Duty After Death

In 2008 a commuter was struck and killed by an oncoming Amtrak train. A large part of the commuter's body flew through the air and struck a bystander waiting for a different train, causing injuries to her shoulder, wrist and leg.

Amazingly enough, the First Judicial District of the Illinois Court of Appeals has ruled that the bystander may sue because her injuries were foreseeable and that the deceased owed her a duty of care. That's right—your dead body owes a duty of care to passersby. A trial judge had earlier ruled that the accident was not reasonably foreseeable and was tragically bizarre, but the appeals court did not agree.

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If we go along with the appeals court that dead bodies owe a duty of care to passersby if by some chance they go flying through the air (certainly a rare occurrence), is there coverage under your basic homeowner’s policy?

Indeed there is. Under medical payment to others, coverage applies to a person off the insured location if the injury is caused by the activities of an insured. Certainly the flying of the deceased insured's body can be seen as an activity. Merriam Webster online defines active as the quality or state of being active; 2: vigorous or energetic action; or an active force. Certainly a flying body is an active force. There is no exclusion in the policy for flying bodies, so there is coverage.

So remember this in the event of a zombie apocalypse: Once you identify the zombie who causes you injuries, you can file a claim for med pay against his homeowner’s policy.

About the Author
Christine G. Barlow

Christine G. Barlow

Christine G. Barlow is an Associate Editor with FC&S Online, a sister publication of PropertyCasualty360-National Underwriter and part of Summit Business Media. She has an extensive background in insurance underwriting. She may be reached at cbarlow@sbmedia.com.

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