Illinois Supreme Court Rules on Ambiguity of Motor Insurance Policy

Being injured on the job can often be traumatic and life-changing. However, it can be even more difficult to recuperate if the insurance company argues the accident is not covered under the insurance policy. In a recent Illinois Supreme Court case, the court was tasked with deciding whether an auto policy exclusion was ambiguous – and thus, whether the insurance company was required to cover the plaintiff’s injuries from the accident. Ultimately, the court decided the exclusion was not ambiguous and the insurance company did not need to provide coverage for the accident.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was injured on a farm after backing up a grain truck to an auger – a drilling device for making holes in the ground – when attempting to get more leverage to open the truck’s gate. In doing so, he stepped onto the auger and his foot was exposed to the turning shaft of the auger. The plaintiff wound up losing his leg below the knee. The insurance company that covered the grain truck argued they did not need to provide coverage because the injury was caused by an auger, not the truck. Since the auger is a mechanical device, coverage was therefore precluded under the policy’s mechanical device exclusion. The trial court agreed with the insurance company, ruling the mechanical device exclusion was unambiguous and thus ruled in their favor.

Courts have previously ruled that if a policy exclusion is ambiguous, it must be construed in favor of coverage. According to the court, ambiguity only exists where the policy language is susceptible to more than one reasonable interpretation. If the policy can be reasonably interpreted under its plain or popular meaning, the provision should be applied as written.

In this case, the court ruled that the mechanical device exclusion was unambiguous. Because the exclusion stated there was no coverage for damages resulting from “the movement of property by means of a mechanical device… that is not attached to the [insured] vehicle,” there was only one reasonable interpretation. The auger was not only a machine designed to move grain from one place to another, but it was also a device operated by a machine (a tractor). The court reinforced its ruling by stating the auger was not attached to the insured vehicle, making it even less ambiguous. For these reasons, the court concluded that the exclusion was unambiguous and thus precluded coverage for the plaintiff’s injury.

Because it can be difficult to persuade a court that a policy exclusion is ambiguous, individuals pursuing a claim against an insurance company should contact an experienced personal injury attorney.

Contact a Chicago Personal Injury Attorney

If you or a loved one is currently involved in an insurance dispute, contact Chicago car accident attorneys at Abels & Annes, P.C. With years of experience handling personal injury claims, our attorneys are committed to building your case to be as strong as possible. We will pursue justice on your behalf and help to get you the compensation you deserve. For more information or for a free consultation, give us a call today at 312-924-7575.

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