Court Resolves Insurance Dispute in Favor of Injured Motorcyclist

Earlier this month, an appellate court in Rhode Island issued a written opinion in a case involving a motorcyclist who was killed after he fell off his motorcycle and was struck by a car. At issue in the case was whether the man’s insurance coverage was triggered. The lower court determined that it was not, but on appeal, the court held that there were material issues that should be submitted to a jury for resolution.

The Facts of the Case

The accident victim was riding his motorcycle when a garbage can fell off a truck and got stuck in the wheel of his motorcycle. The man lost control of the motorcycle, fell off, and rolled to a stop in an adjacent lane. Before he could get up, he was struck by a passing vehicle.

The man was pronounced dead at the scene. It could not be determined whether he died as a result of falling off the motorcycle onto the pavement, or whether he survived the initial fall and was killed when he was struck by the passing motorist.

The man had an insurance policy on the motorcycle, but the policy did not have uninsured motorist coverage. He did have a policy with another insurance company that covered one of his other vehicles, but that policy had an exclusion. The exclusion stated that the policy did not include coverage for any bodily injury sustained while the insured was “occupying” any vehicle owned by the insured but not covered under that policy. The document defined occupying as “in, upon, getting in, out, or off.”

The insurance company denied coverage, arguing that the man died while he was occupying the motorcycle, which he owned but which was not covered under the policy. The estate argued there was a possibility that the man died when he was off the motorcycle, lying in the highway. If that was the case, the estate argued, the man should not be considered to be “occupying” the motorcycle, and coverage should apply.

The court began with the plain language of the insurance policy, which provided a clear definition of “occupy.” From there, the court reasoned that, if the man’s death did not occur until he was struck by the passing motorist, under the meaning of “occupy” as defined in the policy, he was not “occupying” the motorcycle. That being the case, the court determined that a question existed regarding when the man died, and since this gave rise to a material issue, it should be decided by a jury.

Have You Been Involved in a Maryland Motorcycle Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been involved in a Maryland motorcycle accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. The dedicated personal injury attorneys at the Maryland law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen Personal Injury Lawyers have extensive experience handling complex motor vehicle cases, and we have a firm grasp of all of the relevant legal principles. Call 410-654-3600 today to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case with an attorney.

More Blog Posts:

U.S. Supreme Court Discusses Which Damages Are Appropriate When a Party Acts in Bad Faith, Maryland Car Accident Attorney Blog, published May 9, 2017.

Parental Liability for Car Accidents Caused by Minors, Maryland Car Accident Attorney Blog, published April 25, 2017.

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