You do not have to be inside your car in order to be considered an “occupant” of the vehicle when the vehicle is hit. This issue typically arises in an uninsured motorist (UM) or underinsured motorist (UIM) claim.
Cases That Reviewed Unisured Motorist Coverage
In Sentry Ins. Co. v. Providence Washington Ins. Co., 91 Wis.2d 457, 459, 283 N.W.2d 455, 456-57 (Ct.App.1979), a passenger had just exited the car and walked in front of it to get onto the sidewalk. While he was standing in front of the car, it was struck from the rear by an uninsured motorist. He was then pinned between the car he had just exited and a parked car. The court held that the passenger was “occupying” the insured vehicle at the time of the collision.
In another case, Moherek v. Tucker, 69 Wis.2d 41, 43, 230 N.W.2d 148, 149 (1975), a minor boy, was holding a tire between the bumpers of two cars. His father was preparing to use the second car to push the first car. An uninsured driver hit the second car, pushing it into the first, and injuring the boy. The court established a test to determine whether an injured party was “occupying” the vehicle: whether the party vehicle-oriented or highway-oriented, which considers the nature of the act engaged in at the time of the injury and the intent of the person injured. The court held that the injured party had not “severed his relationship with the vehicle.”
The court in Kreuser by Kreuser v. Heritage Mut. Ins. Co., 158 Wis. 2d 166, 461 N.W.2d 806 (Ct. App. 1990) added another test: “whether the injured person was within the reasonable geographical perimeter of the vehicle.” In Kreuser, the “occupant” was preparing to enter her co-worker’s car at the time of the injury. She was struck by a motorcycle as her co-worker was pulling up to the curb. She was considered an occupant.
Although it is not necessary to be inside your car or on your bike to be considered an “occupant,” it is essential to have a sufficient relationship to your vehicle at the time of the collision to be considered an “occupant.”
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