Cyclists, Insurance And The Law

It is essential that cyclists understand insurance coverage to protect themselves in the event of an injury or accident. With an increase in traffic on the roads and trails, the numbers of cycling injuries is on the rise. With knowledge about insurance and the proper coverage, you can protect yourself and family from potentially catastrophic loss.

It is important to know that your automobile insurance will extend coverage to you in the event that you are hit while riding your bike.  For this reason, it is extremely important to understand your automobile insurance policy and include sufficient coverage on your own automobile policy to cover potential losses that may occur while riding your bicycle.

UNINSURED AND UNDERINSURED MOTORIST COVERAGE

One of the most important insurance to carry is called Uninsured Motorist (UM) and Underinsured Motorist Coverage (UIM).  UM and UIM are typically combined and billed as a single premium.   UM and UIM coverage protects you against drivers who do not carry liability insurance or who do not carry enough liability insurance to cover your loss.  In Colorado, the law only requires a driver to carry a minimum of $25,000 of insurance. (C.R.S. 10-4-620.)

In the case of a mild or moderate injury, $25,000 may be insufficient to cover the medical bills associated with a bicycle injury, much less lost time from work, impairment, loss of use, or the life impacts of the injury itself.  To protect yourself and your family, it is important to carry UM and UIM coverage to make up the difference between the amounts carried by the at-fault driver and the amount of the loss you suffer.

If you are injured by a driver with no insurance or an inadequate amount of insurance, the your UM/UIM carrier is required “to step into the shoes” of the at-fault driver and pay the amount of your damages up to the amount of your UM/UIM policy amount.

For example, if an at fault driver has a policy of $25,000, but causes damages in excess of $100,000, your UM/UIM carrier “steps into the shoes” of the at-fault driver and is required to pay for your damages.  This raises the questions as to how much UM/UIM coverage should a cyclist carry.  While a definitive number is difficult to determine and should be discussed with your agent and/or lawyer, the answer to this question depends upon personal factors, such as how much can you afford and how much you have to lose if something terrible happened.  I usually recommend people obtain enough coverage to sustain themselves in the event they are unable to work.

It is important to keep in mind that uninsured and underinsured drivers are high-risk drivers.  Typically, they engage in riskier behaviors which prevent them from obtaining insurance, i.e., alcohol related offenses or excessive tickets which make purchasing insurance prohibitively expensive.   Uninsured drivers by nature have less regard for the law as evidenced by the fact that they are willing to drive without insurance in violation of the law.   Additionally, drivers that carry the minimum amount of insurance may do so because they have very few assets to lose if they cause a loss.  In short, it is extremely important to carry a sufficient amount of insurance to protect yourself against the most dangerous type of driver on the road – the uninsured and underinsured driver.

Insurance companies do not want to insure uninsured motorists, but the law requires that they do so.  (C.R.S. 10-4-609)   However, an insurance company is only required to sell UM/UIM coverage up to the amount of the liability coverage you purchase.  For example, if you purchase $100,000 liability coverage, you can only purchase $100,000 in UM/UIM coverage.  While UM/UIM coverage is not particularly expensive, it is more expensive to increase your liability coverage.

Please note that UM/UIM property damage coverage is a separate coverage.  Please consider that while the value of your bike may be expensive, it is nothing compared to the value of your health or your ability to work.  Thus, spend your insurance dollars to cover yourself rather than your expensive carbon bike.  UM/UIM coverage must be offered to you by your insurance agent and can only be waived in writing.  Declining UM/UIM coverage is not recommended.

If you are worried about catastrophic loss, it is recommended that you obtain an umbrella policy of insurance.  An umbrella policy provides additional coverage above and beyond UM/UIM coverage and is recommended for those individuals who have a lot to lose in the event of a catastrophic loss.  Please discuss umbrella coverage with your agent or lawyer.  Umbrella policies often provide coverage of $1,000,000 or more.  While this amount of coverage may seem large, your health and ability to function is probably worth far more.

MEDICAL PAYMENTS COVERAGE

Medical payment coverage pays for medical bills related to a motor vehicle accident, including bicycle and pedestrian accidents.  Medical payments coverage can usually be purchased in increments from $2,500 to $25,000.  The advantage of medical payment coverage is that it has no co-pays, no deductibles and no network or provider limitations.  If you have accident related injuries, the bills are paid up to the amount of purchased coverage.  Depending on the circumstances, some insurance companies have balked at providing medical payments coverage for bicycle accident cases.  However, in most instances where a motor vehicle is involved in the collision, medical payments coverage is available to cover the cyclists accident related medical bills. Medical payments coverage may be supplemental to health insurance, however, under C.R.S. 10-4-635 medical payments coverage is not subject to subrogation.  Subrogation is the right of an insurance company to recover for the medical bills they have paid out as a result of someone else’s negligence.  In other words, if you are injured and receive compensation from an at-fault driver, your health insurance will seek to recover from your recovery the amount of benefits they paid.  On the other hand, if medical payments coverage is utilized, there is no right of subrogation and you are entitled to receive the full value of the damages you incurred.

LIABILITY COVERAGE

Please understand that your automobile liability coverage will not extend liability coverage to your bicycle.  If you are at fault for causing an accident, your standard automobile policy does not provide you with liability coverage while riding your bike.  Further, your own automobile policy will not provide property damage coverage for your bicycle.  Often times, your homeowner’s policy may provide property or theft coverage for your bicycle depending upon the circumstances.

CONCLUSION

Insurance law is complicated and the application of such laws to cyclists is confusing.  Cyclists need to understand that with proper planning they can provide coverage for themselves and their families while they participate in a sport they love, but a sport which contains measurable risks.  The sad fact is that cyclists get hurt when they collide with motor vehicles.  While safe riding can help prevent accidents, motor vehicles cause serious injuries.  Our law firm is committed to representing cyclists and helping them understand their rights and obligations under the law.

Stuart D. Mann, Esq.
900 Arapahoe Avenue
Boulder, Colorado  80302
sdm@manmaxlaw.com

t 303.991.2233
f 303.991.1895

 

Mann & Maximon, LLC
Trusted Counsel. Optimum Results.