Articles Posted in Motorcycle Accident

In a recent case, the Pennsylvania Superior Court addressed the issue of discovery sanctions following a negligence lawsuit stemming from a motor vehicle accident.  Pennsylvania law holds that sanctions are appropriate when they are proportional to the violation of the discovery rule.

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Michael Hass alleged that Marvin Reinert was driving a farm tractor that pulled a flat bed wagon, taking up both lanes of a two-lane roadway. Mr. Hass had been on a motorcycle, traveling in the opposite direction, and he claimed that he had to “take evasive action” and lost control of his bike, crashing into the roadway.  Mr. Hass brought a negligence lawsuit against Mr. Reinert.

Due to a failure to timely respond to requests for discovery, the trial court granted Mr. Reinert’s motions for sanctions. The discovery concerned Mr. Hass’ motorcycle experience and training as well as his tax records and wage loss information. In addition to granting the motion for sanctions, the court precluded Mr. Hass from presenting evidence on the liability issue. Another motion for sanctions was granted that precluded Mr. Hass from providing evidence concerning the damages issue.

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Any experienced Pennsylvania motorcyclist recognizes the inherent dangers of the road, including the possibility of cars cutting you off or distracted automobile drivers rear-ending your motorcycle.  Considering the high possibility of a catastrophic injury, Uninsured and Underinsured (UM and UIM) automobile coverage may be a wise choice for you and your family in the event of a collision.  These extra policies can help provide much-needed funds for medical coverage when the at-fault party’s policy limits do not nearly meet the cost of care, or the at-fault party does not carry auto insurance at all.  

motorcycle-personal-injury-suitA recent Superior Court decision, Clarke v. MMG Insurance Co., discusses the challenges faced by an injured motorcyclist who attempted to file a claim under one of his UIM policies.  In this case, the motorcyclist was severely injured after a car turned in front of him.  He was on life support for a week and a half and had to undergo several surgeries during his stay.  He carried two UIM policies – one for his motorcycle, and one for two automobiles.  After filing claims and receiving money from his policy, the at-fault party’s policy, and his motorcycle UIM policy, the injured man filed an UIM claim with the insurance company policy for the two automobiles, which had liability of up to $300,000 per accident.  The company rejected the claim, pointing to the “Household Exclusion” clause and arguing that the motorcycle was not a covered vehicle under the policy.  

The trial court agreed with the insurance company, but the Superior Court disagreed with the trial court’s piecemeal reading of the policy.  The Superior Court pointed to the case law principle that the policy must be read as a whole to achieve a reasonable meaning within the policy.  The Superior Court looked at the language under the UM clause, which excluded vehicles not insured “for this coverage under this policy,” and compared it to the UIM clause, which only stated “for this coverage.”  The Superior Court felt this specific difference revealed the insurer’s intent to cover an underinsurance claim, even if the first-tier coverage was provided by a different insurance company’s policy.  The Superior Court determined that this meant the injured person’s claim was covered by the appellant insurance company’s policy.  The Superior Court also declined to read the policy in favor of any public policy argument, relying heavily on established case law, which prefers the clear and unambiguous language of a contract.  The trial court’s partial summary judgment was vacated, and the injured person was allowed to continue his suit against the insurance company.
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As a motorist in Pennsylvania, it’s important to fully understand your insurance policy limits in the event an accident occurs. Under Pennsylvania law, you are required to purchase liability coverage that  provides payment for bodily injury and property damage, with minimum limits of $15,000 per person and $30,000 per accident.  Additional coverage may also be offered by the insurance company in the form of Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist coverage (UM/UIM), which provides additional money if the at-fault party does not have insurance or cannot be found, or if the at-fault party has a policy, but the damages cost far more than the at-fault party’s coverage limits.  In the event of a catastrophic injury, this additional coverage can provide much needed financial relief.

UIM InsuranceThe Federal Third Circuit Court of Appeals recently issued a decision based on the two precedential cases with the same two parties, Sackett v. Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co. (Case cites: 919 A.2d 194 and 940 A.2d 329.)  The injured person in the present case, Seiple v. Progressive Northern Insurance Co., was involved in an accident while he was driving his motorcycle.  The injured person purchased his initial motorcycle policy in 2009 under Progressive Northern Insurance Company, which covered one motorcycle and a limited amount of UIM coverage.  To satisfy the enacted Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law (MVFRL), the injured person signed a Waiver of Stacking UIM coverage.  The policy was renewed each year, with additional motorcycles added in November 2010 and September 2011.  Waivers of stacking were not signed with these additions, but there was an Amended Declarations Page, which explained the coverage.

After the injured person received payment from the at-fault party’s insurance company, he filed a claim with his own insurance company for coverage under the UIM portion of his policy.  While there was evidence in the policy that he rejected additional UIM coverage, the insurance company could not produce his signed waiver and agreed to pay up to the $50,000 limit.  The injured person then argued that the $50,000 was not enough, and that he should receive additional UIM monies from the additional motorcycle policies.  The injured person argued that since the insurance company failed to get additional waivers, the coverage had to be “stacked” by law.  The insurance company objected, stating that it was not required to obtain additional waivers.  The lower court agreed, and dismissed the injured person’s claim. Continue reading