N.H. motorcyclist covered by auto policy

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An auto policy’s uninsured motorist coverage is triggered for a motorcyclist killed by a hit-and-run driver after being thrown onto the roadway from his bike, which was not insured, according to the New Hampshire Supreme Court.

The victim’s auto insurer, Amica Mutual Insurance, had argued it was not required to cover the biker’s death because he was riding his uninsured motorcycle, not his insured auto, when the accident began. The policy’s uninsured motorist coverage had an owned-vehicle exclusion.

But the state Supreme Court has ruled that the uninsured coverage applies because the victim was not actually occupying the motorcycle at the time of the hit-and-run that killed him. The victim, John Miller, had been thrown onto the road 40 feet from the bike when he was killed by an oncoming vehicle.

The victim’s Amica auto policy contained uninsured motorist coverage that also included an owned vehicle exclusion precluding coverage for any injuries sustained “[b]y an insured while occupying, or when struck by, any motor vehicle owned by that insured which is not insured for this coverage under this [p]olicy.” Occupying is defined as “in, upon, getting in, on, out or off” of a vehicle.

The issue became whether the decedent was “occupying” the motorcycle for purposes of the owned vehicle exclusion. Amica had contended that Miller was “occupying” the motorcycle because he had not reached a place of safety and had not severed his connection to the motorcycle. The insurer also argued that an insured could not reasonably expect coverage under the circumstances.

But the state’s high court said it is reasonable to conclude that someone who has been ejected from his motorcycle, and left lying in the highway 40 feet away for between 30 seconds and one and one half minutes, “is no longer ‘occupying’ the motorcycle.”

The court added that if Amica wishes a different result, it might redraft its policy.


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