Insurance Law

Top Mich. Court to Decide If Mom Who Saw Biker Son's Fatal Crash Can Collect on Her Own Auto Policy


Insurance companies write the policies under which they contract to cover customers for automobile accidents and related injuries. So it is a general rule of interpretation that any ambiguity in the policy should be resolved in the customer’s favor.

But a Michigan appellate court went too far when it decided that a mother who, while driving her own vehicle, saw her son’s fatal motorcycle accident transpire directly in front of her as the two were returning from a wedding, should be allowed to collect personal injury benefits under her own policy, contends Cincinnati Insurance Co. Now, in what Gale Boertmann’s lawyer calls a bad sign for his client, the state’s top court agreed to hear the insurer appeal, the Associated Press reports.

An article in Michigan Lawyers Weekly (sub. req.) provides more details about the Michigan Court of Appeals ruling earlier this year.

Boertmann had over $30,000 in medical and counseling bills and had to give up her job after the accident, due to headaches, nightmares, insomnia and nosebleeds, according to her attorney, Drew Slager.

However, attorney Robert Hurley, who represents the insurer, says his client shouldn’t be held responsible for the tragic accident, the AP reports.

“You have to have an accidental bodily injury that arises out of the use of an automobile—as an automobile,” Hurley contended. Yet when Boertmann witnessed her son’s death, “she would have suffered the exact same injury if she were standing on the front porch of her house.”

Findlaw provides a copy of the court of appeals decision. It found that “the trial court correctly concluded that the undisputed evidence indicated that plaintiff’s injuries arose out of the use of a motor vehicle as a motor vehicle.”

As Boertmann was driving directly behind her son, she saw another vehicle make a wide turn in front of him and cause a fatal crash between the other vehicle and her son’s motorcycle, the opinion explains.

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