If you own and operate a motorcycle in Glens Falls, New York, you need to carry insurance. New York follows a “no fault” rule when it comes to motor vehicle accidents. This means that if you are injured in amotorcycle accident, you must first look to your own policy’s Personal Injury Protection coverage to pay for your medical bills, property damage, and other out-of-pocket losses. By law you must carry a minimum of $50,000 in no-fault coverage for bodily injury and $10,000 to cover property damage.
Unfortunately, many New York motorcycle accidents are the result of another motorist’s negligence. And given the relative lack or protection most motorcycle riders have, they are especially at-risk for suffering serious and potentially life-threatening injuries. Under New York law, an accident victim who suffers a serious injury–including a bone fracture, disfigurement, or a permanent limitation to any body part or organ–can pursue a personal injury claim against the negligent party who caused the accident. As with Personal Injury Protection coverage, all New York drivers must also carry a minimum amount of liability coverage, which kicks in when a serious injury occurs.
Your New York motorcycle insurance carrier must also offer you Supplementary Uninsured/underinsured Motorist (SUM) coverage as part of your standard policy. SUM coverage applies to accidents where the negligent driver is either uninsured or underinsured. If the negligent driver has no insurance, then your SUM coverage is added to your PIP coverage. But if the negligent driver is underinsured, your SUM coverage only covers the difference between your policy and the negligent driver’s liability coverage. In other words, if you have $25,000 in SUM coverage and the other driver has $25,000 in liability coverage, your effective SUM coverage is zero.
Never Assume Your Auto Policy Also Covers Your Motorcycle
When it comes to motorcycle insurance, you should never make any assumptions about what is–and is not–covered. You may think a motorcycle is a covered vehicle under a policy designed to insure multiple vehicles. But if you do not strictly comply with the terms for adding a motorcycle to an existing policy, you will almost certainly not be covered.
A recent Supreme Court decision from Warren County,Matter of Farmers Direct Property & Casualty Insurance Co. v. Duell, provides a cautionary tale on this subject. In this case, a married couple purchased an auto insurance policy from Farmers Direct to cover multiple vehicles, including a Volkswagen Jetta used primarily by their son. The son separately purchased a Honda motorcycle, which he used during the summer and fall. The son purchased his own motorcycle insurance policy from Progressive.
Three days after buying the motorcycle, however, the son was seriously injured in an accident caused by a negligent driver. The negligent driver carried $100,000 in liability coverage from State Farm, which paid that amount to the son. The son then filed a SUM claim with Progressive. But Progressive denied the claim, since the son only carried $50,000 in SUM coverage, which was less than the negligent driver’s liability coverage.
The son then tried to file a SUM claim under his parents’ Farmers policy. Farmers denied the claim because it said the Honda motorcycle was not an insured vehicle under the policy. Neither the parents nor the son ever notified Farmers that they wished to add the motorcycle to the policy. And even if they had, Farmers said it would not have done so, as they would have to purchase a separate motorcycle insurance policy.
The son subsequently filed for arbitration, which is a common practice in no-fault insurance disputes in New York. Farmers responded by filing a petition in Warren County Supreme Court, seeking a judicial declaration it was not liable for covering the son’s motorcycle accident. The judge sided with Farmers and entered the requested order.
The judge explained that the motorcycle was not an insured vehicle under the Farmers policy. It was never listed on the policy as such. The parents never paid a premium to Farmers for such coverage. And Farmers never received any notice that they wished to add the motorcycle to their policy.
The son argued that his motorcycle qualified as a “newly acquired or replacement motor vehicle” under the Farmers policy. The judge disagreed. First, the judge said that language only covered vehicles acquired by the parents. The Honda motorcycle belonged to the son, not the parents. Second, the motorcycle could not be considered a “replacement vehicle,” as the son continued to possess and use the Volkswagen Jetta, which was still listed in the Farmers policy. Finally, even assuming that the son’s SUM claim qualified as “notice” to Farmers about a replacement vehicle, that notice only came after the motorcycle accident happened. As the judge noted, “[O]ne cannot obtain coverage after a loss occurs.”
Contact a Glens Falls, New York, Motorcycle Accident Lawyer Today
If you do own and operate a motorcycle in the Glens Falls area, it is a good idea to carry as much insurance as you can reasonably afford. This includes SUM coverage. Keep in mind, your SUM coverage cannot exceed the amount of bodily injury coverage that you purchase. So if you only carry a minimum policy, your bodily injury and SUM coverage is just $25,000 per person or $50,000 per accident. And as we previously explained, your SUM coverage is subtracted from a negligent driver’s bodily injury coverage, which means purchasing only the minimums can leave you with effectively no SUM coverage in the event of an accident.
And even when you are certain that your motorcycle insurance coverage is up-to-date and covers your accident, you must still be prepared to meet resistance from the insurer. After all, insurance companies are in business to make money for themselves, not you. So if you have been seriously injured in a motorcycle crash, your first step–after seeking medical treatment–should be to seek out qualified legal advice. If you need to speak with a Glens Falls motorcycle accident attorney, call Larson & Gallivan Law today at 518-862-8799 to schedule a free initial consultation.