Insurance Liability – What is needed to Collect from a “Covered Vehicle”

Under Arizona law, for liability coverage to apply when a “use” provision is in effect, a causal relationship between the injury-causing accident and the use of the covered vehicle must exist. Benevides v. Arizona Property & Cas. Ins. Guar. Fund, 184 Ariz. 610, 612, 911 P.2d 616, 618 (App. 1995) ; Love v. Farmers Ins. Group, 121 Ariz. 71, 74, 588 P.2d 364, 367 (App. 1978) . The injury need not be directly and proximately caused, in the strict legal sense, by the motor vehicle.Farmers Ins. Co. of Arizona v. Till, 170 Ariz. 429, 430, 825 P.2d 954, 955 (App. 1991) .

“The fundamental question is whether the use of the [covered] vehicle was itself the cause of the injury.” Ruiz v. Farmers Ins. Co., 177 Ariz. 101, 104, 865 P.2d 762, 765 (1993) . To recover under the insurance policy, the injured party must show that the covered “vehicle caused and produced [the] injury, not that it merely facilitated [the] injury.” Id. at 103, 865 P.2d at 764 .

In determining a coverage question involving the use of a vehicle, the Arizona Supreme Court explained: “The insurance is to pay for the negligent acts of the insured committed during the operation or use of the motor vehicle . . . . It should be emphasized: Liability arises out of negligent acts in the use of motor vehicles which proximately cause the accident and injuries.” Morari v. Atlantic Mut. Fire Ins. Co., 105 Ariz. 537, 538, 468 P.2d 564, 565 (1970) . In other words, “even though the causal relationship between the motor vehicle and the accident does not have to be the proximate cause of the accident, the accident must be caused by a negligent act in the use of the motor vehicle.” Associated Indem. Corp. v. Warner, 143 Ariz. 585, 588, 694 P.2d 1199, 1202 (App. 1983) , modified on other grounds, 143 Ariz. 567, 694 P.2d 1181 (1985) .