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Idaho man gets 40-year sentence for head-on collision

A fatal head-on-collision in southwestern Montana may raise significant issues of insurance coverage. The deadly car accident, which killed a Montana woman, happened just over a year ago near Garrison on Interstate 90. An Idaho man allegedly drove his SUV at high speed the wrong way on the Interstate, and collided head-on with a Dodge pickup driven by a Montana man. The wife of the Montana man, who was a passenger in the pickup, was killed in the crash.

The woman's husband testified at a recent criminal sentencing hearing that the Idaho man appeared to have been trying intentionally to collide with him. The Idaho man pleaded guilty but mentally ill in the criminal case. He was sentenced to 40 years in prison.

Unfortunately for the survivors, evidence suggesting that the Idaho man may have caused the crash intentionally may make recovery from his insurance company more difficult. Insurance policies typically contain an intentional act exclusion, barring coverage for any loss where the actions of the insured, or their consequences, were intended by the insured. The purpose of insurance is to provide coverage for accidents and unpredictable events; we can't buy insurance to shield us from the consequences of our own intentional actions.

The victim's family should not give up hope, however. In any wrongful death case resulting from this tragic crash attorneys for the family can argue that the evidence of an intentional act is not sufficient to trigger the exclusion. Alternatively, they may be able to argue that the man's mental illness rendered him incapable of understanding the nature or consequence of his actions, and that he therefore lacked the requisite intent.

Source: Montana Standard, "Fatal head-on crash brings 40-year sentence," Pat Hansen, Feb. 22, 2014

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