Imagine the following scenario: You’re out for a ride. It’s a great day and everything seems perfect. Then, suddenly a negligent motorist hits you and you’re down. The paramedics arrive and your whisked off to the hospital.
Later, the police arrive and take a statement from you. You’re comforted that at least the case is being investigated and you assume the responsible party will take care of your bills and injuries.
A few days later,however, you learn that the motorists is uninsured. Case over right? You’re on your own to handle your medical bills, loss of earnings and all the other difficulties of being the victim of an uninsured motorist. Well, maybe not.
Unfortunately I see this scenario all too often in my practice. What many cyclists don’t know is that if you have car insurance, and you have uninsured motorists coverage, you may be able to recover money from your own automobile insurance company for your damages.
This recovery is contractual and does not affect you rates, provided you were not at fault for the accident.
It will even apply to members of your household while riding (your spouse, children or others living with you, even if they are not on the policy!).
There are really three situations where uninsured motorist coverage comes into play:
The first is what I just outlined. A negligent motorist hits you and has no insurance coverage.
The second is called an underinsured motorist. In this case the negligent motorist has insurance, but the policy is a minimum policy ($15,000.00 per person and $30,000.00 per accident in California). Your injuries and damages will far exceed the policy limits. Provided you have uninsured motorist coverage that exceeds the policy limits of the negligent driver, you can recover the difference from your own insurance carrier.
For instance, if you carry uninsured motorist coverage in the amount of $50,000.00 per person, you would recover the policy limits of$15,000.00 from the negligent driver and then make a claim under your underinsured motorist coverage for the $50,000.00. If your case is substantial, you would be entitled to the $50,000.00 with an offset of $15,000.00 already recovered from the other party leaving you with an additional $35,000.00 from your own carrier. Remember, your policy must exceed the coverage of the other party. If it is equal to the other coverage, there is no underinsured coverage.
The final situation is the hit and run driver. You’re hit but the motorist flees the scene and there are no witnesses or other way to track down the driver. If you have uninsured motorist coverage, it will apply provide you take the following steps:
- You must file a police report;
- You must report the accident to your own insurance company within 24 hours. These reporting requirements are flexible so that they may be extended if your are unable to file because of your injuries or if you are in the hospital.
- There is also a requirement that there was “contact” between you and the vehicle. This contact requirement is liberally construed so that even debris thrown from the car may be sufficient, such as dirt or gravel thrown at you causing you to fall.
In my practice, we thoroughly investigate all aspects of coverage, and we do an asset search on the negligent driver to make sure there are no additional sources of recovery for your injuries.
Next time I will cover another common and sometimes confusing scenario: your injured by another cyclist or someone who isn’t driving a vehicle.
Have fun out there and be safe.