• Josh Cohen

HOW DOES YOUR CAR INSURANCE PROTECT YOU ON YOUR BIKE?

Updated: Apr 23

Getting injured in a crash can impose a huge financial burden on the victim’s family. A personal injury claim includes medical care, lost wages, long term care that is not medical, and other expenses. And that doesn’t include pain and suffering and spousal claims. That’s why injured people need a lawyer to help make them whole.


I am a personal injury attorney who specializes in injured vulnerable road users. Almost every day I get calls from prospective clients who have been injured in some type of car crash. Some of those callers were in cars. Some pedestrians. Some bicyclists.

Many were so hurt that an ambulance took them to a hospital. They did not have the opportunity to obtain the driver’s information. Sometimes the police take a report. Sometimes not. In hit and run cases, there is no information at all about the driver. Those victims are left to their own devices.

My job is to get my clients money. That comes from the driver that hurts them. Most folks don’t have $100,000 in cash sitting around. Instead, the money I get for my clients comes from insurance. If there is no insurance, it’s nearly impossible to get money for my clients. That’s why the State requires a minimum of $15,000 liability insurance on every vehicle. The more coverage is available, the better the

odds for a fair settlement.

But what happens when the driver who hit my client has no insurance? Or when my client is so badly hurt that the driver’s insurance isn’t enough? Or when my client is the victim of a hit and run? (LA County averages 20,000 hit and runs per year). Or when my client is hit by a stolen car?

It happens. A few years ago, I got an unusual call from a prospective client. He had been walking his dog at midnight on July 4th in Hollywood when a stolen Tesla traveling at 120 mph hit a light pole near him and broke in half. The front half of the car flew into a car stopped at a stoplight. Both exploded. The back half of the car hit my client, who was walking his dog on the sidewalk, then lodged in a nearby

doorway.


The insurance of a stolen car won’t cover the injuries of a person hurt in a crash that occurs during the theft. Yet I was able to get the client a recovery for his injury.


How?


He had uninsured motorist coverage (UM), which is also underinsured motorist coverage (UIM). UM/UIM covers you if you the driver of the car that injures you is at fault and:

  • Has no insurance; or

  • Has too little insurance; or

  • They hit and run; or

  • They are driving a stolen car.

UM/UIM covers you if you are hurt while you are in a car, on a bicycle, or on foot. If you are hurt by a negligent driver, UM/UIM is in play. If you have UM/UIM, even if no information about the driver or their insurance is available, a lawyer can help you.


But I have health insurance.

Why do I need car insurance too?

Medical insurance doesn’t always cover all your bills. Most health insurance policies have annual deductibles and co-pays. UM/UIM covers those. Health insurance also doesn’t cover your lost wages, long-term care, out of pocket expenses and pain and suffering. If you have an injury that prevents you from working and requires money to make the accommodations necessary to meet your changed needs, UM/UIM pays those costs – in the past and in the future. Over the course of your lifetime, those costs can be quite high.


The combined financial burden of an injured person’s inability to work with the necessity that their family takes care of them can bankrupt a family. A person can be so badly injured that someone else must care for them, cook for them, clean for them, groom them, etc. These are not medical costs. These duties may fall on family members, who may have to quit their jobs. UM/UIM pays all those costs. It’s indispensable.


How much UM/UIM should I get?

I advise clients to increase their UM/UIM coverage to at least $500,000. It sounds like a lot, but it’s just what’s reasonable. If you can get more, do it. Get as much as you can.


How do I figure out how much UM/UIM I have?

Most folks who call me don’t know whether they have UM/UIM or not. They tell me they have “Full coverage.” But there is no such thing. The State minimum for liability insurance is $15,000. That does not cover much. The rest is optional.


Find the packet your car insurance mails you every few months. Look at the Declarations Page. It’s usually the page after the one with the cards that you keep in your glove box. Look at all the coverages you have. The one you’re looking for is Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage bodily injury. Don’t see it? Then you don’t have it.


I can’t afford it!

It’s not expensive to increase your coverage. An employee of mine had $25,000 in UM/UIM when he started with me. It only cost him an extra $15 per month to increase his coverage to $500,000. That offers a huge return on investment if ever necessary.


Will my insurance raise my rates if I make a UM/UIM claim?

They shouldn’t. Invoking UM/UIM doesn’t trigger the point system that causes your insurance company to raise your premiums because it is not a chargeable incident. It would arguably be insurance bad faith for your insurance company to raise your rates because you made a UM/UIM claim. UM/UIM only applies if the other driver is at fault. Raising your rates for making a UM/UIM claim could expose your insurer to significant legal jeopardy.


What if I don’t own a car?

You can get a non-operator’s policy. It covers you whether you own a car or not.


There are caveats. You can’t combine the other driver’s policy with yours. Your UM/UIM gets an offset from the other driver’s policy. So the amount of your UM/UIM coverage must exceed that of the at-fault driver’s policy. It can only be invoked if the other driver’s policy is exhausted, or if the driver has no coverage at all. If you only have $15,000 in UM/UIM, and the at-fault driver has $15,000, which is the minimum required by the State of California, the other driver’s policy cancels yours out. There is no additional coverage.


Your UM/UIM can’t exceed your liability coverage. If you only have $15,000 in liability bodily injury you can’t get $500,000 in UM/UIM bodily injury coverage. You’ll have to increase your liability coverage as well.


You can’t eliminate all risk from your life. You have to live your best life. I’ve gotten more calls from pedestrians than bicyclists who were victims of hit and runs. I’ve represented plenty of drivers. Every Angeleno who can walk at some point does. Most drive. And many bike.

But you can insure yourself against some unforeseen, unfortunate event. It’s as simple as retrieving your insurance packet or logging into your insurance website and looking at your policy. It only takes a few minutes. Do it now. And increase your coverage. It doesn’t just protect you – it protects your family. It’s easy, doable, and totally worth it.


If you have additional questions, call me or another personal injury attorney for a free consultation. I’m happy to walk you through the process.



Learn more about my services, as well as how to contact me, at losangelesbicycleattorney.com

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