Federal Appeals Court Rules Woman who Landed on Hood of Car an 'Occupant' of the Vehicle

Michelle J. Lee

We've seen it in the movies:  A person gets hit by car and lands on the hood of the vehicle. (Cool!) What we don't see is the aftermath when the pedestrian needs to file an insurance claim or settle the matter in court with the driver. (Seemingly, not as cool to watch.)

Today's court case ruling as described in a Cleveland.com article has to do with this very occurrence. Three years ago, Barbara Bennett was hit by a car and landed on the hood. She settled with the other party for an undisclosed amount (paid for by the driver's liability coverage), but she got hit with another surprise when the driver's insurance company refused to pay for her medical bills.

They basically said they would only pay for her medical bills if she had been an "occupant" of the car.

Apparently, in a State Farm policy, an "occupant" is defined as being anyone "in, on, entering or alighting from" a vehicle. Ergo, Bennett was an occupant the moment she landed on the hood of the car, clearly giving her rights to access the driver's medical provisions policy.

In a weird turn of events, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinatti used semantics to work in favor of the victim. Hurrah!

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