As a bicyclist, your greatest risks on the road are the drivers around you.
The most serious injuries to bicyclists commonly involve trucks and cars on the roads. In the event of serious injury or death, you or your loved ones are left to the mercy of that motorist’s finances – they may have no insurance, or may have too little insurance, and you may be unable to recover compensation you are entitled to for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering
California’s mandatory automobile insurance law (“financial responsibility” law) only requires drivers to carry $15,000 in coverage, and there are still many drivers with no insurance.
When you bicycle on the roads, your own automobile insurance policy can be your best protection. Here’s how.
California requires automobile insurers to offer Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist (UM) Insurance as part of your auto insurance. This “UM” coverage protects you even when you aren’t in your own car. It covers you whenever you are injured by an automobile – as a driver or passenger of another car, as a pedestrian, and it should cover your injuries and damages as a bicyclist if the driver who injures you has no coverage, or less coverage than you carry.
That is why I urge everyone, and especially bicyclists, to make sure that their own auto insurance carries high limits of uninsured motorist (UM) coverage.
For example, if you have $100K in UM coverage, and suffer serious injuries from a negligent motorist who has only $15K in liability insurance coverage, as the injured bicyclist, you must first recover $15K from the responsible motorist, and thereafter may recover $85K from your own auto insurer.
Making a UM claim will not increase your auto insurance premiums.
UM coverage is also a very inexpensive part of your auto insurance.
To protect yourself, not just against harm you may accidentally cause to others, but from harm other motorists may cause to you, there are a couple of steps to take:
Insurance companies will not sell you UM coverage greater than your basic liability coverage limits, so first, you should carry as high of limits of coverage as you can afford. Then you should make sure your insurance company gives you UM limits that match your liability insurance limits.
UM coverage can be one of the most important parts of your auto insurance. The UM insurance you carry will protect you and all of your family members living in your household, in the event they are similarly injured while riding a bike, when they are a pedestrian, and when they are passengers in other cars.
You don’t even have to own a car to have UM coverage, as long as you live with a spouse or other household family member who has auto insurance, and their policy provides UM insurance.
You should explore with your insurance company or agent how much more coverage will cost. You will be surprised to find out that the main cost of auto insurance is getting the insurance in the first place, and the cost differential between minimum coverage and more substantial coverage is usually not very much. Unfortunately, most insurance agents are not trained to recognize the importance of UM coverage, and often will sell policies with inadequate UM coverage.
Pedal Lawyer is Scott Sumner, with over 30 years’ experience as a cyclist, road cyclist, and mountain biker, and over 25 years’ experience in personal injury law. Pedal lawyer is located in the San Francisco Bay Area, and specializes in the representation of injured bicyclists in personal injury and wrongful death cases throughout California. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact us – we would be pleased to provide you with advice and consultation free of charge.
What about damage to your bicycle? Many bicyclists own special, unique, and often very valuable bicycles. Here, your auto and UM coverage will not help you.
However, homeowners or renters insurance can provide coverage for property damage or loss of your bicycle. To do so, you usually will need to specifically list your bicycle for coverage similar to jewelry or artwork coverage. That is something you need to discuss specifically with your insurance agent or broker.
You also should try and make sure the policy covers replacement cost of your bicycle, otherwise, the insurer will depreciate the value of the bike.