What Happens When You Get Hit By an Uninsured Driver
In many bicycle crash cases, your injuries and damages can and should be covered by the at-fault driver’s insurance company.
But what happens if the person who hits you doesn’t have insurance? Are you totally out of luck?
According to a bicycle lawyer, not necessarily.
If you have an automobile insurance policy, the odds are good that you have a certain kind of coverage than can help you — even if the crash happened on your bike and not in your car — in the event that you get hit by an uninsured or underinsured driver.
How do you know if you have the right coverage?
In the state of California, there is a law that requires the insurance company to offer you uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage as part of your auto insurance. That means, if you have an auto insurance policy, the odds are good that you already have this coverage.
It is technically possible to waive this coverage, but if you don’t remember doing that, then you are probably covered. Your insurance company is required to explain the risks of waiving this coverage in plain language and to have you sign a document waiving your right to this coverage, so unless you did that, you probably have at least minimal coverage for this.
If you have a standard auto insurance policy, you most likely have some form of coverage protecting you in the event you are hit by an uninsured motorist (UM – someone with no insurance coverage) or an underinsured motorist (UIM – someone with inadequate coverage).
You can find out how much coverage you have by taking a quick look at your auto insurance policy online or by calling your insurer.
In general, you’ll have the same amount of UM or UIM coverage as you would have in the event you were the at-fault driver in a crash. The minimum amount of coverage you can get on a standard auto insurance policy is $15,000, but the amounts can be higher depending on your policy.
How UM and UIM coverage can help after a bicycle crash
If you are hit by a car while riding your bike, you could potentially face thousands of dollars in medical bills that you will be expected to cover.
If the driver who hit you has insurance, you (or an attorney working on your behalf) can work with their insurance company to get compensation for the injuries caused by the crash.
If the driver doesn’t have insurance or doesn’t have adequate insurance to cover your injuries and/or damages, your own UM or UIM coverage from your own auto insurance policy can help.
Depending on how much coverage you have, you could get tens of thousands of dollars in compensation for your injuries.
A bicycle lawyer will advise that, as a cyclist, you carry as much UM or UIM coverage on your auto insurance policy as you reasonably can. The risks are simply too high that you could be hit and seriously injured on your bike and left with nothing if one of the 25% of drivers on the road who is uninsured or underinsured hits you with their car.
Increasing the rates of your UM/UIM coverage doesn’t typically increase your premiums significantly, so it is almost always worth maximizing these areas as a cyclist.
(Incidentally, if you have homeowners insurance, this could also help you with property damage costs if you have trouble getting them covered by the driver’s insurance.)
Important details to know if you need to use UM or UIM coverage after your crash
Unfortunately, as with most cases, you will have a fair amount of work ahead of you with the insurance company if you decide to claim UM or UIM coverage after a bicycle crash. Here are a few things you could encounter:
1. You might be told that UM or UIM coverage doesn’t cover bicycle crashes
Since this insurance is part of your auto insurance policy, you might be told that it can’t help with your bicycle crash. However, this is almost always incorrect. If you get any pushback from your insurance company, refer to your policy and bring in a lawyer for assistance if necessary.
2. Your insurance company will become your adversary if you file a claim
Since you’ll be leveraging your own insurance policy for UM or UIM coverage, your insurance company will become your adversary. Insurance companies are for-profit, and even though your insurer is generally “on your side” in most cases, you will need to make a case to them for your coverage. As a result, you should be careful and measured in your communication with them; in general, if can be helpful to have an attorney manage communications with your insurance company on your behalf to ensure you don’t make a mistake that could hurt your ability to get covered.
3. Depending on what state your purchased your auto policy in, you might be required to obtain your insurance company’s consent to a settlement with the driver (or their insurance company) before you take it.
If you are hit by an underinsured motorist, your UIM policy can help you get coverage over and above the amount of the at-fault driver’s policy. However, before you accept a settlement from the driver’s insurance company, you may need to get your insurance company’s consent to receive that settlement if you also plan to pursue UIM coverage from your insurer. If you accept the settlement without their consent, depending on what state law applies, they could choose not to provide you with any UIM coverage above the amount you already received from the driver.
Do You Need A Bicycle Lawyer?
Getting hit by a car driver by an irresponsible and uninsured or underinsured driver shouldn’t mean having to ruin your own finances to pay for your medical care. By pursuing all your options and seeking coverage through your auto insurance policy, you can help make sure you get compensated for the financial challenges of a bicycle crash.