Car Insurance for the Cyclist

By Russ Hymas and Ken Christensen

I’ve heard that my personal car insurance can pay for my damages if I’m hit by a car on my bike. Is that true? –Justin H., Ogden, Utah.

It is true. If you are hit by a car while riding your bike, there are certain insurance coverages available under your personal car insurance policy, as long as you haven’t waived them. Two critical types of coverage that should NEVER be waived are uninsured motorist coverage and under-insured motorist coverage. Both uninsured and under-insured motorist coverages are available only when the driver of the car carries a majority of responsibility for causing the collision (i.e., the cyclist must be less than 50% at fault). However, another important type of coverage, personal injury protection, is available to cyclists injured in any vehicle collision – regardless of who is at fault.

Uninsured motorist coverage (UM) applies in cases involving a “hit & run,” as well as collisions where the at-fault driver has no insurance. Your own auto insurance carrier offers UM coverage, which will pay for your medical bills, lost time from work, and pain and suffering in these situations. Afterward, your insurance will likely seek reimbursement from the irresponsible driver.

Under-insured motorist coverage (UIM) is important in circumstances where the at-fault driver carries auto insurance, but the insurance limits aren’t high enough to pay for all your damages. For example, a driver turns in front of you and you’re catapulted onto the asphalt, tearing your rotator cuff. Your medical bills after surgery and physical therapy are $45,000, while the driver only had $25,000 insurance limits. In this case, your own UIM coverage can make up the difference.

Personal injury protection (PIP) applies in any bicycle vs. vehicle accident. All vehicles in Utah are required to carry PIP – and that coverage applies to any cyclist hit by a car. PIP benefits include a minimum of $3,000 to cover medical expenses, as well as up to $250 per week for lost time from work due to injuries sustained in the collision. PIP can also cover payment for household services and funeral benefits. The insurance company for the driver in a car vs. bicycle accident will be responsible for the primary PIP benefits listed above. However, once that PIP coverage is exhausted, you can often make a secondary PIP claim under your personal car insurance policy for additional benefits if your PIP limits are higher that the other party’s.

Most people only think about their car insurance when they’re behind the wheel of their own car. As a result, many cyclists don’t realize that if they’re hit while on their bike, the availability of PIP benefits makes seeking immediate medical care much less daunting. And the cyclist’s own UM/UIM coverage can provide much-needed financial protection. Although UM/UIM coverages are optional, we believe all cyclists should consider them mandatory before getting out on the road.

We suggest cyclists carry $5,000-$10,000 in PIP benefits, and $250,000 limits for both UM and UIM, but never less than $100,000 for each. If your policy limits are less, call your insurance agent and make the change before your next ride!

Ken Christensen and Russ Hymas are avid cyclists and Utah attorneys at UtahBicycleLawyers.com. Their legal practice is devoted to helping cyclists injured in collisions with motor vehicles. They are authors of the Utah Bicycle Accident Handbook and are nationally recognized legal experts on cycling laws and safety.

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