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Protecting Yourself in A Motorcycle Accident

Author / Coordinator:  
Jennifer A. Smith
March 2007

You're driving down the highway on a beautiful spring day and BAM...the driver to your right is not paying attention and suddenly changes lanes, knocks you off your bike and changes your life drastically forever. Now you are seriously injured and require immediate medical attention. You are taken by ambulance to the hospital, but find you are treated like a third class citizen because you do not have health insurance. However, they can't release you because you have two broken legs and you wind up staying there for ten days. After the hospital, it is very difficult to find a doctor to treat you because you don't have health insurance. You can't work and are out of sick time and vacation time. The hospital bill arrives but you are unable to pay it. They send it to collections. Creditors begin to call you every day. Even if you were physically able to go to work (which you aren't), you can't get there because your insurance company won't pay to get your bike fixed because you don't have collision insurance. Then, as it turns out, the other driver only had $25,000.00 in insurance, (or even worse, no insurance at all). Your outstanding medical bills alone are more than $25,000.00! You then call your own insurance company to see what you can do, and they tell you that they can't help you because you never reported the accident to them...

What can you do to avoid this scenario?

1. GET HEALTH INSURANCE IF YOU CAN

If you are involved in an accident with another car, there is no "no-fault" insurance that will cover your medical bills up front. The only way you can recover for your medical treatment is to bring a claim against the person who caused the accident. While they are required to pay your bills if they are found to be at fault for the accident, this may take time. This won't help you at the time you need it most. To avoid this situation, do your best to make sure that you have health coverage  – even if it just covers hospital stays – and that it is up to date. If you don't, even the smallest accident can ruin your credit.

2. MAKE SURE YOU HAVE COLLISION INSURANCE

Collision insurance is the portion of your motorcycle policy that covers damage to your own bike if you are involved in an accident. You are not required to have this so it is a good idea to check your policy. If you have collision, your own insurance company will pay for the damage to your bike, and then they will sue the other driver's insurance company to recover what they paid you. They will also sue to get your deductible back (if you paid one). This is usually much easier that dealing with the insurance company for the other car. It will also insure that the damage to your bike is paid, even if the other car doesn't have insurance. You should also check to see exactly what your policy is insuring. Often, policies often pay "blue book" value for a bike. However, your bike may have non-factory installed parts, or may be "vintage" and worth much more than what the blue book says. Talk to your broker and make sure that your bike is covered up to its full value.

3. MAKE SURE YOU HAVE ADEQUATE UM/SUM INSURANCE COVERAGE

Underinsured motorist coverage is insurance you can purchase for the situations where the other vehicle does not have enough insurance coverage to adequately compensate you. In the above example, the hospital bill alone was more than $25,000.00. If the other driver only had minimum coverage, then you would not be adequately compensated. Underinsured motorist coverage supplements the insurance of the other driver. So if you have $100,000.00 in under insurance, and the other car has $25,000.00, you would have $75,000.00 in additional coverage available to you.

Uninsured motorist coverage comes into effect when the other driver does not have any insurance. In that case, your own insurance company will compensate you for your injuries, up to your uninsured motorist limits. In the above example, if you had a minimum policy, your own insurance would not be enough to compensate you. You can purchase additional uninsured motorist coverage to raise your limits. This will insure that you are protected if the other car does not have any insurance.

It is recommended that you purchase the most underinsured and uninsured insurance that you can afford.

4. MAKE SURE YOU REPORT THE ACCIDENT TO YOUR INSURANCE COMPANY

Insurance companies often have language in their policies that allow them not to pay you if you do not comply with their rules. Therefore, in order to make sure that you receive the benefits you have paid for, it is very important that you let them know an accident has occurred so that they can instruct you on the procedures you need to follow. Not reporting an accident can jeopardize your rights to recover against your own insurance company.

5. CONTACT AN ATTORNEY AS SOON AS POSSIBLE

An attorney can give you advice in following the proper procedures or in answering questions about insurance. In order to protect your rights, this should be done sooner rather than later.

If you have any questions about this or other matters, please call us at 612-377-7777