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I Was a Passenger on a ATV That Flipped Over. What Insurance Covers My Injury and Damages?

When clients are injured as a passenger on an ATV, many assume that the auto insurance policy of the driver will cover their damages. In fact almost all automobile policies exclude coverage for all-terrain and off road vehicles.

Auto Insurance Exclusions

Auto insurance policies contain provisions for coverage of a motor vehicle. A motor vehicle is generally described as any vehicle requiring registration designed for travel on a public roadway. Under the exclusion provision of auto insurance policies, typical language includes an exclusion of vehicles or motorized devices designed for off road use.

California courts have uniformly denied coverage based on the language contained in these policies. In one such case, a dirt bike motorcycle was left in the garage where a 14-year-old had gained access. The 14-year-old rode the motorcycle with a passenger on his back. The 14-year-old crashed motorcycle causing injuries to the passenger. A claim was made against the insurance policy covering the motorcycle under the theory that the owner the motorcycle had wrongfully allowed access to the motorcycle and keys. The legal argument to attempt establishing coverage was that the negligent act was not the operation of the motorcycle but the failure to safely store or motorcycle and keys.

That court ruled that the accident occurred out of the ownership, maintenance or use of the motorcycle which was efficient to deny coverage and the exclusionary provisions of the policy. The case effectively closed any potential claims against California automobile insurance policies. Almost all policies now contain provisions excluding coverage if written in California. However, out of state and Canadian policies may actually afford coverage and have to be individually reviewed.

Homeowners insurance exclusions

Like automobile insurance, many homeowners insurance companies have written exclusions designed to prohibit coverage of accidents involving ATVs. Homeowners policies in the last 15 years have included provisions that limit coverage in an accident or injury arises from the ownership, maintenance or use of a motor vehicle. However in homeowners insurance policies, there is a different definition for motor vehicles. Some policies contain provisions that to find motor vehicles broadly as any motorized device for transportation on or off road. Others set forth a three or four categories, including exclusions for golf carts, vehicles designed for off-road use and exclusions for motorcycles and ATVs. Therefore it is important for the homeowner to always review their policy with their agent to determine whether they have coverage for their off-road vehicles.

However unlike auto insurance coverage, many homeowners insurance policies are written that do not include such exclusions. Therefore it is important for your California personal injury attorney to review policies in detail to determine whether there is coverage for your injury or damages. Don't simply assume that there is no coverage or listen to an attorney opinion who hands not reviewed the policies in effect.

Hire an attorney that understands the subtleties of these claims, is willing to investigate the matter fully and advice you conclusively if there is adequate insurance to cover your injuries and damages.

by James E. Ballidis

James Ballidis is the managing attorney for Allen, Flatt, Ballidis & Leslie and has been practicing personal injury law for 25 years.

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