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Ask Our Lawyer - September 2002

Playing Russian Roulette

Do you like to play Russian Roulette? How about for $100 bucks a year? Doesn’t seem worth it, does it? But that’s what you’re doing if you don’t buy uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage for your motor vehicle insurance policy.

Studies by the Insurance Research Council indicate that more than 10 to 14 percent of drivers do not carry any sort of coverage. Let’s say you go down to Daytona for Bike Week and cruise through Florida. Even if they have some coverage, in most accidents with a motorcycle, the coverage is inadequate. Remember the blue-hair you saw driving that 1979 Buick Electra? She hasn’t had insurance since 1980, and she’s going to run into you. What can you do to get the bike fixed, not to mention paying your medical bills? How about mortgage or rent payments and living expenses?

The answer is uninsured/underinsured motorist coverages. Without it, you may be out of luck. Most people who don’t have insurance do so because they don’t think they can afford it or don’t want to pay for it. The odds of them having sufficient resources to pay off a personal injury claim are slim and none. Without coverage of your own, there’s no compensation. You might be able to get a 1979 Buick Electra, but that doesn’t pay the bills.

If you don’t have uninsured motorist/underinsured motorist coverages (UM/UIM coverage), you are underinsured. If you carry the legal minimum coverage, you are in compliance with the law. Unfortunately, that coverage only protects the other guy, not you. And when was the last time you heard of a motorcyclist that caused personal injury to the driver of 4-wheeler? Where you made the mistake was in declining the uninsured motorist/underinsured motorist coverages (UM/UIM coverage.) Why? Well, my guess is that you wanted to save a few bucks, and figured that since the law required everyone to have coverage, you didn’t need to pay for additional coverages.

Unfortunately , not everybody complies with the financial responsibility laws. Some people simply never get insurance and give a bogus policy number when the register their cars. Others may have coverage, but they cancel it after getting the car registered. That means you are left holding the bag when you gets injured in an accident with one of the scofflaws.

You ask, but how would that get my bike fixed? Simple. Remember that even if you have medical insurance that will cover your medical bills, you would still be entitled to compensation for your lost wages, impairment and pain and suffering. That’s YOUR money, to spend or pay bills as you please. If you want to fix your bike, you can.

Don’t forget that when you get your insurance that you may be asked if you want to have your UM/UIM coverage at the same limits as your own personal injury coverage. For example, you can have liability coverage of $50,000/$100,000 (that $50,000 per person and $100,000 total per accident) and have UM/UIM coverage in the same amount, or elect to have only $25,000/$50,000 UM/UIM coverage. The cost difference is very small, and the added coverage you would have is immense. The best advise is to have the highest limits (both liability and UM/UIM) that you can afford. The reason for this two-fold. One, higher limits protect your assets (your house, car, boat, vacation cabin, bike, etc.) if you get sued after an accident. Two, higher UM/UIM protects you if you get injured in accident, even if the other guy carries basic coverage. Let’s say you get injured in an accident that is the other guy’s fault. You have damages from the accident (medical bills, bike repairs, and pain and suffering) of $200,000.00. The other guys has basic coverage, $25,000/$50,000. His insurance coverage pays you the $25,000.00, leaving you with $175,000.00 of uncompensated damages. You can make a claim for the additional damages from your carrier under your UM/UIM coverage. However, you can only make a claim for coverage to the extent that your UM/UIM coverage exceeds the other guys basic coverage. For example, if you have $25,000/$50,000 UM/UIM coverage, then you can’t make a claim because your coverage doesn’t exceed his coverage. If you have $50,000/$100,000, you can claim $25,000 of coverage from your UM/UIM coverage. The higher your coverage is, the better your protection is.

Other writers in this magazine and others devoted to the rider’s lifestyle have encouraged the reader to carry UM/UIM coverage. Let me add my voice. There is no excuse for ANYONE to decline UM/UIM coverage. It can be your resource of last resort. Don’t be caught on the wrong side of being injured - protect yourself and your bike, and carry UM/UIM coverage. You can’t afford to play Russian Roulette - not for one hundred dollars.

If you have any questions you would like to ask the lawyer, please submit them to: ASK OUR LAWYER, P.O. Box 2850, Indianapolis, Indiana 46206-2850, or email to brianshadiow@abatelegal.com.