Sitting is not an ‘accident’ (US)

12 October 2017Patrick Bracher, Norton Rose Fulbright
Patrick Bracher

Patrick Bracher

In a curious case the Michigan US Appeals Court found that merely sitting for a long period of time which allegedly led to a truck driver dying of a pulmonary embolism while sitting in the cab of his truck at a truck stop was not bodily injury caused by an occupational accident.

Medical evidence said that sitting for a long period of time is a risk factor for developing clots but the doctor admitted that there are many potential causes of pulmonary emboli. The deceased’s cardiac disease and generally unhealthy lifestyle were also risk factors for him.

The policy did not define the term ‘accident’. The court decided the word meant ‘an undesigned contingency, a casualty, a happening by chance, something out of the usual course of things, unusual, not anticipated, and not naturally to be expected’.

Insurers will cover bodily injuries that are the result of unanticipated or unusual events, not bodily injuries that are themselves unanticipated or unusual events. No unanticipated event caused the embolism. A clot formation due to extended sitting is a normal and significant risk and sitting cannot be considered an ‘accident’.

[The case is Estate Filek v National Union Fire Insurance Co of Pittsburgh]

First published by: Financial Institutions Legal Snapshot

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