Auto insurance coverage can be a huge benefit when your insurer performs as it should. Unfortunately, court dockets and opinions are full of instances where insurance companies refused to do what they should, either in violation of the contract they signed or in violation of the law. When you have suffered severe or catastrophic harm in a motorcycle accident, getting the full benefit of your insurance coverage can be crucial. When your insurance company isn’t performing as it should, an experienced Oregon motorcycle accident lawyer can provide invaluable aid.
Auto insurers can violate the law in several ways. Two common ones involve refusing to pay a claim that the policy required them to cover and writing a policy that violates state law. A recent motorcycle accident case from our local area is an example of the latter, and how the legal system was able to help.
S.C. was a Portland man who had just acquired a motorcycle. Eight days after making that purchase, S.C. fell victim to a circumstance that occurs to many motorcyclists: a vehicle driver negligently making a left turn into his path. The accident left the motorcyclist with severe injuries. As is often the case in serious motorcycle accidents, the totality of the harm S.C. suffered was greater than the liability limits of the other driver’s auto insurance policy.
As is required of all auto insurance in Oregon, S.C.’s policy included underinsured/uninsured motorist (UM) coverage. Even though the man had not added the motorcycle to the list of covered vehicles on his auto insurance policy, that wasn’t a problem. The terms of the man’s UM coverage specifically covered “additional autos” the man newly acquired (for up to 30 days.)
As is too often the case, the man’s auto insurer still refused to pay his UM coverage claim. The insurance company pointed to a provision in the policy that specifically excluded vehicles with fewer than four wheels. The man, represented by counsel, went to court to challenge the denial of his claim. Both the Multnomah County Circuit Court and the Court of Appeals agreed that the motorcyclist was correct and the claim was a valid one that the insurance company should have paid.
The Meaning of the Word ‘Vehicle’
Here in Oregon, the state statutes dictate the mandatory minimum coverage for all UM insurance. The statute at issue in this motorcyclist’s case — ORS Section 742.504(2)(m) — expressly explained that the term “vehicle” meant “every device in, upon or by which any person or property is or may be transported or drawn upon a public highway, but does not include devices moved by human power or used exclusively upon stationary rails or tracks.” That definition clearly included vehicles like motorcycles.
That meant that, when the insurance company issued S.C. a policy with UM coverage that excluded two- and three-wheeled vehicles, it provided him with UM benefits less than the minimum that the statutory law requires. When an insurer does that, the provision in violation of the law is unenforceable which, in this case, meant S.C. had a valid claim.
If you’re seriously injured in a motorcycle accident, you may have many needs, both in terms of pursuing the liable driver(s) and their insurers, but also, in some circumstances, your own insurer as well. Whatever challenges your situation presents, count on the skilled Oregon motorcycle accident attorneys at Kaplan Law LLC to help. Attorney Matthew Kaplan offers substantial first-hand experience in helping motorcycle accident victims get justice, both from at-fault drivers and insurance companies. Call us today at (503) 226-3844 or contact us online to set up your free consultation to find out more.