Almost always liability auto insurance covers negligent conduct that causes damages. For example, a driver goes through a red light and causes injuries in a car accident. Unless the defendant driver says he went through the red light on purpose (intentional conduct) it is probably negligent or reckless, both of which are covered by liability insurance.

The question of whether damage causing conduct is intentional or negligent, so as to trigger insurance coverage, is usually in the context of a physical altercation of some sort or damage to personal property or real estate. For example, there is a house party and some drunk is getting out of hand, a helpful neighbor helps escort him out the door, there is a push, a shove and somebody has a broken arm.  Was it on purpose or just an accident. It can be a tough call, and cases in Wisconsin have gone both ways, usually focusing on the actors intent not the end results.

Wisconsin jury instruction states where there is a question of the defendant’s conduct being intentional or negligent, consider this. If the defendant actually meant some harm to follow from a particular act or where some harm is substantially certain to follow from an act according to common experience, then defendant may be said to have intended the result and his conduct was intentional.

Intent requires both an intent to do an act and an intent to cause injury by that act.  An intent to cause injury exists where the actor actually means to cause injury by his or her conduct or where injury is almost certain to occur from the actor’s conduct.

If you find that the defendant intended to cause harm in some way, however great or small, or that defendant’s conduct was almost certain to cause harm in some way, however great or small, then defendant’s conduct was intentional.

If, however, the conduct of defendant merely created a risk of some harm to someone, which may or may not have resulted, then defendant’s conduct was negligent as opposed to intentional.

[nap_names id=”FIRM-NAME-1″] attorneys in Milwaukee, Wisconsin represent drivers and passengers injured in auto collisions caused by negligent drivers. Issues of negligent or intentional conduct rarely appear in automobile accident cases. An argument could be made that the decision to drink alcohol knowing one is later going to drive, amounts to intentional conduct that is “almost certain to cause harm in some way, however great or small” making it intentional conduct. However, for public policy reasons this has never been argued as the result would eliminate liability auto insurance coverage for drunk driving accidents and society values drunk driving too much to encourage such an unpleasant consequence.