According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Commission, more than 50,000 bicyclists are injured in motor vehicle traffic crashes in the United States each year. The resulting injuries produced from the force of a several ton vehicle colliding with a bicyclist are often devastating. Fractures are almost a certainty, head injuries are very common and a multitude of internal and soft tissue injuries are also the norm.
There are a number of measures that bicyclists can take to protect themselves such as always wearing a properly fitted helmet, following the rules of the road, obeying all traffic signs, signals and markings, riding in the same direction as traffic, and wearing high visibility clothing. However, often overlooked are the necessary protections afforded to you by your automobile insurance policy. Yes, you read correctly – your automobile policy.
Even though your car may be parked at home while you are out on your bike, your automobile policy is riding along with you. The portion of the policy at work is the vastly misunderstood provision of your policy labeled “UM/SUM”, which stands for uninsured motorist/supplemental underinsured motorist protection.
In New York, drivers are only required to carry $25,000 of liability insurance. That means in the event that the driver of an automobile causes an accident and seriously injures you on your bicycle, the most you can recover is that $25,000 policy (together with any no-fault benefits paid by the insurance company). In today’s high cost world, $25,000 is woefully inadequate for a seriously injured victim. This is where your UM/SUM policy comes in.
Your UM/SUM policy protects you from uninsured and underinsured drivers. So in the above example, if your UM/SUM coverage is higher than the $25,000 policy of the at-fault driver, your own insurance company may pay for your damages above $25,000 up to the limits of your UM/SUM policy.
Typically you can purchase UM/SUM coverage equal to the amount of your liability coverage (the amount your insurance company would pay if you were responsible for an accident causing someone else injury). The absolute minimum policy in nearly every circumstance should be at least $100,000 for both liability and UM/SUM. For clients with higher net worth, good paying jobs, and family members to protect, higher coverage amounts should be seriously considered.
One of the most difficult aspects of a personal injury practice is informing a seriously injured client that they do not have sufficient insurance coverage. The financial crisis that follows an underinsured victim is often more devastating than the injury itself. A quick review of your insurance policies and making adjustments before an accident occurs could prevent you from being victimized twice.
Insurance coverage can be confusing and very dependent on your individual circumstances. Because we would rather help you select the appropriate coverage before an accident, than inform you of insufficient coverage after an accident, we welcome your calls to discuss your coverage at no cost to you.
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.