October 26, 2015 § 66 Comments
This is a topic that I’ve written about before and that I can’t write about enough. It’s dry, it’s a bit legalistic, and it includes the dreaded word “insurance,” but please take a minute to read because it concerns the most important purchase you’ll ever make as a cyclist.
You may think that if you get hurt in a bike-car collision you’ll be able to recover money from the negligent driver as long as the driver is insured.
What you may not know is that in California the minimal insurance coverage for collision liability is $15,000. What you also may not know is that 85% of the drivers on the road have this minimal coverage.
This means the odds are overwhelming that the driver who hits you will have to compensate you for a maximum of $15,000 and THAT’S IT. Once your expenses exceed the $15k that most drivers carry, you’re done, even when you’ve suffered injuries totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars.
There is, however, a very cheap and very effective way for cyclists to protect themselves and their families from cagers who carry minimal insurance. It’s called uninsured motorist and underinsured motorist coverage (UM/UIM), and it comes standard with every auto insurance policy unless you specifically decline the coverage. [Note: NEVER, EVER, EVER, EVER DECLINE THIS COVERAGE. You may think you’re saving a few bucks but in reality you’re declining the best and cheapest insurance you will ever buy as a cyclist.]
Few cyclists know that UM/UIM coverage on their own auto liability policy exists, and even fewer know that it covers them in a bike-car collision when they’re cycling and get hit by a motorist. This means that if, for example, the driver’s policy tops out at $15k, you have the legal right to turn to your own UM/UIM insurance for the remaining expenses or damages above and beyond the $15k paid out by the driver.
So far, so good, but there’s a catch: If you’re like most people, your UM/UIM coverage is also minimal, often only $15k or $25k. Since you have to deduct the amount already paid out by the offending driver from your own UM/UIM claim, if you have minimal UM/UIM coverage the additional recovery is very small or zero. (15k UIM coverage – Offending Driver’s $15k liability coverage = 0 additional recovery.) It’s not uncommon at all to see a cyclist who has a responsible liability policy for $500k, but a measly $15k or $30k for the UM/UIM portion of his policy.
In other words, the cyclist is being very responsible with regard to paying for damage he might do to others, but completely failing to make adequate provision for the damage that some uninsured drunk or underinsured deadbeat may do to him.
There’s a great solution, though. You can increase your UM/UIM coverage so that it equals the amount of your liability coverage for only a small increase in your monthly premium. Although your UM/UIM coverage is barred from exceeding your liability coverage, as an example, if you have $500k of liability insurance but only $25k in UM/UIM, you can bump up your UM/UIM from $25k to $500k for only a few bucks a month. If you only have $25k or $50k of liability insurance to begin with, you have a problem.
If you ride a bike and have liability coverage of anything less than $100k you are grossly underinsured. I’d say that a barely adequate UM/UIM policy should be no less than $500k. If you have a family nothing less than $1M is enough. If you can’t afford $1M in liability/UM/UIM coverage, sell your extra bike or extra set of carbon wheels. It is the best money you will ever spend as long as you ride a bike, and obviously it’s exactly the kind of protection you want if you’re driving. UM/UIM coverage also kicks in if you get hit by a car while you’re walking.
There are certain insurers such as Mercury who will not offer a policy for more than $250k. Run from these insurers and go with an insurance company that will sell you an adequate policy. Chubb, Allstate, AAA, State Farm, Farmers, and Tokio Fire Insurance and Marine are just a few of the insurers who offer adequate policy coverage. I’ve found Tokio Fire Insurance and Marine to have the cheapest rates with the best coverage and the best claims responses.
For the sake of yourself and your family, take a minute to look at the declarations page of your insurance policy, check liability limits and the UM/UIM coverage, and then call your agent or go online and raise it to the max. This is something you can’t afford to put off.
The other huge benefit to turning to your UM/UIM coverage in the event you get hit is that if you’re forced to use it because the driver’s coverage was inadequate, you actually wind up with a larger recovery than you would if you were making a claim against a driver with adequate coverage.
This is because your health insurance provider will have a lien against any recovery you get from the driver’s insurance. In other words, if Anthem pays your doctor $15,000 in medical bills, Anthem will be able to recover what it paid your doctor from the insurance proceeds you get from the offending driver, effectively reducing the amount you ultimately receive by the amount of their lien. However, when the recovery comes from your own UM/UIM motorist policy, the health insurance provider will have no claim on those proceeds except in a very few limited instances.
Call your insurance agent and raise your limits now. I’ve seen too many injured cyclists with six and seven-figure injuries who are hit by uninsured or underinsured motorists and whose own UM/UIM coverage is only for a few thousand bucks. Don’t be that cyclist!
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May 6, 2015 § 53 Comments
I have lots of unkind things to say about cagers. Like it or not, in general they are the enemy, seeking to kill and maim me at every opportunity. They hate me and want me destroyed; even the ones who stick their hand out of the window and wave are probably just drying their nails prior to reaching for the Glock.
And in general I have nothing but good things to say about the noble bicyclist, even when he’s veering, cursing, scofflawing, spitting, and getting off his bike to urinate in plain view of granny and the littl’uns. The worst spitting, public urinating, middle finger waving, ass scratching, profanity spewing wanker on a rusted out beach cruiser with two loaded beer coozies is, in my mind, infinitely preferable to the kindest, sweetest, most thoughtful and considerate cager.
There is this one thing about some bicyclists that gets under my skin, kind of like the heads of a thousand deer ticks. Now I’m probably going to offend someone you know and love, and for that I am really happy. If I don’t offend you, I’m sorry. Send me a private note and I will try again. As Abe Lincoln said, you can piss off some of the people all of the time, but it’s damned hard to piss off all of the people some of the time.
Here’s the deal: You’re sitting at work getting paid more than you’re worth, fiddling on the computer wondering if you can knock off at 3:47 and still look vaguely occupied until 4:30-ish, when you can begin the pre-exit rumblings and fumblings that show you’re bringing a most productive day of Facebag-checking and Google news reviewing to an end. Suddenly, you get a message. It goes like this:
Hi, Bill — you know our mutual friend, Wanker McGee? He rode his bike off the edge of a cliff while doing front-end downhill wheelies with Manslaughter, and he misjudged the log he was trying to jump backwards and flipped off the cliff and onto the cactus 200 feet below and got LifeFlighted out and it looks like it’s going to be a while before he’s racing again or able to eat without a straw.
Anyway, his medical bills are in the six figures and you know he’s been living in that cardboard box down on 3rd and Main as he’s in his third season of trying to get his first pro contract, so I’ve begun a GoFundMe campaing for him and would really appreciate it if you could spread the word and maybe kick in a few bucks.
If you’re like me, you click on the link and kick in a few bucks. Then, feeling sorry for the poor bastard, you share the link with your friends and hope that the next time an appeal goes out it’s not you with the squashed melon. After a couple of weeks ol’ Wanker has piled up a whopping $5,000 to help defray his medical bills of $354,000. Which kind of raises the question of …
What the fuck is anyone doing riding a bike without health insurance? While I realize that there are a lot of destitute people who use a bike to get to work, the communist-socialist-atheist-Islamist Obamacare program makes it possible for the poorest of the poor, yes, even bike racers, to get health insurance.
In other words, if you can afford the $5k rig, two extra full-carbon wheelsets made of 100% carbon, the wardrobe, the entry fees, the podium cap (still unused) and transportation to the race, then you can afford the $90 communist-socialist-Islamist health insurance offered by our foreigner President who is trying to destroy democracy and our great nation by getting health care to sick people.
In other-other words, if you’re too much of a cheapfuck to get Obamacare but insist on racing the local crit/riding offroad with Manslaughter, I’m not sure you deserve anything from me. To make it even worse, there are bike racers who refuse to get the free (that’s “free” as in “your mom doesn’t even have to pay for it”) insurance because if you make less than $15k (and what bike racer makes more?) you get put on Medicaid, which, in addition to being free, is the Antichrist for many a Republican, welfare-hating, pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps bike bum.
In short, the shame of being on socialist welfare free healthcare is worse than getting smashed to bits, asking others to pay for the damage, and then discharging the debts in bankruptcy.
My attitude towards this isn’t because I’m a heartless, unpleasant, penny-pinching Scrooge, although that’s part of it. A famous case here in LA a few years back involved a well-known rider with two kids who tore his face off descending Las Flores, and had to rely on crowd-funded donations to retire his medical bills. I helped promote the fund and donated to it, even though several people pointed out that a grown man (he was in his late 40’s) with two kids giving descending clinics on white-knuckle descents without health insurance was exactly the kind of guy who deserved the old “you made your bed, now lie in it” treatment.
Of course no matter how irresponsible someone is, when little kids are involved even the mostly heartless will reach for their wallets, and I still don’t regret doing so.
The main problem I have with shifting affordable health insurance premiums or even free Medicare coverage onto the greater biking community is that no matter how much your friends kick in, it won’t be enough. First of all, even if you raise $50k, it’s going straight to the hospital or other healthcare providers. Do I want to donate my somewhat-hard-earned money to Kaiser Permanente? Um, nope.
Second, raising money before you’re finished treating — assuming you’re a completely broke bike racer; redundant, I know — is a terrible decision because ultimately you’ll have to file bankruptcy and the money that’s rolled in may not be exempt, especially if it’s over $25k. In other words, Kaiser will still get a bite.
Third, there’s something really wrong with raising a stink about cagers who are uninsured or underinsured, which means they can’t make you whole when they run you over, then turning around and displaying the same financial irresponsibility when you crash out in a bike race and thrust the bill onto friends, family, and sympathetic strangers.
Century rides, race promoters, and other entities that put on bike events should require entrants to show proof of health insurance. USA Cycling (the great useless entity in the sky) should require you to submit proof of health insurance before it will issue a racing license, because unlike many activities, bicycle falling off incidents in bike racing are guaranteed if you do it long enough. 100%, no exceptions.
In addition to health insurance, if you so much as pedal down the block you should also obtain maxed out uninsured/uninsured motorist coverage on your auto liability policy. This will cover you for the collisions when the cager who mows you down doesn’t have enough coverage to pay for your brain transplant, acting in effect as a third-party health insurance policy for you. And if you can afford a car and a $780 set of bike racks, you can afford the few extra bucks a year it costs to max out UM coverage.
So, I wish I could help out all the people who need it, and I don’t regret having done so in the past. But even more, I wish they would take that tiny ounce of prevention so we wouldn’t have to donate the massive pound of completely ineffective cure.
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November 3, 2011 § 2 Comments
Thank you so much for your tip on raising the uninsured motorist coverage on my auto liability policy. Looks like $500,000 per person & $1,000,000 per accident will only cost me $100 per year…probably the most prudent cycling-related decision I’ve ever made! Now I can relax while I’m drinking coffee and talking about how fast I used to be, and if an uninsured or under-insured motorist plows thru the coffee shop, I’ll be covered! Thank you Wankmeister!
Congratulations on bucking the norm for cyclists–i.e. you actually made a smart decision, and more incredibly, it had to do with cycling, and (almost) unbelievably, it potentially benefits your wife and kids. To recap: 85% of drivers in California only carry the minimum liability insurance, which is $15,000. This means that when some drunk chick coming back from an all-nighter in Redondo runs you over on Sunday morning–yes, that’s the horrific, infamous case we all know about–you are only able to recover $15k. This barely pays for the first couple of hours you’ll spend eating through a tube. The remaining 262,800 hours left, assuming you live another 30 years, you’ll be S.O.L. “UM” coverage is the insurance tacked onto your policy that covers you when someone hits you with insufficient coverage, as in the above example. And although some insurance agents will swear otherwise, your uninsured motorist coverage, at least in California, covers you if you’re on the bike, or you’re a pedestrian and you get whacked by an uninsured or underinsured motorist. Guess what? It happens all the time: biker gets hit, has lots of medical bills, and the offending driver is only on the hook for the first $15k. The remainder? Comes out of the biker’s pocket or the biker winds up in bankruptcy due to overwhelming medical bills. The great news, as Yusta Befit points out above, is that you can jack your UM coverage up to very high levels for only a few bucks. Considering all the useless bike crap you spend money on in a year, this is the bargain of all bargains. Imagine how happy your significant other will be when you smile up at him/her through a full-body cast and say, “Don’t worry, honey, we’re covered!”
February 3, 2011 § 6 Comments
One of our tried and true South Bay cycling veterans got hit by a car yesterday in Santa Monica. Our guy had stopped at the red light, put his foot down, and waited for green. He got the signal and began making a left hand turn. Idiot motorist apparently blew through a red light and hit him head on. Our guy has a fractured C5, lacerations and stitches on his leg, a bike in ten thousand pieces, and a long, brutal road to recovery ahead.
Idiot motorist probably has a few scratches on the hood of his wagon and perhaps some pangs of guilt. But the real question is, does he have insurance? Our guy is going to have a mountain of medical bills and lots of missed work.
This accident brings onto the stage a grisly drum I’ve been beating for the last year now. Below is a reprint from a short article I posted on the Big Orange Cycling Yahoo newsgroup. Please read it and take action. The ass you save is going to be your own.
How to save your ass when the motorist who runs you over is also an uninsured or underinsured deadbeat shitforbrains
At my office we’ve taken in a number of bike-car accidents in the last year, everything from trashed bikes to people who are never going to walk properly again to people whose last action on this earth was pedaling a bicycle. What follows is some advice that I hope you’ll heed.
Most people think that if they’re in a bike-car collision, they’ll be able to recover money from the driver as long as the driver is insured. What you may not know is that in California, the minimal insurance coverage for accident liability is $15,000. What you also may not know is that 85% of the drivers on the road have this minimal coverage. This means that their insurance company is on the hook for $15k, and that’s it.
To put it in perspective, the money you can recoup from the careless idiot who took you out while sexting his girlfriend a “Brett Favre” evaporated on the life flight trip to the hospital, and once your expenses exceed the $15k that most drivers carry, you’re done. That’s the bad news, and it’s very, very real. Imagine how hard it is as a lawyer to tell someone who’s been trashed for life that their recovery won’t pay for their first day of medical care…then imagine how hard it is for the victim who has to actually live through it.
There is, however, a very cheap and very effective way to protect yourself and your family. It’s called uninsured motorist or underinsured motorist coverage, and it comes standard with almost every auto insurance policy. Many cyclists are unaware that this coverage on their own auto liability policy even exists, and many more are unaware that it covers them in a bike-car collision when they’re not even in the car.
This means that when idiot’s policy tops out at $15k, you have the legal right to turn to your own insurance company for the remainder. So far, so good, but there’s a catch: most UM coverage is also minimal, often only $15 or $25k, which is hardly enough to make you whole when you suffer significant injuries.
Unlike most insurance stories, though, this one has a very, very happy ending if you’re proactive about it, because you can increase your UM coverage to very high levels for only a tiny increase in your monthly premium. Although your UM coverage is generally barred from exceeding your liability coverage, if you have $500k worth of liability you can bump up your UM from $25k to $500k for only a few bucks.
For the sake of yourself and your family, take a minute to look at the face page of your insurance policy, check the UM coverage, and then call your agent to ratchet that sucker up to the max. With the spate of deaths and serious injuries occurring in our midst this past year, this is something you can’t afford to put off.
The other benefit to turning to your UM coverage in the event of an accident is that if you’re forced to use it you actually wind up with a larger recovery than you would if you were making a claim against a driver with adequate coverage.