Motorcycling riding is not without its risks. The chances of one being injured on a motorcycle are much higher than being in a crash in a car. The injuries sustained in a motorcycle crash are usually more severe due to lack of the structural protection automobile occupants enjoy. Some wise motorcyclists know he/she must manage these risks.

This is especially true due to the increase in distracted driver crashes and drug and alcohol impaired automobile drivers. That is why a wise motorcyclist has an endorsement, has taken initial Motorcycle Safety Foundation Courses, takes recurrent training annually, wears the best available protective gear all the time, including the best helmet, ballistic jacket, ballistic pants, full fingered gloves, eye protection, and boots above the ankle. One other important, (but often neglected aspect), risk management task is to make sure you have sufficient motorcycle insurance not just the state minimum.

This is not just to protect you financially in the event of a crash with serious bodily injuries, amputations, traumatic brain injuries or death, but to protect your family in the event you have large medical bills and cannot work due to disability.

I’d like to talk about some mistakes made by almost all motorcyclists (99% I see weekly) that I have seen over 40 years of handling motorcycle cases.

MISTAKE NO.1 TRUSTING YOUR DEALER OR INSURANCE AGENT-

Most insurers do not want to write motorcycle polices for more than the state legal minimums. In Louisiana, you are only required to have the following coverages:

  • $15,000 of bodily injury coverage per person.
  • $30,000 of bodily injury coverage per accident.
  • $25,000 of property damage

If you buy a motorcycle from a dealer, he knows you are concerned about the monthly payments and the will ALWAYS offer you a cheap motorcycle insurance policy with ONLY the minimum coverages to keep your payments low and get you out the door to close the sale. NEVER buy your insurance through your dealer. The dealer gets a commission from the insurance broker, who is usually out of state. The dealer does not care about protecting you nor your family. The dealer and the referred insurance broker just wants to sell you a motorcycle and a cheap motorcycle insurance policy. To con you into doing this they often say (i.e. LIE) the inadequate policy provides FULL COVERAGE. THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS FULL COVERAGE! THE TERM FULL COVERAGE IS A MYTH AND A LIE TO LULL YOU INTO A FALSE SENSE OF SECURITY. Always talk to your attorney about coverages and get him/her to explain it to you BEFORE you buy your motorcycle insurance. You cannot even trust your agent as discussed below in the next section.

NEVER TRUST YOUR INSURANCE AGENT-

Insurance agents work at the whim of insurance companies. Insurance companies know that motorcycle injuries are usually very serious and costly. Only 3% of the public has ever been on a motorcycle. Most policies written are on other areas of coverage that are more profitable. I have seen insurance agents mislead motorcyclists in to buying cheap insurance and promoting it as full coverage. To me and you full coverage would seem to mean all the protection available.

Here is a list of what insurance coverages you need to consider and buy:

  • Bodily injury to someone else or damage to someone else’s property for which you are legally responsible while riding your motorcycle
  • MOST IMPORTANT AND USUALLY NOT PURCHASED BUT ALWAYS NEEDED-Bodily injury to yourself because of an accident with an UNINSURED MOTORISTS or UM insurance
  • Damage to your motorcycle caused by an accident
  • Theft, fire, vandalism, and other losses — even while your motorcycle is in storage for the winter
  • Custom motorcycle work, such as paint or upgraded components
  • Attached side cars
  • Emergency roadside expenses
  • Damage to protective gear
  • Trip interruption expenses
  • Medical expenses
  • Excess or umbrella insurance policy
  • YOU NEED AN INSURANCE POLICY WITH ALL THESE COVERAGES TO ACTUALLY HAVE FULL COVERAGE!

But what the insurance agent means by “full coverage” is not the maximum protection but the MINIMUM insurance policy limits you have to carry under Louisiana state law. These limits have not been changed for decades. They are wholly inadequate to protect you and your family.

It pains me to see a motorcyclist come in the office every week who is hit, maimed or disabled forever, by an uninsured motorist or an underinsured motorist. If you get hit by a motorist with no coverage or just the minimum coverage from The General or Go Auto or other TV advertising insurers that only sell minimum coverage $15,0000 liability limits policies, you will probably never recover your $100,000 to $600,000 in medical expenses. The insurance agent does not care about you. The insurance agent does not want his insurance company to write policies they don’t want to write but to do business in Louisiana the insurer is required to write to sell other insurance in the State.

INSURANCE OPTIONS YOU HAVE-

You have three options:

#1 Really bad option: Buy No insurance- This is not a good option for many reasons. One it is a criminal act and illegal to operate a motorcycle with no insurance. This is really not a cheap option. If caught, your motorcycle will be impounded and you will pay storage fees, fines in excess of $800 and court costs. This does not include criminal defense attorney fees. You also will not be able to sue and recover for the first $15,000 in damages if you do not carry any liability insurance under Louisiana’s “no pay, no play” insurance law. You cannot title your motorcycle without proof of insurance. You have to keep it current too.

#2 Bad option: Minimum Insurance of $15,000/$30,000/$25,000- (also commonly mistakenly referred to as FULL COVERAGE) This is also not a good option. As discussed above YOU HAVE NO UNINSURED MOTORISTS COVERAGE and the other driver may have no insurance (40% chance in Louisiana the driver is uninsured) or inadequate $15,000 liability limits. Your medical bills and lost wages will exceed $15,000 in even most minor motorcycle crashes. You can sue for more but the driver will probably file bankruptcy making recovery difficult.

#3 The best option: Purchase all coverages available including $250,000/$500,000 liability coverages with uninsured motorists and an umbrella policy to provide coverage from $250,000 to $1,000,000. You should buy coverages for:

  • $250,000/$500,000 Bodily injury to someone else or damage to someone else’s property for which you are legally responsible while riding your motorcycle
  • $250,000/$500,000 Uninsured motorist’s coverage. MOST IMPORTANT AND USUALLY NOT PURCHASED BUT ALWAYS NEEDED-Bodily injury to yourself because of an accident with an UNINSURED MOTORISTS or UM insurance
  • Damage to your motorcycle caused by an accident including vintage or special rare motorcycles.
  • Theft, fire, vandalism, and other losses — even while your motorcycle is in storage for the winter
  • Custom motorcycle work, such as paint or upgraded components
  • Attached side cars if applicable
  • Emergency roadside expenses
  • Damage to protective gear
  • Trip interruption expenses
  • MEDICAL EXPENSES-this is very affordable for the coverages offered.
  • EXCESS POLICY OR UMBRELLA POLICY-Umbrella policies are cheaper than you think. Always ask for a quote.

The costs of an excess or umbrella policy can provide more complete protection for you and your family if you are disabled or killed and cannot provide for them. Umbrellas are surprisingly affordable for the extra coverage.

CONCLUSION-

Can you afford to be in a crash situation where you have to go bankrupt and lose your possessions due to a $500,000 or more medical bill you cannot pay because you were hit by an uninsured or underinsured motorists with only a $15,000 liability policy? Don’t let yourself be duped by your dealer when buying a new motorcycle and getting cheap insurance from the dealer or by your insurance agent. THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS FULL COVERAGE! You cannot afford to be without all the insurance coverages discussed in Option #3 including uninsured motorists and a policy of at least $250,000/$500,000 or $500/000/$500,000 and an umbrella policy to raise your liability and UM limits up to $1,000,000.

If you have any questions about an accident you’ve been involved in, please contact me today.

BY GLENN C. McGOVERN

MOTORCYCLE ATTORNEY AND MSF INSTRUCTOR

EMAIL: [email protected]