As the Rochester weather finally turns seasonable – we are all anxious to get outside to pursue our favorite form of exercise – be it walking, running or cycling.  We dust off our sneakers, and tune up our bikes, but many often overlook perhaps their most important piece of protection – their automobile policy!  Believe it or not, your auto policy rides along with you even though your car is home parked in the driveway.

In its most recent statistics the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that approximately 70,000 pedestrians in the US are injured every year in traffic crashes, and another 4,300 are killed.  That’s one person every eight minutes injured and one person every two hours that is killed.  In addition, some 48,000 cyclists were injured and 700 killed in traffic crashes.  Obviously the injuries sustained by a pedestrian or cyclist being hit by a car are often devastating. 

When a pedestrian or cyclist is struck by an automobile, it is the driver’s automobile (no-fault) policy that provides primary coverage for medical bills, lost wages and other incidental expenses.  In New York, drivers are required to carry $50,000 worth of no-fault coverage.  Additional limits are available, but not often purchased. 

In addition to no-fault insurance claims, the injured pedestrian or cyclist may bring a liability claim if the automobile driver was at fault for the accident.  A liability claim can compensate an injury victim for economic losses such as the loss of ability to work, and also for non-economic damages such as pain and suffering, which can include damages for the injury itself, and for enduring medical care and treatment, and in many cases for enduring long-term or permanent injuries and disabilities.  Sadly , drivers in New York are only required to carry a minimum of $25,000 of liability coverage.  That’s right – a driver may be 100% at fault for causing your accident resulting severe, debilitating and life-long injuries and the most their insurance company may have to pay you is $25,000 plus the first $50,000 of your medical bills and lost wages!

You must protect yourself and your family from this catastrophic outcome!  So, before you head out the door for that next walk, run or ride, pull out your insurance policy and review it.  If the unthinkable happens, and you are struck by an uninsured or underinsured automobile, once you exhaust the coverage under the at-fault driver’s policy, you can look to your own policy, even though your car was not in operation at the time of your injury.

If you don’t have the following coverages, we strongly encourage you to pick up the phone and call your agent to discuss adding them.  While insurance coverage is personal and insurance solutions can vary by a variety of factors, including your ability to pay the premiums, the following is our list of recommended minimums.

  • Personal Injury Protection (PIP).  This is your standard no-fault insurance and is mandated by New York State to be at $50,000.
  • Additional Personal Injury Protection (APIP).  It you don't have it, buy the additional $50,000 in coverage.
  • Optional Basic Economic Loss (OBEL).  If you don't have it, buy the additional $25,000 in coverage.  This provides more funds available for medical bills and lost wages.

Both the APIP and OBEL are inexpensive and will increase your coverage from standard no-fault coverage by an additional $75,000.

  • Bodily Injury (BI).  This is your liability insurance.  This is the amount your insurance company will pay someone else if you cause an accident with your automobile.  Recall that New York State only requires $25,000.  We view this as wholly inadequate.  At a minimum, you should have $100,000 per person and $300,000 per accident.  Seriously consider raising this to $300,000 or higher if you can afford it and you have personal assets (such as a home or investments) to protect from a judgment creditor.
  • Supplemental Uninsured/Underinsured Motorists (SUM).  This is the coverage that protects you if you are struck by a driver carrying the NY minimum $25,000 liability policy.  It is imperative that this coverage is raised above the $25,000 minimum.  However, you cannot raise this limit any higher than your own BI liability coverage.  If you have raised your liability coverage to $100,000, raise your SUM to match it.  If you can afford to raise your liability coverage to $300k or higher, raise your SUM to match it.  For more information about SUM coverage, see our previous article: Auto Insurance Protection: The SUM of all fears!

We have represented numerous seriously injured pedestrian and cyclist clients.  Regrettably, in some cases, their recovery was limited by the inadequacy of their own insurance coverages.  Don’t become a victim twice!  Tune up your automobile insurance policy before you head out so you can walk, run or bike in confidence knowing that if the unthinkable occurs, at least you and your loved ones are protected.

For more information about SUM coverage or our firm’s representation of those seriously injured by the negligence of others, please contact one of our personal injury litigation attorneys, Kevin Cooman, Peter Weishaar or Peter Gregory.

This publication is intended as an information source for clients, prospective clients, and colleagues and constitutes attorney advertising. The content should not be considered legal advice and readers should not act upon information in this publication without individualized professional counsel.