As most people know, motorcycle insurance covers you and/or the cost of your motorcycle in the event of an accident or theft. Many people do NOT know, however, that motorcycle insurance is required by law — EVEN IF YOU HAVE INSURANCE FOR YOUR CAR!
My Auto Insurance Doesn’t Cover My Motorcycle? D’OH!
If you take nothing else away from this article, remember this: YOU NEED TO PURCHASE MOTORCYCLE INSURANCE!
Unless you specifically add your motorcycle to your existing policy, YOUR AUTO INSURANCE DOES NOT COVER YOUR MOTORCYCLE!! All too often, clients call us after an accident and are surprised to learn that their motortcycle is NOT covered by their auto insurance. As discussed below, this can have devastating consequences on any injury claims you may have.
There is a wide array of insurance coverage options available for you and your motorcycle. Insurance agents often fail to explain these options very well. Before purchasing motorcycle insurance, you need to understand exactly what you’re paying for, and exactly what you’re getting for your money!
I’m A Weekend Rider – Why Do I Need Motorcycle Insurance?
We get this questsion a lot. First of all, IT’S THE LAW. Just as with cars, motorcycles must have the CA State minimum insurance. Unless you specifically add your motorcycle to your existing auto insurance policy, your auto insurance DOES NOT APPLY to your motorcycle. If you get caught riding your motorcycle without insurance, you can get a hefty ticket.
Perhaps the most dire consequence of not having motorfcycle insurance, however, happens in cases of serious accidents. Under California law (Prop 213), if a driver of a vehicle (including a motorcycle) does not have insurance, they FORFEIT THE MAJORITY OF THEIR INJURY CLAIMS. Specifically, they cannot recover for any pain, suffering and inconvenience. Say, for example, a motoryclist is paralyzed from the waist down from an accident caused by a big rig truck. Nearly all of that motorcylists’ claim for this devastating injury (permanent paralysis, never being able to walk again, complete life change) would be FORFEITED if the motorcyclist didn’t have insurance!! Unfortunately, we’ve seen instances like this first hand. It makes an already tragic accident even more devastating to the rider and his/her family. So, we’ll say it again . . . PLEASE . . . make sure you get motorcycle insurance. It’s relatively inexpensive, but could end up costing you millions of dollars if you don’t get it.
Ok . . . now that you’ve decided that it’s a good idea to purchase motorcycle insurance, what does all of that insurance jargon mean? What on earth is 15/30 or 50/100? Read on, fellow rider . . . all will be explained.
Liability insurance covers you in the event that you are at fault in an accident, i.e., it helps pay for any damage you cause to persons or property in an accident. Liability insurance covers both “Property Damage” as well as “Bodily injury.” Most states require vehicle owners to carry some small amount of liability insurance.
Property damage pays for damage that you cause to the property of another person if you are at fault in an accident. This can include the cost to repair or replace their vehicle, as well as other personal property that may be damaged in an accident.
Bodily injury coverage pays for damage that you cause to another person if you are at fault in an accident. This can include hospital bills as well as pain and suffering. These costs can be extremely high, and if you are at fault in an accident, you may be financially responsible to pay for all medical expenses (and pain and suffering) that exceed the amount of your coverage. In other words, if you have only $15,000 in coverage, and you cause a person $250,000 in medical expenses and pain and suffering, the insurance company is only responsible for the first $15,000. This could leave you owing $235,000! Make sure you have as much coverage as you can reasonably afford. “State minimum” coverage – that is, the amount of coverage required by state law – is typically very low (usually $15k). This may not offer sufficient coverage in the event of a major accident where you are deemed to be at fault.
The amount of your bodily injury liability coverage is usually stated in terms like “15/30” or “100/300.” The first number represents the amount of coverage per one person who sues you. For example, in a “15/30” policy, that means that your insurance would only pay out $15,000 to any single person. A “50/100” policy will cover you up to $50,000 to any single person who sues you.
The second number is the total they will pay out, no matter how many people you injured. So in a “15/30” policy, that means your insurance company will only pay out a total of $30,000, even if you injured multiple people. In other words, if you hit an SUV carrying six passenger and all of them were severely injured, the insurance company would only pay $5,000 to each person ($5,000 per person, times 6 injured passengers = $30,000.) Of course, it is unusual for a motorcyclist to injure half a dozen people in an accident. That is why liability insurance is relatively inexpensive for motorcycles vs. cars.
Collision and Comprehensive
Collision coverage pays to repair your motorcycle in the event of an accident, regardless of who is at fault. If another driver is at fault and you have collision coverage, usually your insurance company will pay for the damage, then go after the other driver’s insurance to cover the cost. You may be responsible for part of the expense of the repair, however. This is called your “deductible.” For example, if you have a deductible of $500, the insurance company will pay for any damage over $500. So if the cost of repair of your bike is $3,000, the insurance company will only pay $2,500. You will be responsible for the other $500 (the amount of your deductible).
Comprehensive coverage also pays for damage to your bike that is not the result of an accident. That includes theft, vandalism, or natural disasters. If you have a valuable bike, it is a good idea to carry comprehensive insurance. (And if you have financed your motorcycle, most if not all finance companies require that you carry comprehensive insurance. They want you to protect their collateral!)
A final note about comprehensive insurance. It only covers the value of your bike, not necessarily what you owe the bank. If your bike is worth $10,000, but you owe $15,000, your insurance will only cover the $10,000 (minus your deductible, of course). To protect against this, you can get “Gap insurance.” This is commonly offered when you purchase or finance a bike. Gap insurance covers the difference between what you owe to the bank or finance company on your bike, and what your insurance company pays out as the “value” or your bike.
This is vitally important! The vast majority of motorcycle accidents involving automobiles are the car-driver’s fault. To make things worse, many car drivers out there are uninsured, and many more do not carry sufficient insurance to cover you in the event of a major accident. Uninsured/Underinsured coverage (aka “Un and Under”) covers you in the event that an at-fault driver hits you and they can’t pay for the resulting damage. This can cover your motorcycle (property damage) and any bodily injury you may sustain (medical expenses as well as pain and suffering).
You should carry as much Uninsured coverage as you can reasonably afford. It worth noting that “maximum coverage” often does not cost too much more than “minimal coverage!” Make sure to look at all of the coverage and pricing options and get as much as you can afford. More on this below.
What Does “Full Coverage” Mean?
The phrase “full coverage” is often used. What does it mean, exactly? The answer, unfortunately, is not a whole lot. “Full coverage” means different things to different people. An insurance agent will tell you it means one thing, a bank will tell you another, and an attorney will tell you yet another. So what should it mean to you? The answer is: NOTHING.
You should be informed as to exactly what kinds of coverage you have, including the maximum dollar amounts of coverage and the deductible. Avoid the lazy short-cut phrase of “I want full coverage” when you are getting or reviewing your coverage with your insurance agent. Go through each and every one of the coverages available. Thousands of motorcyclists who have been injured in accidents who THINK they have “full coverage” are heartbroken to learn that they may be out-of-pocket for thousands of dollars for an accident where someone else was at fault!
How Much Insurance Should I Get?
How much insurance should you get? As much as you can reasonably afford! Insurance protects you from lawsuits if you happen to cause an accident, and (more likely) it covers you in case that idiot in the car who hit you doesn’t have any insurance himself. You might have a great case against the driver of a car who cut you off, but if that person doesn’t have any insurance or assets, you are SOL if you don’t have uninsured/underinsured coverage. Some people view anything more than the minimum required insurance as a waste of money because an accident won’t happen to them. Don’t be that person! As motorcycle lawyers, we see first hand how many accidents happen on a daily basis – most of which are not the riders’ fault. Unfortunately, there are thousands of morons driving on the roads who don’t pay attention to us motorcyclists. You can be doing everything right and still be the victim of an accident. Don’t nickel and dime on insurance! Many times, only a few dollars more a month can give you thousands of dollars in additional coverage.
Paying a little extra for additional insurance coverage is the best the money you can spend. If you never end up making an insurance claim in your life and all those insurance premiums were *wasted*, consider yourself extremely fortunate! At RiderzLaw, we preach this mantra until we’re blue in the face: “It’s much better to have insurance and not need it, than to need it and not have it!”
Have more questions about insurance? Give us a call or send us an email.
Click the following link for tips on how to make an insurance claim after an accident.
If you or a loved one have been involved in a motorcycle accident and need legal assistance, the motorcycle accident lawyers at Riderz Law are here for you. We handle motorcycle accident cases throughout California, including Los Angeles, Orange County, San Bernardino, Riverside, San Diego, the San Francisco Bay Area, and everywhere in between. Send us an email or call our toll-free hotline – our operators are standing by 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.