The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania recently decided a case involving the issue of whether a motorcyclist, who has a motorcycle insurance policy, can collect under-insured (this would also apply to uninsured) motorist coverage from his automobile insurance policy if he is involved in an accident while riding his motorcycle. The insurance policy provision that was at issue is known as the “household exclusion.” This exclusion, which is routinely part of an automobile insurance policy,  prohibits the insured from making a claim under his automobile insurance policy when he is injured while operating a vehicle (in this case, a motorcycle) which is insured under a different policy.

In the case before the Court, the insured was injured in an accident on his motorcycle. He had insurance coverage on the motorcycle and also had insurance coverage on other automobiles in his household. Both policies had uninsured and under-insured motorist coverage. The insured attempted to collect on the auto policy (after he collected on the motorcycle under-insured coverage) because the person who caused the accident did not have enough coverage to cover the injuries which he sustained (the person who caused the accident was under-insured). The insurance company denied the claim, citing the following clause in the policy:

“This coverage does not apply to bodily injury while occupying or from being struck by a vehicle owned or leased by you or a relative that is not insured for under-insured motorist coverage under this policy”

The basis of the Supreme Court opinion was linked to public policy arguments. On the one hand, it was argued that the insurance clause at issue was clear and unambiguous and therefore should be enforced as written. The Court found that to allow the type of recovery requested by the injured motorcyclist would result in an increase in insurance premiums generally, because the insurance company issuing the automobile insurance policy theoretically would not have any way to know what other vehicles their insured might own and insure under different policies.

On the other hand, the insurance company in this case knew that the insured owned a motorcycle because the insurance company also insured the motorcycle, but on a separate policy. The Court enforced the household exclusion clause in the automobile insurance policy and found that the insured could not seek under-insured motorist coverage from that policy.

The bottom line for motorcycle owners is to buy adequate uninsured and under-insured motorist coverage on your motorcycle. You cannot look to your automobile coverage for a recovery for injuries caused while on your motorcycle.