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Ask Our Lawyer - August 2001

Question: I had an accident on my bike last week. I wasn't hurt too badly, and my medical insurance will cover all the doctor bills. However, the bozo who hit me didn't have any insurance, and I wasn't carrying any coverages other than basic liability coverage. Can I sue him so that I can get my bike fixed?

Answer: Probably not. What we have here is a classic case of insufficient coverage. You were carrying the legal minimum coverage, and you were in compliance with the law. Unfortunately, that coverage only protects the other guy, not you. 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, 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. In either case, 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 pain and suffering. That's YOUR money, to spend or save as you please. If you want to fix your bike, you can.

Of course, those damages are only available if the other person has coverage or you have UM/UIM insurance. If there isn't any coverage, you are probably out of luck. Most people who don't have insurance do so because they don't think they can afford 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.

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.

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.