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The Nuances of an Intentional Act Clause and How It Impacts Your Accident Case

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Many insurance companies include clauses in their policies that state they will not pay claims arising from intentional actions. For instance, if you purposefully hit a pedestrian who was crossing the street, your insurance company typically won't pay any claims the victim may submit, and you would be on the hook personally for any losses or damages. However, the line between whether an act was intentional or not isn't always clear. Here's what your insurance company looks at when determining whether to apply the intentional act exclusion and what it means for you.

What Was the Intended Outcome?

One thing the insurance company looks at is what outcome the driver intended. There's a big difference between someone being purposefully injured and someone suffering injury as collateral damage to a different act.

You hit your neighbor's plastic flamingo as revenge for an earlier argument, but the lawn ornament bounces off your car and slams into your neighbor in the back, for example. The insurance company may not see this as an intentional act since the outcome you were seeking was to simply damage the flamingo, not hurt your neighbor. On the other hand, swerving to purposefully run over your neighbor's foot would be seen as an intentional act and the insurance company may reject your neighbor's claim.

Be aware, though, that some insurance companies may argue any collateral injury caused by an unrelated intentional act may still count as intentional if you should have foreseen injury would occur. If your neighbor was standing in the direct path of the flying flamingo, for example, your act may still be ruled as intentional because you should have known your neighbor could have been injured.

Who Committed the Act?

Another thing the insurance company looks at is who committed the intentional act. If someone other than the policyholder caused injury on purpose, the incident may still be covered if the policyholder can show he or she isn't liable for the incident or is liable under a different standard.

An employee purposefully crashes the company vehicle into someone else's in a fit of road rage. The employer may be able to get around the intentional act clause by arguing its liability rests in negligently hiring the employee in the first place, for example. Private vehicle owners may also be able to use similar rationale to get their insurance companies to pay if someone they let borrow their vehicles commit a bad act in them.

Intentional act clauses can result in denied claims and being held personally liable for the full amount of the victim's damages and losses. Consult with an accident attorney for help sorting this issue out.