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Nationwide Mutual Ins. Co. v. Thomas: Car Accidents on the Job in Alabama

Sep 5, 2012 - Personal Injury, Workers' Compensation/Work Injury by

Many of us drive for work. In fact, transportation accidents are the leading cause of fatal job accidents in this country, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Transportation accidents were responsible for 1,795 of the nation’s 4,551 workplace deaths in 2010, accounting for one-third of all deaths on the job.

In such cases, an injury lawyer in Tuscaloosa should have significant experience in handling work place injury cases, as well as personal injury claims and car accidents. And, if you drive for work, you should know how important it is to carefully review your insurance policies and to understand the coverage available in the event of an accident. In Nationwide Mutual Ins. Co. v. Thomas, The United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama, Eastern Division certified two questions of first impression to the Alabama Supreme Court:

1) Whether Nationwide could enforce a coverage exclusion clause in a car insurance policy for transporting people or delivering newspapers as part of the insured’s job.

2) Whether the exclusion applied after the last paper was delivered but while employee was still driving as part of the job.

The case arose when Scott and Lori Touart Thomas were injured in an accident at 5:30 a.m. in October 2009. The dispute involved whether the couple could recover from Nationwide, which had insured Kenneth Gene Gooden Jr., who was not delivering newspapers at the time the policy was issued in 2/car-accidents/alabama-traffic-accidents-likely-to-increase-with-economic-recovery/ but who subsequently began delivering newspapers for the Birmingham News. The policy excluded coverage for transportation of property or individuals for hire. The only factual dispute was whether Gooden had finished delivering newspapers at the time of the accident, which occurred in the area of his child’s daycare.

The Alabama Supreme Court found such an exclusion could be enforced as long as it was determined that Gooden was delivering “property for a fee,” but would not be enforceable after the last paper was delivered. Nat. Mut. Ins. v. Thomas, –So. 3d. –, 2012 WL 3631158 (Ala. 2012).

The issue of auto insurance when driving for work is a significant one. In some cases, you are required to notify your auto insurer that you will be traveling for work — and this may result in an increase in your premium. Whether you are classified as an employee or independent contractor is also critical. In many cases, an employer may try to classify you as an independent contractor, which can also leave you without coverage under Alabama workers’ compensation laws.

Knowing whether you are covered by workers’ compensation and/or your automobile insurance policy, is critical for people who drive for a living, since driving is one of the most dangerous things you can do on the job.

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