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Uninsured and Underinsured Motorists and Bicyclists

As increasing numbers of people turn to bicycling as a transportation alternative, the number of bicyclists who are injured in accidents with motor vehicles is on the rise too. With those accidents can come serious injuries.
Many bicyclists don’t realize that their auto insurance will probably extend to covering them if they’re hit by a careless and negligent motorist who is uninsured or underinsured. Uninsured motorist insurance (UM) and underinsured motorist insurance (UIM) are combined with each other. The coverage that they provide must be offered to you, but in San Francisco and everywhere in California, getting the coverage is optional. You pay for UM and UIM coverage as a separate premium from your liability coverage. If you have UM and UIM insurance, it will probably cover you as a bicyclist in the event that you’re in an accident that’s caused by an uninsured or underinsured driver, or a hit and run driver.

Minimum Liability Insurance Isn’t Enough

Take a look around you next time that you’re on the freeway. About 15 percent of the drivers around you are uninsured, and at least another 15 percent of them are underinsured. California only requires drivers to carry $15,000 of liability insurance for an accident involving one person and $30,000 total for an accident involving two or more people. In the event of even a leg fracture that was caused by an uninsured or underinsured driver — let alone a serious brain injury —  $15,000 is wholly insufficient to cover medical bills, especially if surgery will be required. Plus, medical bills are far from the only economic cost of a bicycle crash —  there are the other damages that you’ll suffer that include lost time from work, pain and suffering and permanent impairment.

How UM and UIM Work

If you’re injured as a result of the negligence of an uninsured or underinsured driver and you have UM and UIM coverage, your own auto insurance company is required to “step into the shoes” of the driver who caused the accident and compensate you for your damages up to the amount of your coverage. Here’s an example. Let’s say that a driver with $15,000 of liability insurance causes you $75,000 of bodily injury damages, and you have $100,000 of UM and UIM coverage. Your own insurer should cover the balance of your damages beyond that $15,000.

Who is Covered With UM and UIM?

With most auto insurers, you’re not going to be the only person covered by UM and UIM. Coverage generally extends to any resident of your household who is a blood relative. You’re all probably covered as pedestrians and bicyclists too, even if the accident was caused by a hit-and-run driver.

How Much is Enough?

Keep in mind that uninsured motorists and those with minimum liability coverage are generally high risk drivers. How much UM and UIM coverage should you have? Get as much as you can afford. You might need it someday. Uninsured and underinsured motorists almost always have a bad driving history that makes sufficient coverage unaffordable for them. So how much UM and UIM coverage is enough for you? Get as much as you can afford. You might need it someday.

The provisions of your UM and UIM coverage operate as a contract, and that contract probably provides that you’ve agreed to arbitrate your bodily injury damages claim. If the parties can’t come to an agreement on an arbitrator to hear the claim, they can petition a court to appoint one. The cost of the arbitrator is ordinarily split between the parties, but resolution of a UM or UIM claim is almost always faster than a lawsuit in court. The arbitrator’s decision is usually mailed to the attorneys for the parties within a few days.

Expect a Battle

Keep the fact in mind that insurance companies would rather deposit premium checks than pay out on claims. UM and UIM claims get complicated quickly, and insurance companies will try to protect your money when it’s in their bank account. Remember that your insurance company is “stepping into the shoes” of the uninsured or underinsured driver. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been a loyal customer of your insurance company for the last 15 years. You’ll quickly learn that you’re not with a good neighbor or in very good hands.

Contact Bay Area Bicycle Law

One way or another, you’re likely to prejudice your UM or UIM claim if you try to represent yourself. Contact us right away after any accident involving an uninsured or underinsured motorist, and we’ll arrange for a free consultation and case review. If we enter into a retainer agreement, no legal fees are even due unless we obtain a settlement or verdict for you. Bicyclists have the same rights on the road as motorists.
If you’ve suffered any type injury as a result of a bicycle crash in or around San Francisco, Oakland, Davis, Sacramento or anywhere in Northern California that was caused by the carelessness and negligence of somebody else, don’t hesitate to contact our offices by phone or email to arrange for a free consultation and case evaluation.