Driver Collides With Tractor; Accident Covered by 'Uninsured Motorist' Policy: Applies to Snowmobiles, ATVs, Golf Carts, Etc.

Lawyers Weekly Inc.

When a driver collided with a tractor that was being used to haul a mobile home, her injuries were covered by her uninsured motorist policy, stated the Georgia Supreme Court, reversing the Court of Appeals' decision. The policy must cover collisions with vehicles that aren't designed for use on public roads, so long as they are on a road at the time of the accident, the court said. The state courts that have considered this question are split.

The policy said it would cover collisions with an "uninsured motor vehicle." A state statute defines "motor vehicle" as a vehicle "designed primarily for operation upon the public streets, roads and highways." The insurance company relied on this definition to deny coverage, since the tractor wasn't designed to be used on public roads. But the court said this definition conflicted with the purpose of the uninsured motorist statute. "The remedial purposes of the uninsured motorist statute mandate that the term 'motor vehicle' be construed broadly to provide financial protection to innocent motorists who are injured by irresponsible drivers," it said.

The court cited similar rulings from Arizona and North Carolina. (Chase v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co., 641 P.2d 1305 (Ariz. 1982); Autry v. Aetna Life and Casualty Insurance Co., 242 S.E.2d 172 (N.C. App. 1978).)

The ruling could apply to accidents with golf carts, snowmobiles, ATVs, riding lawnmowers, and "anything designed for off-road but being used on-road," Lawyers Weekly USA is told by Howard Spiva of Savannah, Georgia, one of the attorneys who represented the plaintiff.

Reprinted courtesy of: Lawyers Weekly.