Uninsured & Underinsured Motorist Coverage
Auto insurance is a requirement in California, but you knew that. What you may not have known is that your auto insurance can cover you when riding your bicycle on the road. If you ride on the streets regularly, then you may want to revisit your insurance policy to see if you have enough coverage to adequately protect you in the car, and on the bike.
The two most useful pieces of coverage for a cyclist are – uninsured & under insured coverage – covered below – and medical payments – covered in a second blog post. These insurance options are not required by the State of California to be a part of your policy, but come to the rescue to many of our cycling clients. Many of our clients didn’t know that they had these coverage’s; or conversely, thought they had had the coverage’s but didn’t before it is too late. Here’s how the coverage’s can help whether you’re in an accident via auto, or bicycle.
UNINSURED & UNDERINSURED COVERAGE
Often referred to as UM/UIM coverage, having this on your policy protects you from someone who has a small liability policy, if someone doesn’t have any valid coverage (which occurs more than you may think), or is a victim of a hit-and-run.
In California, the minimum policy amount to make a driver “legal” is only $15,000. If an injured party has damages which exceeds the policy amount, the claimant can either try and collect any remaining funds from the at-fault party personally (meaning that the driver who hit you would have to pay out of their own pocket, should they have the money), or turn around and rely on their own UM/UIM coverage. When you buy a UM/UIM policy, you purchase a certain amount of coverage to use in the case where you are hit by someone who is under or uninsured or causes a hit and run. Here’s an example of how that works:
- You’re riding your bicycle to work and a driver pulls out of a driveway right in front of you. You are unable to avoid a collision, and you smash into the side of the car, going end-over-end.
- You are taken to the hospital via ambulance where you are diagnosed with a collarbone fracture, sprained shoulder and several bruises and scrapes. Your medical bills are about $10,000.
- You miss 2 weeks of work (worth $3,000 in days missed), and are unable to ride your bike for 5 months while you let your collarbone heal.
If the person who hit you only had a state minimum policy ($15,000) they would probably offer to pay that to you quickly. But, your medical bills are high, and you’ve missed work and were forced to take 2 weeks of vacation pay that you wanted to use on a summer vacation in a few months. If you take the $15,000 from the responsible party, you will sign a release agreeing to not sue the responsible party for any further funds, thereby cutting off any future recovery beyond the policy. If you reject the policy amount, you can sue the driver who hit you, but will be relying on them paying any judgment to you personally for awarded funds beyond $15,000. If they are not independently wealthy or have a high paying job, collection of further funds can be difficult, if not oftentimes impossible.
But, you got good advice before your accident, and purchased a $100,000 UM/UIM plan through your auto insurance carrier. In this instance, you would be able to take the $15,000 from the at-fault driver, and then pursue a claim with your own insurance company for up to a combined total of $100,000. Use of this coverage will not affect your insurance rates or place any points on your driving record so long as you do not have any liability for the accident.
Having UM/UIM coverage as an avid cyclist is almost a necessity, since you, the cyclist will usually be injured at a worse level than when protected in a car. Adding a healthy UM/UIM policy (around $100,000 worth of coverage) to your current auto policy is usually a minimal additional cost of maybe $10.00 per month, but can provide you tens of thousands of additional coverage should you need it – involving claims on and off the bike.
Paying for insurance may be a necessary evil, but if you can buy coverage’s that will cover you in the car and on the bike, then why not? Knowing how to best cover yourself and supplement your health insurance coverage can be a game changer – especially if it can cover you when in a car or bicycle accident.
Questions on how much UM/UIM coverage is right for you? Feel free to reach out to our office for a recommendation based on your current auto coverage and amount of time you spend in the saddle. Just mention this blog article for a free consultation.
Thanks for reading. Keep on pedaling!
Attorney Joshua Bonnici is the managing attorney at Bonnici Law Group, APC, where his focus is on helping injured cyclists navigate an injury claim, and get them back in the saddle. He has been riding in San Diego for over 25 years, and is a volunteer board member with the San Diego Mountain Biking Association, and the sole attorney sponsor for the San Diego Bicycle Club. When he is not litigating cases on behalf of injured San Diegans, he’s riding the coast on his Trek Domane SLR, or shredding the local mountains on his Santa Cruz Bronson. Feel free to reach out to him on any cycling or legal questions for a free consultation or evaluation of your insurance policy.