Question:  Does liability auto insurance cover medical expenses for a severe burn from an exhaust pipe?  My son was putting sporting equipment into the back of an SUV on a friend’s car when his leg was burned on their extended exhaust pipe.

Answer:  No, usually the SUV owner’s bodily injury liability wouldn’t cover this type of injury to your son because he was not injured during an actual auto accident.

If this type of injury were covered at all by a car insurance policy, it would be by personal injury protection (PIP) or Medical Payments (MedPay) because they give more leeway with how an injury occurs than bodily injury liability does. With these types of coverages, there is a possibility your son’s burns from the hot exhaust system could be covered.

If you have PIP or MedPay as part of your auto insurance policy, speak to your agent to see if this medical coverage would indeed cover the injuries your son sustained. If you don’t have the coverage, then ask the SUV owner if he does. If he has either PIP or MedPay, see if he will speak to his agent and see if his coverages will pay for your son’s medical expenses.

Whether PIP or MedPay will cover your son’s burns will depend upon state laws that govern these coverages as well as the terms of the car insurance policy. Some PIP and MedPay policies allow for claims for injuries that arise from of the ownership, maintenance or use of a vehicle.

Putting sporting equipment into the vehicle may be considered use of the vehicle, so it’s possible that PIP or MedPay would pay out if he made an auto insurance claim.

Or, it is possible the claim could be denied because the vehicle wasn’t being driven at the time, which may be what the policy describes as use. Or the insurer may not pay out because they find your son to be negligent for not taking due care and being close enough to a hot extended exhaust pipe to get burned.

If there is no car insurance coverage available for your son to place a claim against, then you may want to contact a liability lawyer to see if the car owner would be responsible for the burn to your son’s leg if you wanted to pursue the owner for payment of his medical bills.

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Penny Gusner
Consumer Analyst/Insurance Expert

Penny has been working in the car insurance business for more than 10 years and has become an expert on procedures, rates, policies and claims. She has seen it all, and working with from its inception, she researches the routine and the bizarre with equal enthusiasm. She has three very active children and a husband with a zeal for quirky cars.