While our client was stopped at a traffic light, another driver got out of his car and attacked our client in a random road rage incident. Our injured client submitted her medical bills to her PIP No-Fault insurer, Nationwide, for reimbursement. PIP insurers in Florida are required to pay for all medical expenses that are "related" to the "use, operation or maintenance" of a motor vehicle. The PIP insurer alleged that this incident was not "related" to the use of the motor vehicle, but instead was an intentional criminal assault which it believes is not covered by the insurance policy.
In Blish v. Atlanta Casualty Company, 736 So. 2d 1151 (Fla. 1999), the Florida Supreme Court noted:
Acts of violence are an ageless and foreseeable hazard associated with the use of a vehicle-for once a person sets out in a vehicle, he or she is vulnerable. The highwaymen and desperados of bygone times preyed on the wayfarer, and these villains are with us still. Each Floridian today, when he or she gets behind the wheel, faces a variety of dangers: a car-jacking at a stoplight, or a strong-arm robbery at a deliberately staged rear-end collision, or a road rage assault in rush hour traffic, or even a random shooting by an anonymous sniper from an overpass. The danger is particularly acute when the motorist is stranded as the result of a disabled vehicle.
The scenario in the present case is every motorist’s nightmare. Losses resulting from a violent encounter with this ageless road hazard-i.e., the highwayman or opportunistic thug-might reasonably be said to be very much in the contemplation of Florida consumers when they are contracting to purchase auto insurance. The motivation of the assailant-whether it be to “possess or use” the vehicle, or to steal the victim’s wallet or purse, or simply to harm the victim-is a nonissue to the consumer. We note that insurance companies were placed on notice at the time of enactment of section 627.736(1)… that the statute contemplates broad coverage.
The supreme court held that the driver’s injuries were a reasonably foreseeable consequence of– and that the injuries arose out of–the "ownership, maintenance, or use of a motor vehicle” and were therefore covered under the PIP portion of his auto insurance policy.
Nation Law Firm Attorney Paul Perkins filed a lawsuit against Nationwide for failing to pay the PIP benefits under the clear pronouncement from the Supreme Court that road rage incidents are covered by PIP. In the past, we have successfully handled several cases where PIP insurers have refused to pay medical expenses incurred in these types of road-rage incidents.