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Injured Pennsylvania Motorcyclist Allowed to Continue Personal Injury Suit

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.  

A 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.

When you’ve experienced a catastrophic accident, the Pennsylvania motorcycle accident attorneys at Needle Law Firm are here to help you maximize your claim under your uninsured/underinsurance policy.  Our lawyers know that insurance companies do not have your best interests in mind, and that they will attempt to minimize the amount of money paid to you under your policy.  Our office has the experience you need to aggressively litigate and negotiate your case.  For a free, confidential consultation, contact our office today at 570-344-1266.

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