Arguing for Auto Insurance Coverage in Maine After Crash Despite Cancellation

Motorcyclists in Maine are at higher risk of injuries and death than occupants of other types of motor vehicles. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports an estimated 88,000 motorcyclists are injured and nearly 5,000 killed each year in the U.S. Per vehicle mile traveled, motorcyclist fatalities occurred nearly 29 times more frequently than passenger car occupant deaths in crashes. This is part of the reason why Maine requires motorcyclists to carry insurance coverage. 

The state requires riders to carry a minimum of $50,000 for injury/death to any one person, $100,000 in bodily injury liability for a single Maine motorcycle accident resulting in the death or injury of more than one person, and $25,000 in property damage coverage. State law also mandates uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.

If an auto insurance policy is cancelled and not reinstated prior to a crash, obtaining coverage can prove difficult, if not impossible. One aspect our Maine injury lawyers would explore in that case is whether the insurer satisfied the statutory notice requirements as set forth in 24-A M.R.S. Section 2914(1).

Specifically, that provision of the statute requires an insurer that cancels coverage for non-payment to ensure notice is received by the named insured at least 10 days prior to the effective date of cancellation. For this, a postal service certificate of mailing to the named insured at his or her last known address is conclusive proof of receipt. The state legislature intended for insurers to strictly comply with the terms of the statute, as was established in the 1991 Maine Supreme Judicial Court case of Me. Bonding & Cas. Co. v. Knowlton. As noted in the 2008 case of Schmitt v. Horace Mann Ins. Co., any deficiency in the last known name or address will result in that postal certificate not being considered presumptive proof of cancellation.

In a Maine Superior Court ruling this past summer, the plaintiff was a motorcyclist who alleged her auto insurer was wrong to deny coverage based on the cancellation of the policy prior to the crash because she did not receive a cancellation notice, and she paid for a year of coverage when she first purchased the coverage.

According to court records, the plaintiff insured a motorcycle with the defendant insurer in July 2014. That policy was cancelled for non-payment in October 2014. In June 2015, another plaintiff was operating that motorcycle when it was involved in a motor vehicle accident.

The auto insurer denied coverage, and the injured motorcyclist filed a lawsuit against the insurer for breach of contract.

The auto insurer filed a motion for summary judgment as a matter of law, supplying postal receipts to show the cancellation notice was mailed to the plaintiff at a Lewiston apartment address in October 2014. The plaintiff reported that she did receive her original insurance cards to that address and conceded she had not moved from the time she received the insurance cards to the time the notice was mailed. Based on this, the court ruled the plaintiff failed to generate any genuine issue of material fact as to the lack of effectiveness of the notice of insurance cancellation.

Based on this, the insurer’s summary judgment motion was granted, meaning coverage will be denied.

It’s important not to disregard any notices of cancellation or other correspondence from your auto insurer. If you believe your insurer has wrongly denied you coverage, a Maine motorcycle accident attorney may be able to help in determining whether you have a case worth pursuing.

If you are the victim of a Bangor motorcycle accident, contact Peter Thompson & Associates at 1-800-804-2004 for a confidential consultation to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:

Michaud & Bernier v. State Farm, June 29, 2017, Androscoggin Superior Court

More Blog Entries:

Report: More Fatal Motorcycle Accidents in Maine So Far Than in All of 2016, Oct. 17, 2017, Maine Auto Accident Lawyer Blog

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