Should someone who bikes ever have to think about car insurance? If you’re lucky you’ll likely never have to deal with it in your lifetime. But for the unlucky few who have to drive now and then or are involved in a collision with a motor vehicle, knowing all the little details can make a big difference.
For example, did you know that if you do own a car, your own car insurance can pay your medical expenses if you’re in a bike crash with a motor vehicle?
Or did you know that Massachusetts employs a “No-fault” system; or that PIP (Personal Injury Protection) and “no-fault” are synonymous?
Insurance is a minefield of terms, provisions, exclusions, limits, and subsections that all seem to contradict each other; and unraveling that riddle can be difficult. It’s not something you should ever leave to chance. Understanding the various coverages is critical in selecting the appropriate insurance for your needs, and in making a claim if something goes wrong.
Even though there are numerous companies that sell car insurance within the Commonwealth (Commerce, Safety, Arbella, etc), all policy language, regardless of the company, is standard. There is only one policy, set forth by the Massachusetts Automobile Insurers Bureau, that will determine whether or not a company has to provide coverage given a particular set of facts. The interpretation of that policy will quite often come down to the skill of your attorney.
Here are three interesting facts about that all-encompassing policy:
- If you do own a car, your own car insurance is responsible for up to the first $8,000.00 of your medical expenses if you are hurt in an accident, regardless of whether or not the accident was your fault.
- There is a portion of your own policy that can compensate you if someone responsible for hurting you is underinsured; and
- Even if you don’t own a car but live with a family member that does, you can fall under their policy for certain of these coverages.
Cyclists are treated as “pedestrians” in the policy. That means that if you are cycling and become injured due to the negligence of a motorist, you could maintain a claim against that motorist’s car insurer to compensate you for your damages. But if you ever you find yourself in this situation, there is no substitute for professional guidance. Give ten lawyers the same case and you’ll get ten different results.
For example, a lawyer once called our office and stated that he represented a cyclist who had become badly injured due to a negligent motorist, but that the responsible party had only minimum insurance, which in Massachusetts is $20,000.00. In other words, that was the most money that could have been obtained from that particular car insurer for that particular accident.
The client, though, refused to accept such a small amount, even though his attorney had represented to him that there simply was no other means of recovery (the defendant did not have means). The attorney asked that we speak to the client and explain the facts of the situation and try to get him to take the settlement.
We met with the young man and started asking questions about the accident. Turns out that at the time of the accident, the person driving the car was attempting to make a left into a driveway, but didn’t own the house. She was actually a home healthcare worker visiting a client, and her employer had a “non-owner policy” that had a $1,000,000.00 limit.
In the end, we were able to secure a six-figure settlement that represented true compensation for the injury suffered. The key was understanding the interplay between insurance policies and doggedly pursuing the matter until justice was done.