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Summary Judgment Granted to Tow Truck Operator Entitling Him to Uninsured Motorist Coverage

October 10, 2023 By Nancy J. Goodiel

The Eastern District of Virginia recently granted summary judgment to a tow-truck operator, affirming that he was entitled to receive uninsured motorist coverage from injuries he sustained when he was struck by another vehicle while preparing to tow a disabled RV. Moore v. Progressive Universal Ins. Co., 2023 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 41983, 2023 WL 2477736 (E.D.V.A. Mar. 13, 2023). The accident occurred on Interstate 95 when Mr. Moore, the tow-truck operator, was kneeling down and attaching straps to the driver’s side front tire of the RV. Another driver lost control of his sedan, striking Moore, and fleeing the scene.  

Citing the Virginia Supreme Court case of Slagle v. Harford Ins. Co., 594 S.E.2d 582 (Va. 2004), The Court noted “[u]se of a vehicle is not restricted to its transportation function”. Id. at 636. Instead, the Court noted the “critical inquiry is whether there was a causal relationship between the incident and the employment of the insured vehicle as a vehicle.” Id. The Court noted that Moore had attached equipment to the RV, entered it multiple times, and even prepared the vehicle for movement when the accident occurred. These actions, according to the Court, constituted “use” under the statute.

The Progressive policy covered anyone “occupying” the vehicle, defined as anyone “In; Upon; or Getting in, on out or off” the vehicle. Considering the totality of the circumstances, the Court found Mr. Moore had “occupied” the vehicle by touching and entering the vehicle constantly, remaining in close proximity, and actively working to make it operable.

This case highlights the importance of understanding the nuances of insurance coverage, especially in unique situations where a person’s “use” or “occupancy” of a vehicle may come into question.