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Does Insurance Cover Intentional Acts of Harm?

It’s a big question we face as a personal injury law firm. Does insurance cover intentional acts of harm? If so, who is covered? In this article, we look at instances where drivers are obviously negligent and drivers who intentionally cause harm. We also explain how insurance works in these types of situations – from the perspective of a personal injury claim.

What Is An Intentional Act?

An intentional act to cause harm is exactly what it sounds like. This is a premeditated determination by a driver to cause physical harm to themselves or others. This can include intentionally driving a vehicle into a house or a crowd of people to hurt someone or damage property.

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The Difference Between Intentional Acts And Negligence

There is a difference between an intentional act and negligence in the eyes of the law and insurance coverage. Negligence is a failure to act with a level of care that a normal person would typically exercise. An intentional act is willfully trying to harm one’s self or others. Learn more about negligence.

Negligence is watching videos on your phone while speeding down the highway. While it may not be the intention to harm someone, a normal person should understand the danger in taking their eyes and attention off the road to watch videos.

Intentional is making a conscious decision to use a vehicle as a weapon and driving into a crowd of people with the intent of hurting or killing those people.

This isn’t to say one situation is better than the other. In the end, both situations have the potential to do a great amount of harm. Depending on the laws where you live, there might be criminal charges when negligence causes harm to another person. What is clear is that insurance covers acts of negligence of an insured driver. Insurance does not cover acts of intentional harm caused by their insured driver.

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Driver Intentionally Hurts Themselves

When a driver gets behind the wheel with the intention to hurt themselves, that driver’s insurance will likely deny any claims for healthcare costs. It’s also likely the vehicle damage will not be covered.

Driver Intentionally Crashes Car

If the driver intentionally crashes their car, insurance will likely deny a claim for the loss or repair of that vehicle. Intentionally damaging the vehicle is not covered by insurance.

Driver Intentionally Hurts Others

In situations where a driver gets behind the wheel with the intention to hurt others, that driver’s insurance will likely deny the injured person(s) claims. It’s heartless, and leaves victims with fewer options of recovery. However, those injured people might be covered under their own car insurance since the injury involves a vehicle. In Pennsylvania, and similar states, car insurance policies have coverage for Personal Injury Protection (PIP). State minimum coverage in Pennsylvania will cover the first $5,000 of medical expenses related to a vehicle injury. There may be additional coverage if the injured person has uninsured/underinsured coverage. It’s possible there may be other coverage in this kind of situation, but it depends on the circumstances.

Driver Intentionally Damages Other Property

In situations where a driver gets behind the wheel to intentionally damage other property, the driver’s insurance will likely deny any claims from the affected property owner(s). The property owner will need to rely on their own coverage to repair or replace the damaged property.

Driver Lands On Second Floor Of House

A Local news story from 2023 helps us to illustrate some of the ideas about how insurance would work when a driver intends to cause harm or property damage. In the news story, a driver decided to intentionally crash his car into a house. This driver was a complete stranger to the people inside the house. As he drove toward the house, the car hit a rise in the ground and became airborne, landing inside the second floor of the house. In this instance, the driver was hurt and transported to the hospital.

There is significant damage to the house and the car in this story. The homeowner will need to file a claim with their insurance company for the damage. The car was likely totaled in the crash, and the drivers insurance will likely deny any claim for coverage. This is because the driver admitted they wanted to intentionally crash their car into the house to harm themselves.

The driver will also have medical bills related to this crash. His insurance is likely to deny any coverage because this was an intentional act. Additionally, this driver faces criminal charges for the damage.

Driver Lands On Roof Of Chinese Restaurant

In a similar story, another local news story helps illustrate how negligence can be similar but not the same as intentional. In this story from 2022, a driver was speeding in her car with a baby in the back seat. News reports also state the driver was under the influence of alcohol at the time of this crash. The driver lost control of the vehicle and traveled from the road into a parking lot at high speed. She crashed into a parked minivan and launched onto the roof of a Chinese restaurant. The car landed upside-down, causing damage to the roof and interior of the restaurant.

There was someone in the parked minivan who sustained serious injuries as a result of this crash. The baby and the at-fault driver were not harmed in this incident. There are various criminal charges that apply to the at-fault driver in this situation, but the crash is still negligence. Why?

The driver in this situation did make a lot of bad decisions. The decisions this driver made would be seen as dangerous and harmful by any reasonable person, and we know the result of those decisions. But, the important distinction is this driver did not intend to crash or hurt anyone.

The person in the minivan suffered serious injuries. They would rightfully have a claim against the driver and would have an additional claim under any available uninsured/underinsured coverage.

Why Car Insurance Is Important

Insurance coverage is important. A larger portion of today’s drivers have state-minimum insurance coverage or no coverage at all. Having insurance coverage helps insulate you from bad drivers and drivers with cheap insurance.

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Can A Personal Injury Attorney Help Me?

In situations where you are injured or a loved one dies as the result of someone else’s intentional or negligent act(s), a personal injury attorney may be able to help. An attorney can investigate your claim and advise how the law applies. If other parties were negligent, it may be possible to hold them financially accountable for their role(s) in your injury. If you have any questions about a possible injury or wrongful death claim, an attorney at Haggerty Silverman & Justice will provide a free claim evaluation and consultation. Contact us today.