Colo. Court Rules Road Rage Not Covered by Auto Insurance

Angry driver

A Colorado appeals court ruling highlights a fact that may seem obvious to many: most auto insurance policies don’t cover the policyholder’s injuries that were the end result of road rage if the violence occurred outside the vehicle.

The incident started when the occupants of two cars started exchanging “verbal hostilities” while driving side by side. After that, they pulled into a McDonald’s parking lot when Richard Terlingen (the driver of one of the cars) parked right behind the car carrying Chanson Roque and Shannon Isenhour, blocking them in. All three got out of their cars, and Terlingen proceeded to pull out a golf club and use it to injure Roque and Isenhour, according to court documents.

In a separate court case, it was determined that the auto insurance company that had provided Terlingen liability insurance coverage did not have to provide representation or compensation on his behalf because Roque and Isenhour’s injuries weren’t the result of use of the car. As a result, Roque and Isenhour reasoned, Terlingen was technically an uninsured motorist, and they should be able to collect compensation through the Allstate uninsured motorist policy that was covering the car.

The lower court, however, did not agree with Roque and Isenhour, ruling that the injuries didn’t “arise from the use of an automobile.”

The matter was then brought to the appeals court, where Roque and Isenhour argued that since the injuries would not have happened if it were not for the road rage that was the result of use of the car, it should be covered. They also said that the injuries might not have occurred if Terlingen had not blocked their car in with his car.

Uninsured Motorist Coverage and Sexual Assault

To decide the matter, the appeals court looked to a 2003 case that helped set the criteria for what constituted use of an automobile for uninsured motorist coverage purposes.

In the 2003 case, a woman was seeking compensation through her policy after she had been kidnapped and driven in her own vehicle to a remote location, where she was sexually assaulted. The court used a two-pronged approach to determining whether the damages arose out of use of the vehicle. They decided ultimately that there was not a strong enough causal connection between the use of the car and the damages. The case did not satisfy the test, and coverage was denied.

Road Rage Case Fails Test

The appeals court similarly ruled that Roque and Isenhour’s case did not pass the two-pronged test. The court said that even though Terlingen used the car to follow the victims and block them in, the car was not being used for transportation purposes (or any other purpose outlined in the policy) at the time of the incident—a part of the two-pronged test used to determine coverage eligibility. The court further said that using the car to drive to the site where the assault took place was not a strong enough causal connection between use of the car and the actual injuries.

Since the case failed to pass this two-pronged test, the lower court’s denial of coverage was upheld, and the two plaintiffs were not able to collect compensation under their Colorado auto insurance policy.

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