Court Determines Motorcycle Accident Victim Was Not “Occupying” the Vehicle that Struck Him for Purposes of UIM Coverage

Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a motorcycle accident case that raised an interesting issue that confronts many Florida motorcycle accident plaintiffs. The case involved a plaintiff’s claim that he was entitled to coverage under the defendant’s uninsured motorist (UIM) insurance coverage. Ultimately, the court rejected the plaintiff’s claim.

UIM Coverage

There are several types of insurance included in most insurance policies. Liability insurance covers personal injuries that are results of an accident caused by the insured. However, most insurance policies also include UIM coverage. Uninsured motorist protection covers the insured, and usually anyone occupying the insured vehicle, in the event that the at-fault motorist does not have adequate insurance coverage.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff motorcyclist was stopped at a red light when the defendant failed to stop in time and rear-ended him. As a result of the collision, the plaintiff was thrown backwards and landed on the hood of the defendant’s car.

The plaintiff filed a claim with the defendant’s insurance company; however, the defendant had only limited liability coverage, which did not cover the total expenses incurred by the plaintiff. In an attempt to tap into additional insurance coverage to obtain full compensation for his injuries, the plaintiff filed a claim under the defendant’s UIM coverage.

The plaintiff claimed that the defendant was an uninsured motorist because his policy limits were such that they did not cover all of the plaintiff’s injuries. Additionally, the plaintiff claimed that he was an “occupant” of the defendant’s vehicle because he landed on the vehicle after the collision.

The Court’s Decision

In determining whether the plaintiff was covered under the defendant’s UIM policy, the court first looked at the policy language. According to the policy, the defendant’s UIM coverage extended to anyone “occupying” an insured vehicle. The policy later defined “occupying” as “in, upon, getting into or getting out of.”

While the court acknowledged that, for a brief moment, the plaintiff was “upon” the hood of the defendant’s car, the plaintiff was not “occupying” the defendant’s vehicle for the purposes of the UIM coverage. The court explained that the terms of a contract should be taken in context with the surrounding text, and when courts interpret contractual language, the intent and expectations of the parties are relevant.

Here, the court held that it would be an error to “consider a single term in isolation” and find that the plaintiff was occupying the defendant’s vehicle. The court explained that a layperson would not expect an insurance policy to provide coverage under these circumstances, and thus, it rejected the plaintiff’s argument.

Are You in an Insurance Dispute?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Florida motorcycle accident, and you are currently in the middle of an insurance dispute, we can help. At the South Florida personal injury law firm of Friedman, Rodman & Frank, we represent victims in a wide variety of claims. We routinely deal with difficult insurance companies, and we know what it takes to succeed in negotiations on behalf of our clients. In the event that an insurance company is unwilling to settle your case for a fair amount, we will not hesitate to take the case to trial. To learn more, call 877-448-8585 to schedule a free consultation today.

More Blog Posts:

Court Rejects Underinsured Motorist Claim Following Horse-Drawn Carriage Accident, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published May 19, 2017.

Used-Car Dealer May Be on the Hook for Injuries Related to Missing Muffler, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published June 5, 2018.

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