Question: I was driving my husband’s car when a man on a riding lawn mower came in the road and hit the car. We have full coverage while the man riding the lawn mower has no insurance. I thought this could go under my uninsured motorist coverage, but my insurer is saying that North Carolina law states that this does not cover a riding lawnmower. Why not if the mower has a motor in it?
Answer: Riding lawnmowers are not street-legal vehicles and shouldn’t be on the roadway and thus aren’t required to carry any motor vehicle insurance on them. Lawnmowers may have some limited coverage under the person’s homeowner’s policy, but this usually only covers incidents on the person’s property when it is being used as intended, not if the person driving it on the street.
While the mower has a motor, it’s not considered a motor vehicle by most definitions, and so being hit by one isn’t covered under your uninsured motorist coverage. Your insurer is right that North Carolina law does back up their decision.
North Carolina General Statutes section 20-4.01(23) defines a motor vehicle as “every vehicle self-propelled and every vehicle designed to run upon the highways which is pulled by a self-propelled vehicle.” A highway is defined (by Statute 20-40.01(13)) as property that is used for the “purposes of vehicular traffic.” Highway and street are synonymous.
The riding lawn mower thus isn’t considered a motor vehicle and instead would probably fall under the definition of a farm tractor, which under Statute 20-4.01(11) specifically names “mowing machines.”
This leads to the North Carolina Statute that defines uninsured motorist coverage, in particular 20-279.21(b)(3), that says, in part, “uninsured motor vehicles shall not include a farm-type tractor or equipment designed for use principally off public roads.”
What the laws and your insurer are saying is that since the man that hit you wasn’t required to have insurance for his riding lawn mower, he wouldn’t be considered to be an uninsured motorist for not carrying it. The intention of uninsured motorist coverage is to protect you when an at-fault party doesn’t carry the mandated motor vehicle insurance. Unfortunately, your situation doesn’t fall under your stated coverages.
This doesn’t mean that the man driving the mower won’t be held responsible for his damages to your car; your car insurance company will go after him after they pay out for the repairs to your car. While you can’t use your uninsured motorist property damage (UMPD) coverage to get your car repaired, you said you also had full coverage, so you can make a claim under your collision coverage.
With your collision coverage, you do have a deductible to pay out, but your car insurance company should subrogate with the at-fault driver of the lawn mower for not only the money they are out for repairs but also your deductible amount. If they don’t, then you personally should be able to pursue the man for your deductible amount.
— Penny Gusner contributed to this story.