Homeowners Insurance and Driveway Accidents BY JOEL WILLIAMS
Typically, homeowners insurance will cover a variety of accidents and injuries on the property of an insured homeowner. Depending on the policy language, this could include anything from damage from a falling tree to a slipand-fall accident. However, not every claim on a homeowners insurance policy will fit neatly into these categories. In 2019, the Court of Appeals of Georgia addressed whether homeowners liability insurance would cover a car accident in a residential driveway. Wilkinson v. Georgia Farm Bureau centers around an automobile accident in the driveway of Paul Buchanan. In 2015, friends of Buchanan visited his home to see a recently purchased Ford F-350. Buchanan parked the vehicle in his driveway, which allowed his friends to inspect the vehicle. While parked in the driveway, Buchanan turned on the truck, set the emergency brake and put the vehicle into neutral. When Buchanan asked a friend, who was in the cab of the truck, to pull the hood latch, she mistakenly pulled the parking brake, instead. The vehicle lurched forward and injured Barbara Wilkinson’s legs. Wilkinson filed a negligence claim against Buchanan, based on the accident. Believing the vehicle accident was not covered by the homeowners policy, Buchanan’s insurer filed a declaratory judgment action seeking a ruling that the insurer was not responsible for defending the claim. Wilkinson’s
insurance company, Georgia Farm Bureau, disputed coverage on several grounds, most notably a policy provision that excluded coverage for injuries arising out of the ownership, maintenance, use, loading or unloading of motor vehicles. The trial court agreed with the insurance company, holding that the incident qualifies as “use” of a motor vehicle, given that the parties were inspecting the vehicle’s ability to operate. The Court of Appeals disagreed with the decision of the trial court. It found the language of the policy to be ambiguous. Citing prior decisions, the Court of Appeals held the truck was not in “use” as a vehicle because it was parked for inspection at the time of the accident. Thus, the policy exclusion did not apply, and the Court of Appeals reversed the trial court. This case would have turned out differently if the truck were being driven at the time of the accident. Pay attention to coverage exclusions in your insurance policies and make sure you are covered for accidents that may occur on your property.
Joel Williams is a partner at Williams|Elleby, a Kennesaw based personal injury law firm. www.gatrialattorney.com.
Resolve to Take a Boating Class in 2021 BY GREG FONZENO
Did you purchase a new boat this year? If so, you are among the thousands of people across the country who sought the calm of our waterways to escape the chaos of COVID-19. The explosive increase in boat sales in 2020 brought with it the need for more educated boaters on our lakes and waterways. To accommodate new boaters, the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary has scheduled safe boating classes for 2021. The class covers such topics as knowing your boat, before getting underway, navigating the waterways, operating your vessel safely, legal requirements and boating emergencies. Individuals who successfully complete the course and exam meet the Georgia boating certification requirements, and are awarded certificates and wallet cards. Boaters born after Jan. 1, 1998, must complete a National Association of State Boating Law Administrators-approved boating safety class to legally operate a boat or personal watercraft in Georgia. During the pandemic, the Coast Guard Auxiliary has been unable to hold conventional face-to-face classes. Instead, it developed an online learning course using the Zoom platform. The online version divides the chapters in three sessions. 48
AROUND ACWORTH | December 2020
Just as in the traditional classroom, instructors present the material, answer questions and demonstrate boating safety. If permitted to return to traditional live classroom presentations, the scheduled dates are March 6, April 3, May 1, June 12, July 10, Aug. 7 and Sept. 11. Online courses also will be available Feb. 25, 27, 28; April 22, 24, 25; May 27, 29, 30; June 24, 26, 27; and July 22, 24, 25. Conventional classes will be at Roberts School Community and Education Center, 4681 School St. The course is $25, and family discounts are available. Gift certificates for boating classes are available. For more information, email Greg Fonzeno at flotilla22pe@gmailcom. Register at https://tinyurl.com/cgaux0700202. Let’s all keep our families and friends safe.
Greg Fonzeno is the public education officer and vice commander of the local U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Unit (Flotilla 22) at Allatoona Lake.