every case differently. Because they are different, and extremely personal. ILG was founded on the principle that strong client relationships are the key to successful legal representation and strong relationships are built on trust. Trust that you will be heard. Trust that you will be protected. Trust that every effort will be made to see justice done in your case. The singular goal of every ILG attorney is to earn and preserve that trust.

EXPERIENCE: ILG attorneys have a broad base of litigation experience to draw on in all Federal and State courts from on-the-ground investigations to Supreme Court appeals and we bring this experience to bear on behalf of our clients in personal injury and wrongful death claims arising out of motor vehicle accidents, bus versus pedestrian accidents, defective and dangerous products, medical malpractice, slip/trip and fall accidents, and catastrophic losses due to fire.

LOCATION: We are located on the Eastside in Issaquah, convenient to Bellevue, Redmond, Kirkland, Renton, Sammamish and North Bend. However, we provide legal services in King County, Pierce County, Snohomish County and throughout the entire state of Washington.

In addition, through The Amateur Law Professor Blog and LinkedIn postings, we share pertinent opinions and decisions of the Washington State Supreme Court, as well as the pertinent opinions and decisions of the Washington State Courts of Appeal so that our clients can be as update to date on cutting legal issues as we are.

Washington Supreme Court Adopts "Mere Situs" Test for Injuries While Using Motor Vehicle.

Kroeber v. GEICO Ins. Co.

They say that truth is stranger than fiction, and this is only proved true time and  time again in insurance coverage issues.

The Western District of Washington certified this issue to the Washington Supreme Court, knowing full well that this situation likely skirted potential coverage issues. In a fairly suave move, the Washington Supreme Court punted the issue right back, with a little more direction.

In this case, a man was driving at a bar, presumably in a parking lot, and opened fire. Of course the car was uninsured, leaving coverage to fall to a UIM policy, which covered damages "arising out of" use of the vehicle.

Oddly enough, this situation has sort of been dealt with before, in the case of Detweiler v. J.C. Penney Cas. Ins. Co., 110 Wn.2d 99, 751 P.2d 282 (1988). I'll let Justice Johnson recite the facts:

In Detweiler, we held that injuries arose out of vehicle use when a drinking buddy drove off in the claimant's pickup truck and the claimant . . . jumped onto the bed of the truck, was later thrown off the truck, pulled out his .357 Magnum pistol, fired six shots at the tire of the truck from roughly 10 feet away, and was injured in the neck, face, and eyes by ricocheting bullet fragments. Detweiler, 110 Wn.2d at 101, 109. Finding such a causal connection between vehicle use and a gunshot injury is not unique to Washington. 

A few important pieces of information were relayed back to the Western District:

  • Arising out of is broader than caused by;
  • If the vehicle was only the "mere situs" of the incident, then the incident is not arising from the vehicle's use;
  • that insurance statutes are to be liberally construed for the public benefit.

So what does that mean for the case? Well, not much until the Western District rules based on this guidance. Given the liberal construction of Detweiler, there is a good argument that coverage should apply in a "drive-by" type situation, as the vehicle is essentially used as a mechanism of escape as the shooting is happening. However, the lack of clarity on the "mere situs" test provides some wiggle room. 

You may be asking yourself, "Why no exclusion for an intentional act?" Unfortunately, in this case, the driver admitted shooting, but claimed he was not trying to hit any particular person.

The grey area will come, I believe, when a person goes to their car to get a weapon to fire indiscriminately in a crowd. A strong argument could be made for the "mere situs" test in those situations.

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