You're probably aware that if you're involved in an accident with another vehicle, the automotive insurance of the at-fault driver (or both drivers, in a no-fault state) will cover most injuries and property damage resulting from this crash. But what if you are involved in an accident with a golf cart, forklift, or piece of farm machinery? Whose insurance pays, and are these vehicles considered "autos" for insurance purposes? Read on to learn more about how this area of liability is treated under current laws.
What is considered an "auto"?
In general, if a vehicle can be legally driven on a street or roadway, it is considered an "auto" for insurance purposes. Examples include mopeds, four-wheelers or all terrain vehicles (ATVs), go-karts, and off-roading vehicles. However, these vehicles are not automatically covered -- the owner has to add them to the policy (and pay any associated premium). If you're injured by one of these types of vehicles and the owner has not added this vehicle to his or her auto policy, you may have to file a personal lawsuit against the vehicle owner.
Farm equipment that is routinely driven on roads to get from place to place (even if only back or county roads are used) should also be covered by an auto insurance policy. Most insurance companies have farm-specific policies available at a lower cost than the policies for vehicles that are more frequently driven. However, because these vehicles are generally much larger and heavier than other autos that are operated on roadways, your insurance cost per mile driven will be a bit higher than that for your regular vehicle.
As with the other types of street-legal vehicles, if you suffer injury due to a piece of farm machinery being operated on a public road, and this vehicle is not covered by insurance, you'll need to file a personal lawsuit against the owner.
In industrial settings, motorized vehicles such as forklifts or cranes are not considered "autos," and are generally exempted from commercial auto policies. If you work in such an environment, your use of a forklift (or injuries resulting from another person's operation of the forklift) will be covered under the factory's equivalent of "homeowner's" insurance. However, there are some situations in which these devices are similarly excluded from coverage. In this situation, if you were injured due to forklift operation, you would need to file a lawsuit against the company.
Which vehicles should be insured?
If you own any of the above-listed vehicles, you should carefully review any auto or homeowner's policies. If you drive your vehicle on the road -- even if only short distances -- this vehicle should be covered under your auto policy. If, for any reason, your auto insurer refuses to cover this vehicle, investigate whether you can purchase umbrella or homeowner's insurance coverage to help ensure you are protected from liability in the event of an accident.
If auto insurance doesn't cover an accident, what can you do?
If the person responsible for your accident did not seek coverage on his or her vehicle, or if the insurer argues that the vehicle should be excluded, you have several options.
First is to appeal the determination (if it is an insurer issue, rather than a lack of coverage issue). In some cases, an initial decision that a vehicle or accident is not covered may be reversed upon appeal.
Second is to investigate your own auto and homeowner's insurance policies. If the vehicle that struck you was operated on a public road and the owner had not sought insurance, this may be covered under your own uninsured motorist policy. In other situations, an accident may be covered by your homeowner's insurance.
Finally, you can consult an attorney form a site like http://www.lvaccident.com who is experienced in personal injury and insurance law. Seeking these services can ensure that you've done everything within your power to seek compensation for your accident.