Each year, thousands of unfortunate bikers are struck by negligent automobile drivers. Unlike the protection a car can provide its driver during an impact, motorcyclists have little to protect them when involved in a crash. It is no secret, then, that motorcycle accidents typically result in more serious injuries for the biker than auto accidents.
According to the National Safety Council, there is a motorcycle accident in the United States causing serious bodily injury every 14 seconds. In addition the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that in 2006 4,798 motorcycle riders died in motorcycle crashes while another 87,000 motorcyclists were injured.
The failure of other drivers to detect and recognize the presence of motorcycles is the predominant cause of motorcycle accidents. Unfortunately, the State of Florida does not mandate bodily injury coverage for automobile drivers and therefore more than one-third of all vehicles on Florida’s roads are uninsured for liability coverage. Considering the serious injuries that motorcyclists often sustain in motorcycle accidents, a whopping two-thirds of all vehicles on Florida’s roads and highways are inadequately insured. If you’re struck by an uninsured or underinsured motorist, there is a high probability that there will not be adequate insurance to compensate you for the injuries and damages that you sustain.
That’s why it is important to purchase uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage on your motorcycle and automobile insurance policies.
Who Causes Motorcycle Accidents?
The Hurt Report is the most comprehensive study of motorcycle accidents and causes in the United States. This report found that the majority of all motorcycle accidents are caused by the negligence of the operator of an automobile. Most motorcycle accidents occur at intersections when the other vehicle turns into the motorcycle’s lane of travel, violating the motorcyclist’s right-of-way. In most of these cases, the other driver simply did not see the approaching motorcycle.
The second most common cause of motorcycle accidents occurs when a motorcycle is slowing and the driver of an automobile does not notice the motorcycle in time to stop their vehicle safely. Instead, the automobile runs into the back of the motorcycle.
Uninsured Drivers Are More Common Than You Might Think
Although Florida requires all registered automobiles to have No-Fault Insurance, the state does not mandate the purchase of liability insurance. In short, bodily injury liability insurance is the coverage that an individual would purchase to protect them in the event that they are negligent and cause injury to another motorist. Various reports indicate that up to 15% of all drivers in the United States do not have any insurance at all and that up to one third of drivers in the State of Florida maintain no liability insurance.
The Property Casualty Insurers Association of America estimates that unlicensed and uninsured drivers are involved in more than 20% of all fatal accidents in the United States. This means that if you’re operating a motorcycle and you’re struck by another vehicle in the State of Florida, there is a one in three chance that that negligent motorist will have no liability insurance at all and a two in three chance that they will have inadequate liability insurance to compensate you for your injuries and damages.
What Happens if an Uninsured Driver Causes a Motorcycle Accident?
The impact of being involved in a motorcycle accident can be devastating and can permanently change your life. If an accident is caused by an uninsured or underinsured driver, the financial impact of medical bills, lost wages and loss of earning capacity can leave you financially destitute. If the negligent automobile operator who causes you injury does not have liability insurance, one of your strongest options is to hire an attorney, sue them and attempt to collect any judgment from them personally.
Unfortunately, most people purchase automobile insurance in amounts correlating to potential assets that they have. Therefore, in the vast majority of cases, individuals who are uninsured or underinsured are usually uncollectible. In addition, Florida’s homestead laws protect an individual’s home and all their equity from judgments and negligent drivers can avoid most or all of a judgment by filing bankruptcy.
The Importance of Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage
Uninsured/underinsured motorist insurance is vital if you are going to operate a motorcycle in the State of Florida. By law this coverage must be offered to an individual who purchases liability insurance on a motorcycle, truck, car or other personal land motor vehicle and can only be avoided if the named insured signs a special rejection form that is approved by the Florida Department of Insurance.Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage protects you while operating your motorcycle, anyone else operating your motorcycle or any passenger that you may have on your motorcycle if you are involved in an accident with someone who doesn’t have any bodily injury liability, or who has minimal amount of this insurance.
What is Uninsured Motorist Coverage?
What is commonly referred to as uninsured motorist coverage in the State of Florida actually has the legal name of uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage or UM/UIM coverage. Uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage protects you, anyone operating your motorcycle, or any passenger on your motorcycle in situations that involve an at fault driver who does not have any liability insurance or does not have enough liability insurance to compensate you for your injuries, medical bills, lost wages or loss of earning capacity.
Uninsured motorist coverage applies in situations where the at-fault driver has no liability insurance at all.
Underinsured motorist coverage applies in the event that your injuries or damages exceed the amount of liability coverage that the at-fault party has purchased. In this situation, your underinsured motorist coverage will apply after the bodily injury coverage that the negligent party purchased has been exhausted (used in full). Your UIM coverage will then compensate you for the balance of your injuries and damages up to the policy limits of the amount of UIM coverage you purchased.
Florida is one of the few states in the country that offers stacking uninsured motorist coverage.
- Non-stacking uninsured motorist coverage applies uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage on a particular vehicle. That means that you can only access the amount of uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage that you purchased on the motorcycle and only if you are operating that motorcycle or some other vehicle that you do not own.
- Stacking uninsured motorist coverage is much broader and allows you to access multiple policy limits from every vehicle that you own that has the stacking form of uninsured motorist coverage. In addition, if you have stacking uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, you can access that insurance if you’re injured in another vehicle that you own, regardless of whether that vehicle is insured for uninsured/underinsured coverage or not.
How Underinsured Motorist Coverage Works
If you are involved in a motorcycle accident and you sustain a fractured femur that requires an open reduction and internal fixation with an intramedullary rod, you may have the following damages:
- Past medical bills of $40,000
- Past lost wages of $20,000
- Future medical bills of $10,000
- Loss of future earning capacity of $50,000
- Past pain and suffering of $50,000
- Future pain and suffering of $50,000,
If the at fault party only maintained $100,000 of liability insurance, then your damages would exceed their available coverage by $120,000. If you had a $100,000 underinsured motorist policy, you could collect the $100,000 from the at fault party’s insurance company and then you would be able to collect the balance of your damages, up to your policy limits, in the amount of $100,000 from your underinsured motorist policy.
Stacking Underinsured Motorist Coverage
If we use the same example above and you have stacking underinsured motorist coverage on your motorcycle and two different cars, the net result to you will be much more beneficial.
In the prior example you would have been able to recover $100,000 from the liability insurance and $100,000 from your (non-stacking) underinsured motorist coverage on your motorcycle, for a total of $200,000. You would still have $20,000 of damages that you are unable to recover from any available insurance source. However, if you have the stacking form of underinsured motorist coverage, you would now have $300,000 in uninsured motorist coverage that you could access and therefore you would have a sufficient amount of insurance coverage to cover all of your damages in the amount of $220,000.
Why Should You Purchase Stacking Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage?
There are steps that you can take to help reduce the chances of being involved in a serious motorcycle accident. You can wear protective clothing, eye protection and a motorcycle helmet. You can avoid following too closely to the vehicle in front of you, avoid blind spots on vehicles that you are traveling next to, and obey the posted speed limit. You can avoid going through intersections with yellow lights and give yourself extra distance before pulling out in front of traffic.
However, regardless of how cautiously and defensively you drive your motorcycle, you cannot control the actions of other motorists who are in a hurry, on the phone, not paying attention, or driving a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The best way to protect yourself, your family, and any passenger on your motorcycle in the case of an accident with an uninsured or underinsured motorist is to purchase adequate stacking underinsured/uninsured motorist coverage on all of your automobiles and motorcycles.
If you have questions regarding your car or motorcycle insurance coverage, contact your insurance agent today and ask them about uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. If you or a loved one has been involved in a motorcycle accident, you are always welcome to contact a personal injury attorney for legal help. At Rue & Ziffra, we have 8 attorneys with over 30 years of combined experienced helping individuals receive compensation for motorcycle accidents, car accidents and other types of personal injury claims.
The above entry is NOT LEGAL ADVICE and should not be intended or construed as such. It is intended only as general information. No individual reading it should act upon it. Reading this entry does not create any relationship between Rue & Ziffra and individuals reading it. If you have questions or concerns, please seek professional legal counsel.