It is essential that cyclists understand insurance coverage to protect themselves in the event of an injury or accident. With an increase in traffic on the roads and trails, the number of cycling injuries is on the rise. With knowledge about insurance and the proper coverage, you can protect yourself and your family from potentially catastrophic loss.
It is important to know that your automobile insurance will extend coverage to you if you are hit while riding your bike. For this reason, it is extremely important to understand your automobile insurance policy and include sufficient coverage on your own automobile policy to cover potential losses that may occur while riding your bicycle.
Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage
The most important insurance to carry is Uninsured Motorist (UM) and Underinsured Motorist Coverage (UIM). UM/UIM coverage is combined and billed as a single premium. UM/UIM coverage protects against drivers without insurance or without adequate liability insurance to cover your loss.
In Colorado, the law only requires a driver to carry a minimum of $25,000 of insurance. $25,000 will probably be insufficient to cover economic losses such as medical bills and lost time from work and non-economic damages such as impairment, pain and suffering and permanent life impacts of an injury. To protect yourself and your family, it is important to carry UM/UIM coverage to pay for any losses you suffer as a result of the negligence of a driver without adequate insurance.
How much UM/UIM coverage should a cyclist carry? The answer is as much as you can afford. As an absolute minimum, carry $100,000, but more is advisable and better. I typically recommend enough coverage to sustain yourself without working for at least two years in the event of a serious injury. Personally, I carry $500,000 in UM/UIM with an additional umbrella policy for additional coverage.
For a UIM example, let’s say the at-fault driver has a policy of $25,000 and you have a policy of $100,000. If you suffer $100,000 in damages, the at-fault driver would pay its policy limits of $25,000 and your UM/UIM carrier would “step into the shoes” of the at-fault driver and pay the remaining $75,000 for a total of $100,000.
It is important to keep in mind that uninsured and underinsured drivers are high-risk drivers. Typically, they engage in riskier behaviors which prevent them from obtaining insurance, i.e...., alcohol-related offenses or excessive tickets which make purchasing insurance prohibitively expensive. Uninsured drivers by nature have less regard for the law as evidenced by the fact that they are willing to drive without insurance in violation of the law. Additionally, drivers that carry the minimum amount of insurance may do so because they have very few assets to lose if they cause a loss. In short, it is extremely important to carry a sufficient amount of insurance to protect cover yourself against the most dangerous type of driver on the road–the uninsured and underinsured driver.
Please note that UM/UIM property damage coverage is a separate coverage. Please consider that while the value of your bike may be expensive, it is nothing compared to the value of your health or your ability to work. Thus, spend your insurance dollars to cover yourself rather than your expensive carbon bike. UM/UIM coverage must be offered to you by your insurance agent and can only be waived in writing. Declining UM/UIM coverage is not recommended.
If you are worried about catastrophic loss, it is recommended that you get an umbrella policy of insurance. An umbrella policy provides additional coverage above and beyond UM/UIM coverage and is recommended for those individuals who have a lot to lose in the event of a catastrophic loss. Please discuss umbrella coverage with your agent or lawyer. Umbrella policies often provide coverage of $1,000,000 or more. While this amount of coverage may seem large, your health and ability to function is probably worth far more.
Medical Payments Coverage
Medical payment coverage pays for medical bills related to a motor vehicle accident, including bicycle and pedestrian accidents. Medical payments coverage can usually be purchased in increments of $5,000, $10,000, and $25,000. We recommend at least $10,000 in medical payments coverage. Medical payment coverage supplements health insurance because it has no co-pays, no deductibles and no network or provider limitations. If you have accident-related injuries, the bills are paid up to the amount of purchased coverage. Depending on the circumstances, some insurance companies have balked at providing medical payments coverage for bicycle accident cases.
However, in most instances where a motor vehicle is involved in the collision, medical payments coverage is available to cover the cyclist's accident-related medical bills. In addition, medical payments coverage is not subject to subrogation. Subrogation is the right of an insurance company to recover for the medical bills they have paid out because of someone else’s negligence. In other words, if you are injured and receive compensation from an at-fault driver, your health insurance may seek to recover from your injury money the amount of benefit they paid out. However, if medical payments coverage is used, there is no right of subrogation, and you are entitled to receive the full value of the damages you incurred.
It is important to carry a good policy of health insurance to pay for your medical expenses immediately after an accident. The insurance company for the at-fault driver will not pay for any of your medical care until the end of your case and most medical clinics and hospitals will not even see you if you do not have health insurance to pay their bills. In addition, bicycle accidents often happen with no one being at fault and you need coverage to pay for medical bills in those instances where automobiles are not involved, or the automobile driver is not at fault.
Property Damage Coverage
If there is an at-fault driver involved in the accident, their automobile insurance will typically pay for property damage to your bicycle. Please understand that your automobile policy will not cover your bicycle damage (UM/UIM does not cover property loss.). You can purchase special coverage to insure your bicycle, but we do not recommend insuring the bicycle itself. While no one wants to suffer the loss of their bike, it is more important to insure your health, injuries, medical expenses and wage loss. Bicycle theft insurance can be purchased to cover a stolen bike and homeowner’s insurance may cover a stolen bike, depending on circumstances.
Insurance law is complicated and the application of such laws to cyclists is confusing. Cyclists need to understand that with proper planning, they can provide coverage for themselves and their families while they take part in a sport they love, but a sport which contains measurable risks. The sad fact is that cyclists get hurt when they collide with motor vehicles. While safe riding can help prevent accidents, motor vehicles cause serious injuries. Our law firm is committed to representing cyclists and helping them understand their rights and obligations under the law. Contact us for a free consultation if you believe you may be entitled to compensation for a cycling-related injury or event.
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