SDV recently filed an amicus curiae brief in the Rhode Island Supreme Court in support of insured motorists and passengers injured while rendering aid to other motorists.
In Hudson v. GEICO, Amberleigh Hudson heard a collision while she was sitting in her boyfriend’s car. Ms. Hudson got out to assist at the accident and was struck by another car. The at-fault driver did not have sufficient insurance to cover Ms. Hudson’s injuries, so she sought coverage under her boyfriend’s GEICO underinsured motorist policy. GEICO denied Ms. Hudson’s claim, arguing that she was not “occupying” the covered vehicle at the time she was injured. Ms. Hudson sued GEICO in Rhode Island Superior Court, but the trial court dismissed the suit, even though the policy defines “occupying” to include “alighting from” the vehicle. An appeal to the Rhode Island Supreme Court followed.
In its amicus brief, SDV argued that, as a passenger of her boyfriend’s car at the time of the collision, Ms. Hudson was in a unique position to render aid. It is a long-recognized principle of law that one’s proximity to another’s peril animates the natural response to render assistance. The law must also recognize that Ms. Hudson’s occupancy of the covered vehicle, which enabled her to help in the first place, continued while she alighted from the vehicle to render aid.
Furthermore, Rhode Island’s Good Samaritan statute requires one at the scene of an emergency who knows that a person is exposed to grave physical harm to assist the exposed person. Because Ms. Hudson’s occupancy of her boyfriend’s car made her subject to this statute, she had no choice but to exit the car and render assistance. SDV argued that Rhode Island motorists and passengers in similar situations should not be faced with the choice of abandoning a claim to insurance coverage or breaking the law. Rather, in these circumstances, the scope of the rescuer’s occupancy of a vehicle must correspond to the proximity of the peril.
Jan 30, 2017
Brian J. Clifford