Motorcycle accidents often have life-changing consequences. Traumatic brain injuries, spinal damage, crushed organs, and eye injuries can be permanently disabling. Even injuries from which motorcycle riders recover, including broken bones and ligament damage, can cause long-term pain and wage loss.
Losses from motorcycle accidents include past and future medical expenses, lost income, diminished earning ability, and the expenses of coping with a disability. A negligent driver who caused the accident is responsible for compensating the injured motorcyclist for those losses. Compensation should also take account of the rider’s pain, suffering, and emotional distress caused by the accident.
Few drivers are in a position to write a check to pay the compensation that serious injuries require. Fortunately, most drivers are insured. In fact, many state laws require drivers to carry liability insurance. As a practical matter, most injury claims are made against the responsible driver’s insurance company.
Whose Insurance Pays When Fault for a Motorcycle Accident Is Shared?
When a negligent driver is solely responsible for a motorcycle accident, that driver’s insurance company must pay full compensation, up to the driver’s policy limits. For example, suppose a truck driver is studying a GPS screen instead of watching the road. If the driver rear-ends a motorcyclist who has stopped at a red light, the driver was solely at fault. The driver’s insurance company is therefore required to pay full compensation to the injured motorcyclist.
In many accidents, however, fault is shared. For example, the most common motorcycle accident is caused by a driver who turns left in front of an oncoming motorcycle. The driver is at fault for failing to yield to the motorcycle. The rider, however, might share fault if the rider failed to anticipate the left turn and took no action to avoid the collision.
When both the driver and the motorcyclist are at fault, compensation is reduced in proportion to the motorcyclist’s share of responsibility for the accident. If the motorcyclist was 30% at fault, the driver’s insurance company must pay 70% of full compensation. The insurance company is not required to pay anything unless the insured driver was more at fault than the motorcyclist.
Whose Insurance Pays When the Driver Does Not Have Sufficient Insurance Coverage?
While all drivers may be required to carry liability insurance, an estimated 12% are uninsured. Many insured drivers purchase only the minimum bodily injury limits of $25,000. Those limits can be woefully inadequate if the motorcyclist’s injury is permanently disabling. A traumatic brain injury, for example, may require a lifetime of care.
When a driver’s liability coverage is inadequate, a motorcycle accident victim can make a claim against the motorcyclist’s own uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage. The rider can only make that claim, however, if the rider purchased that coverage.
Uninsured motorist coverage pays compensation, up to the coverage limits, if the driver who caused the accident has no insurance. It also covers hit-and-run accidents if a collision occurred.
Underinsured motorist coverage pays the injured motorcyclist, up to the coverage limits, if the negligent driver’s insurance coverage is inadequate to pay full compensation. The best policies pay the difference between the underinsured driver’s policy limits and full compensation, up to the policy limits of the underinsured motorist coverage. Some policies pay only if the underinsured motorist coverage has a higher limit than the negligent driver’s coverage limit.
It is always wise for a motorcyclist to purchase uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage. Purchasing the highest limits the rider can afford provides an important safeguard against drivers who have inadequate or no insurance.
Insurance coverage can be confusing. An experienced motorcycle accident lawyer can help injury victims understand how to maximize the compensation they receive from insurance companies after an accident.