Pump your tires. Check. Lube your chain. Check. Replace those old sticky water bottles with fresh ones. Check. There are a dozen things to do before you set out on a ride. The last thing that comes to mind before throwing a leg over the saddle is insurance. Yet, no matter the precautions we take, such as using flashing lights and dressing in head-to-toe neon yellow, there are some crashes that are unpreventable. You can, however, prepare for the unlikely, but seemingly inevitable, event of being hit by a car.
Insurance is a must-have for all types of cyclists. Whether you're a commuter, mountain biker, roadie, triathlete, or all of the above, you have the ability to protect yourself with various forms of insurance, which will almost certainly become necessary if A) the driver flees the scene and is never found, B) the driver is uninsured or minimally insured, or C) the police wrongfully blame you for causing the crash, thereby severely limiting your ability to receive fair compensation. The following are three types of insurance that every cyclist should consider purchasing.
It should go without saying that you need to acquire health insurance, Medicaid, or Medicare if you're a cyclist. But 11 percent of Americans have no insurance at all, and many of these people ride bikes. In fact, lower income people—those who are least likely to be insured—ride bikes for transportation at much higher rates than the average American. Additionally, many college students and college-aged young adults who ride and race bikes are uninsured or let their health insurance lapse for months at a time between moving to new states. Health insurance can be incredibly expensive, but if you get struck by a driver the costs could be much higher if you do not have at least a catastrophic health insurance plan.
Auto Insurance—Medical Payment Coverage
Cyclists do not need to register their bikes with the DMV, do not need a driver's license, and do not need to pay for auto insurance, which is good because, after all, we're not the ones operating deadly machinery at 70 miles per hour with one hand on a phone, the other on a cup of coffee, and a knee braced against the steering wheel. Obviously, you do need to have insurance if you own a motor vehicle, but what if you're car-free? Why cough up the extra dough when those bills could be used to fund your next bike? Here's why: if you get hit by a driver, no matter who is at fault, the first party likely to compensate you is your own auto insurance company through your medical payment policy. It could be years before you see a dime from the at-fault party's insurer, but you will inevitably have serious medical bills to pay during those first few months. While health insurance will cover many of your medical expenses, there will be out of pocket expenses to deal with, which your medical payment insurance policy may be able to cover.
Auto Insurance—Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage
After health insurance, uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage (UM coverage) is probably the least-understood, yet most important, form of insurance that anyone should carry. As part of your auto insurance, a UM policy pays for your medical bills, lost wages due to disability, lost life earnings due to disability, pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of life, and everything else that the at-fault driver is responsible for. Why do you need UM coverage if the at-fault driver should (theoretically) have to pay for all of this? Because most drivers carry the bare minimum insurance policy, which here in Colorado only amounts to $25,000 per person in bodily injury liability—the cost of just one night in the ICU. If you are seriously injured, your personal injury claim could very well be worth 10 times this, or more.
Even worse, according to the Insurance Information Institute, 16.3 percent of Colorado drivers (one out of six) have no insurance at all, which is simply terrifying. Even if you have all the evidence in the world that the driver was at fault, if they are uninsured there is likely nothing to go after in a lawsuit. Even if you have health insurance, if you are unable to collect on a judgment from a lawsuit against the negligent party (as will likely be the case if they are uninsured), you will be left with nothing in terms of lost wages, property damage, and pain and suffering, which is often the largest form of compensation in serious bike collisions. Because of this, it is wise to MAX OUT your uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. Call up your insurer today and have them raise your UM policy to the maximum level possible. Your insurer is required to offer UM policy limits equal to the amount of bodily injury liability policy limits you purchase. It will cost a nominal amount per year and give you peace of mind should anything happen out on the road.
Another benefit to uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage is that it applies if the crash is a hit and run and the driver is never found. Hit and runs are extremely common in bike vs car crashes because, as the cyclist lays on the road (potentially dying) the driver's vehicle is likely undamaged, allowing the driver to flee the scene without anyone stopping them. In fact, roughly 70 percent of hit and run fatalities are those of cyclists and pedestrians, despite the fact that cyclists and pedestrians make up a tiny proportion of road users.
Don't Wait to Purchase Insurance
It is wise to purchase as much insurance as your income will allow, particularly when it comes to UM coverage, which is relatively inexpensive in the grand scheme of things. Every day you ride without health insurance, UM coverage, or medical payment coverage is an unnecessary risk that is simply not worth taking. We, as cyclists, face road raged F-150s, texters, drunks, and speeding semi-trucks. Give yourself, and your family, a financial shield by upgrading your insurance policies. If you or a family member has already been hit, Colorado Bike Law will work diligently on your behalf to ensure that we engage all the insurance policies available for your case.