First of all, it may be important to know that I don’t sell insurance, and that I have spent my entire professional life fighting for people who have been harmed by the careless conduct of others, usually against insurance companies. And, because I also ride a motorcycle, and have since I was 13 years old, I am acutely aware of the high risk to bikers, not only in the San Francisco Bay Area, but also throughout all of California.
As a personal injury attorney, I have found a few things to be true. First, most of my motorcycle-riding clients are not at fault for their accidents or injuries. At the same time, motorcyclists typically suffer far worse injuries – and face much bigger losses – than car, bus, or truck drivers. Even so, almost none of my biker clients have enough insurance to cover their accident, leaving them at the mercy of the insurance companies covering the negligent drivers who hit them. Because of all this, it is important that all motorcyclists protect themselves by buying the highest uninsured and underinsured limits they can afford.
Motorcyclists Are Far More Likely to Suffer Serious Injury or Death in an Accident
Let me tell you what your insurance agent probably never has told you and probably never would.
- Uninsured (UM) motorist coverage steps into the shoes of the person who hits the injured motorcyclist, whether the guilty party has no insurance or whether the biker has been hurt in a hit and run collision.
- Underinsured (UIM) motorist coverage steps in if the person who hurts you does not have high enough liability limits to adequately compensate you for your injuries and damages, but only if you have bought higher limits than the offending driver. Liability only policies do not help an injured motorcyclist at all.
Liability coverage protects your assets if you harm someone else, but does nothing to compensate you for your own injuries if you are hit by someone with liability limits that are too low. And in an accident between a motorcycle and a car or a truck or a bus, who is the most likely to be injured and need compensation? The motorcycle rider, of course.
People who sell motorcycle insurance know that the biker is not very likely to cause serious injuries or damages to others if there is a crash, because the bike is just smaller than a car. They also know that the motorcycle rider is far more likely to suffer big injuries and need serious compensation if there is an accident. And insurance agents are more successful if they sell insurance to people who never have a claim. The vast majority of motorcycle riders want to buy the minimum coverage that they need to be legal. In California, the minimum coverage for motorcyclists is a $15,000/30,000 policy liability policy. Oftentimes, though, this minimum won’t come anywhere close to paying off the motorcyclist’s damages if they are hit by an uninsured driver.
Why Motorcyclists Should Have the Highest UM/UIM Limits Coverage They Can Buy
Insurance Research Council (IRC) statistics show that inadequate insurance coverage is a factor in more accidents than we would like to believe: in 2015, over one in eight U.S. drivers were uninsured. The number of uninsured motorists in California is above this national average, 15.2 percent.
It is not unusual for motorcycle accident damages to cost well over what the minimum coverage will pay. To be forced to pay the difference yourself can have financially and emotionally devastating consequences for your family, and it is a cost that you should not have to take on. The high-risk nature of riding a motorcycle means it is critically important for motorcyclists to invest in higher UIM/UM coverage. In California, which consistently ranks poorly for driver safety, this is especially true.
As I stated above, when you present a UM or UIM claim, your own carrier steps into the shoes of the offending driver and actually is now your opposition. With all of the above in mind, it is important to have a skilled, creative, knowledgeable, and aggressive attorney on your side so you can obtain maximum compensation for a UM/UIM accident.
If you or a loved one is a survivor in an accident involving a hit and run or an uninsured or underinsured motorist, please seek legal help as soon as possible. For comments or questions, or for legal services from a proven San Francisco motorcycle accident personal injury lawyer, please feel free to call me at 415-432-7290, or visit www.ccwlawyers.com. All calls and email inquiries are covered by the attorney client privilege and are strictly confidential.
Claude A. Wyle is a partner of Choulos Choulos, and Wyle, a San Francisco based law firm dedicated to representing clients who have been injured by the wrongful conduct of individuals, corporations, public entities, and businesses. Mr. Wyle also frequently sits as a Judge Pro Tem for the city and county of San Francisco.