Uninsured and Underinsured Motorcycle Accidents
Insurance coverage is one of those things that people loathe to pay… until they need it. This is why despite the many dangers on the road, uninsured accidents still happen.
In fact, an NHTSA studyfound the following facts:
- In a survey of motorcycle crash victims at one hospital, 46% were not insured.
- Private insurance accounts for 66% of in-patient care expenses of motorcycle crash injuries.
- 22% comes from public funds.
- The remaining 12% comes from other sources, usually self-payment.
- An unhelmeted rider is more likely to be uninsured.
The High Cost of Insurance Premiums
Because of the higher risk that motorcycle riders face, insurance premiums are typically higher than the relative cost of auto insurance. And yet, most don’t cover the complete costs incurred by long-term rehabilitation. Some are only covered by the minimum insurance limit of $20,000.
Others rely on uninsured motorist coverage, which provides coverage if the policy holder meets an accident with another party that doesn’t have insurance. This add-on is required in some states, while others merely require the policy holder to sign a waiver should they choose not to buy it.
Then there’s underinsured motorist coverage, which covers accidents where the negligent party does not have enough coverage to fully pay for the other party’s damages.
What is an Uninsured or Underinsured Motorist?
An uninsured or underinsured driver is one that:
- Does not have any vehicle or accident insurance
- Has insurance, but the coverage is not sufficient to pay for the damages caused
- Is not financially capable of paying for the damages
- Had their claim denied by their insurance provider
- May not be tracked down, such as a hit and run driver
The 4 Different Insurance Scenarios
Some states are “no-fault” insurance states, where insurance pays for each driver’s damage without having to file a claim against the other driver.
On the other hand, other states follow the “at fault” rule, where the negligent driver’s insurance will pay damages to the other party.
Regardless of which state you live in, there are four possible accident scenarios:
- You meet with an accident, and both of you are insured.
The easiest scenario, you simply exchange insurance information with the other party and go on your way. However, note that some types of motorcycle accidents may still require you to report the incident to the police.
- You don’t have insurance, but the other party does.
This is where uninsured motorist coverage comes in. In the US, 19 states plus the District of Columbia require drivers to have UM coverage. New Hampshire and Virginia are the only states that don’t require a minimum amount of auto insurance coverage.
The other party’s UM coverage will pay for your medical expenses and damage repair, but only up to a certain amount. Note that there are two types of UM coverage:
- Uninsured motorist bodily injury covers medical bills
- Uninsured motorist property damage covers the damage to the vehicle
- You have insurance, and the other party doesn’t.
If you have uninsured motorist coverage, you can use it provided you were not at fault for the accident. This will pay for the medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, or emotional trauma of the other party who wasn’t at fault.
If the other driver was at fault and they are not insured, then the UM coverage will apply to you.
- Both of you don’t have insurance.
If the accident was your fault, you may be liable to a personal lawsuit and civil restitution out of your own pocket.
If it was the other driver’s fault, you can sue him for injuries and damages sustained. While the average claim for vehicle accidents is $20,000, it tends to be higher for motorcycle accident claims because riders face worse injuries and bike damage.
The Effect of Comparative Fault
In some states, comparative fault may also be practiced. A court can allocate the relative share of negligence and adjust compensation accordingly. In such cases, the driver with more than 50% of the fault may recover nothing.
However, even if your share of the fault was less than 50%, you may still lose damages in exact proportion to your share of negligence. For example, if the court determines you to be 40% at fault, then you lose 40% of your damages.
If the court rules that both parties were equally at fault (50/50), both will be able to claim against each other for 50% of the damages. When this happens, the party that ends up owing more restitution is the one with the less severe damage, which is typically the four-wheel driver in most cases.
If the Injured Party Wasn’t Wearing a Helmet
Some states don’t require motorcycle riders over the age of 18 to wear a helmet. In case of an accident, however, compensation for the injured party could be reduced. This is because a court may find that an injury such as a head wound or could have been avoided or reduced if the person had worn a helmet.
According to the NHTSA, helmets are estimated to be 37% effective in preventing fatal injuries among motorcycle riders, and 41% effective for motorcycle passengers.
To check helmet use laws for your state, click here.
Claiming Uninsured Motorist Coverage
- In most cases, the police investigation will determine if the at-fault driver has insurance or not. Depending on your state, you may either claim damages from your policy, or from the negligent driver.
- In case of a hit and run accident, identify the other vehicle first and take down the information as fast as possible. Take note of the license tag, vehicle type, make, model and color. Include other identifying marks, such as the damage sustained, or aftermarket accessories and modifications that may help track it down.
- Document the accident scene. Start with your injuries, bike damage, then the location, date and time of the incident.
- Gather witnesses and take down their contact information.
- Keep records of all your expenses, from hospital bills and prescriptions to towing, repair and other costs.
- File a claim with your insurance company as soon as possible. Some insurance providers have a time limit for filing uninsured claims.
- Consult with a motorcycle accident lawyer for other claims and damages that may be applicable to you.
If you do not agree with the decision or compensation claim offered by the insurance provider, the case will end up in binding arbitration. This is where the services of a dedicated motorcycle accident attorney will be helpful, as they can examine your case in greater detail and ensure you get just compensation from your insurance policy.
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