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Delaware Courts Aren’t Horsing Around: Horse-Drawn Buggy Not Applicable in UM Claim


According to Andrew G. Simpson of Insurance Journal, Delaware courts hearing a case to determine whether or not a horse-drawn buggy is considered a motor vehicle is a first. And *spoiler alert*, horse-drawn buggies are not, key word, “motor” vehicles.




Vanessa Harper brought forth the case in Delaware Superior Court after sustaining injuries when her motor vehicle collided with a horse-drawn buggy, and submitted a claim to State Farm seeking coverage from her uninsured motorists policy. Her claim was rejected, citing that her UM policy only covered accidents with MOTOR vehicles .


Once in court, “Harper argued that Delaware public policy compels a broad interpretation of uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage in her case,” and “also asserted that a horse-drawn buggy is an ‘uninsured vehicle’ under the statute definition because it is a vehicle for which there ‘was no auto liability bond, insurance, or other security applicable at the time of the accident covering the vehicle . . .’”


In response, the court argued that, “it can only consider public policy arguments if the statutory language is ambiguous. A statute is ambiguous only if it is ‘reasonably susceptible’ to different interpretations. But the UM statute is ‘unambiguously’ limited to motor vehicles,” and also noted, “that even if this provision were meant to encompass vehicles without motors, there is no ‘financial responsibility law’ for horse-drawn buggies,” writes Simpson.


The court ultimately agreed with State Farm, and determined that although “‘every person riding an animal or driving any animal-drawn vehicle upon a roadway’ must follow the traffic laws applicable to drivers of their vehicles, there is no indication that they must have the liability insurance required of owners of motor vehicles.”


Motor. Motor is the key here.


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