Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case that raised an interesting perspective on an issue that commonly comes up in Maryland motorcycle accidents. The case involved an accident victim’s claim that he was an “occupant” in the vehicle that struck him because, after the collision, the man landed atop the car, which was insured by the defendant insurance company.
While the court rejected the plaintiff’s creative argument, the case illustrates the type of outside-the-box thinking that can sometimes be successful in Maryland personal injury cases.
The Facts of the Case
The plaintiff was stopped at a red light when he was rear-ended by the defendant’s vehicle. After the collision, the plaintiff fell backwards, landing on the hood of the defendant’s car and rolling up the windshield before falling onto the ground. The plaintiff sustained serious injuries in the accident and filed a personal injury claim against the defendant.
As it turns out, the defendant did not have sufficient insurance coverage to compensate the plaintiff for all of his injuries. Thus, the plaintiff filed a claim with the defendant’s uninsured motorist policy. The plaintiff claimed that since the defendant’s liability insurance was insufficient to cover his injuries, the defendant was an uninsured motorist. The plaintiff’s claim was premised on the concept that he was an “occupant” of the defendant’s vehicle because he landed atop the vehicle after the accident.
The insurance company denied the plaintiff’s claim and sought a declaratory judgment from the court, stating that the company was not liable because the accident did not trigger the defendant’s uninsured motorist coverage. The trial court agreed with the insurance company, and the plaintiff appealed.
On appeal, the court affirmed the court’s decision below. However, the court was forced to acknowledge that based on the language of the insurance policy, the plaintiff had a valid argument. The defendant’s insurance policy stated that uninsured motorist coverage was extended to any person who is occupying an insured vehicle. The policy then goes on to define “occupying” to mean “in, upon, getting into or getting out of.”
The plaintiff argued that he was “upon” the defendant’s vehicle when he sustained his injuries, so he should be covered. However, the court rejected the argument. The court explained that while the commonly accepted definition of “upon” would seemingly include the situation at hand, such an interpretation is not the norm in insurance contracts. The court explained that a word should be taken in context with the surrounding text and circumstances, and under this type of analysis, it was clear that the plaintiff was not an occupant of the defendant’s vehicle.
As a result of the court’s decision, the plaintiff’s recovery will be limited to the amount provided by the defendant’s liability insurance. Of course, if the plaintiff had uninsured motorist protection of his own, that would likely provide coverage as well; however, that was not discussed in the court’s opinion.
Have You Been Injured in a Maryland Motorcycle Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a motorcycle accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation for the injuries you have sustained. However, it is likely that you will need to deal with one or more insurance companies along the way. The dedicated Maryland personal injury lawyers at the law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen Personal Injury Lawyers have decades of experience negotiating with insurance companies on behalf of their injured clients. We know which arguments insurance companies find persuasive, and we work diligently to obtain full and fair compensation for each of our clients. To learn more, call 410-654-3600 to schedule a free consultation today.
More Blog Posts:
Bicycle Accident Victim’s Case Dismissed Under Recreational Use Statute, Maryland Motorcycle Accident Lawyer Blog, published May 18, 2018.
Court Finds in Favor of Government in Recent Motorcycle Accident Case Allegedly Caused by Poorly Maintained Road, Maryland Motorcycle Accident Lawyer Blog, published June 6, 2018.