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Double Rear-End Collision Considered Two Separate Accidents (PA)

November 13, 2019

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<p style="text-align: justify;">The Eastern District of Pennsylvania recently granted a motion for summary judgment finding that a motor vehicle accident involving two consecutive rear-end collisions, often called an "accordion collision," was considered two separate accidents for purposes of insurance coverage.  The underlying case took place in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas. On October 29, 2016, Plaintiff Robin Busby (“Busby”) was a customer of Lyft’s rideshare service when her Lyft driver, Thomas Curtin, rear-ended the car in front of them on the Schuylkill Expressway. According to the Curtin’s vehicle data, approximately one second later his vehicle was rear-ended by a 2005 Dodge Grand Caravan driven by Gerald Crossley. Busby sued Curtin and Crossley in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas for her personal injury claims. Curtin’s Lyft policy was provided by Steadfast Insurance Company, and Busby’s own insurance, USAA, had UIM coverage of $200,000 per person which was involved. Busby settled her claims with defendants and the lawsuit was thereafter dismissed. The settlement is confidential, but it is undisputed that Steadfast tendered to Busby the full policy limits, which was one million dollars.   Busby’s USAA policy tendered to Busby $200,000 under her UIM coverage, and Crossley’s insurer tendered to Busby the limits of Crossley’s liability coverage, which was $300,000 in liability coverage.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;"><a href="https://www.wcmlaw.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/ROBIN-BUSBY-v-STEADFAST-INSURANCE-CO-et-al.pdf">Busby now sues Steadfast and USAA</a> for breach of contract and bad faith and seeks an additional one million dollars in UIM coverage from Steadfast and an additional $200,000 in UIM coverage from USAA from what she terms as the “second accident involving the Crossley vehicle.” The Court ultimately had to determine whether Busby was involved in one or two motor vehicle accidents for the purposes of insurance coverage.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">The Court discussed the two competing approaches used by courts to determine the number of accidents for purposes of insurance coverage: the “cause” approach and the “effects” approach. Ultimately, the Court applied the “cause” approach, and found that there were two independent actors involved who caused two separate collisions, Curtin’s Lyft vehicle and Crossley’s Dodge Grand Caravan. The Court noted that although the time between the two collisions was only one second, Curtin’s Lyft vehicle had come to a complete stop after the first collision, and Busby was thrown forward in the second collision. The Court also highlighted the fact that Steadfast’s insurance policy defined an accident as “continuous or repeated exposure to the same conditions resulting in bodily injury or property damage.” The Court stated that Busby was not subject to continuous and repeated exposure to the same condition, and said that Steadfast’s policy does not fit the facts of this case.  Thus, Busby’s motion for partial summary judgment finding that she was involved in two separate accidents was granted.   The UIM exposure is therefore doubled.  A frustrating decision for USAA and Steadfast.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">Thanks to Emily Finnegan for her contribution to this post.  Please email <a href="mailto:BGibbons@wcmlaw.com">Brian Gibbons</a> with any questions.</p>

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