The Maryland Court of Special Appeals reviewed two cases against the same insurance company, consolidated on appeal, regarding underinsured motorist coverage for damages suffered as the result of a car accident in which the insureds were operating a moped and a motor scooter. In Schiffler v. Erie, the plaintiff was riding his moped to work when a jeep collided with him, fracturing the plaintiff’s leg. The jeep driver’s insurance company tendered the policy limits to the plaintiff in the amount of $100,000. The plaintiff then sought underinsured motorist coverage from his own insurance company, which denied the claim, contending that coverage was excluded by the plaintiff’s policy. In Furman v. Erie, the facts were nearly identical except that the plaintiff in the case was riding a motor scooter. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the insurance company, and the plaintiffs appealed.
A moped is defined as a bicycle operated by human power with the assistance of a motor, while a motor scooter is a nonpedal vehicle with a motor and automatic transmission. At the time of the two accidents, neither a moped nor a motor scooter was considered a motor vehicle under the Maryland Motor Vehicle Laws. Prior to October 12, 2012, therefore, owners of mopeds and motor scooters were not required by law to maintain insurance coverage for either type of vehicle, and neither plaintiff had purchased insurance expressly covering the moped and motor scooter involved in the accidents.
The insurance policies at issue in the cases excluded underinsured motorist coverage if the insured was injured while operating an “owned-but-uninsured” vehicle. The plaintiffs argued that the policy exclusion is contrary to the minimum coverage required by statutes applicable to operators of mopeds and motor scooters in Maryland at the time of the accident. Specifically, they argued that the statutory minimum coverage provisions precluded the defendant from relying upon the “owned-but-uninsured” exclusion in their policies to deny underinsured motorist claims for injuries occurring as a result of being hit by an underinsured driver while operating mopeds and motor scooters. The insurance company, on the other hand, argued that the exclusion is expressly authorized by Md. Code Ann., Ins. § 19-509(f), which provides that an insurer may exclude uninsured motorist benefits for an injury that occurs when the insured is occupying an uninsured motor vehicle that is owned by the insured.
The Court of Special Appeals agreed with the plaintiffs, citing the holding in Crespo that for purposes of analyzing uninsured motorist coverage, a moped is not a motor vehicle, nor, by extension, is a motor scooter. Therefore, the reference in Md. Code Ann., Ins. § 19-509(f) to possible exclusions from underinsured motorist coverage when the insured was occupying an uninsured motor vehicle is not applicable to mopeds and motor scooters. In ruling in favor of the plaintiffs, the court expressly left open the question of whether Md. Code Ann. Transp. § 17-104.1, effective October 1, 2012, which requires the operator of a moped or motor scooter to carry evidence of required security, would change the outcome in subsequent cases.
The Maryland attorneys at Foran & Foran, P.A. represent victims of car crashes, medical malpractice, and other personal injury accidents. We routinely deal with insurance companies on behalf of our clients to obtain the coverage and compensation they deserve. To discuss your case with one of our experienced attorneys, contact us at (301) 441-2022 or online.
More Blog Posts:
Maryland Court of Appeals Upholds “Gap” Insurance Policy in Pedestrian Accident Case, Maryland Personal Injury Blog, published October 31, 2015
Maryland Auto Insurance Policy Lapses Day Before Fatal Accident; Court Provides No Relief to Driver, Maryland Personal Injury Blog, published October 6, 2015