Thomas G. WitkopLaw Offices

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Motorcyclist Should Consider Uninsured Motorist Coverage

Sometime ago a friend came to me after she had had a motorcycle accident in Washington, DC. In the accident she had broken her leg. Worse yet, the other vehicle that had hit her had fled the scene.

She advised that she was riding down the street when an unknown car made a left turn and turned into her and knocked her off the motorcycle. She was in a great deal of immediate pain. She could not give me the license plate or provide any amount of detail as to the car. Fortunately, first responders promptly arrived and assisted her. She was sober, there was no evidence of drug use and the police noted this. Further, she told the police that a car had struck her and had left.

My friend and soon-to-be client believed that she had no recourse. Fortunately, and as was required by law, she had motorcycle insurance. She believed that the motorcycle insurance would not help her. She thought that it only protected her from claims if she were negligent and struck someone else or their vehicle. This portion of the coverage is known as liability coverage. Liability coverage is only one portion of normal coverage when you have vehicle insurance. Another significant portion of vehicle coverage is uninsured motorist coverage. Uninsured motorist coverage will pay for injuries you receive from another motorist who has no insurance. The normal scenario for such a case is that there is an accident and the other driver remains at the scene but there is no insurance on the other driver. (Although motor vehicle insurance is mandatory in both Washington, DC and Maryland, compliance statistics are rather sobering-there are many motorists who have no vehicle insurance) Then your own insurance will pay for damage to your vehicle and injury to yourself subject to the deductible on your insurance. However, uninsured motorist also covers you if the other vehicle is a "phantom vehicle". In our case, the other vehicle was a phantom vehicle. The difficulty in phantom vehicle claims is that your own insurance company will often not believe your story about how the accident happened. In this case, it was very helpful that the police and ambulance came and were able to establish that my friend was not drunk or high and she immediately provided a credible version of the events.

I was able to present this information to her insurance company and get her fairly compensated for the loss that she had.

As an aside, I have ridden motorcycles for more than 30 years. I live in Maryland. Maryland insurance has something called personal injury protection (PIP) insurance. That generally applies to insurance for automobiles (not taxis or buses generally). It is also not generally provided to motorcycle riders. PIP is paid quickly and paid regardless of fault. Generally it is only up to $2500. And it only pays for medical expenses, income lost as a result of the accident and, God forbid, funeral expenses. Personal injury protection can be raised up to $10,000. I include PIP on my motorcycle policy. The annual premium is minimal and I raised the personal injury protection coverage to $10,000. That covers me quickly if there is an accident on my motorcycle, even if it is my own fault, and this extends to bicycling also. I am an enthusiastic bicyclist and try to commute to work (given the significant snow I have not commuted to work in several months but I still do have my office bicycle and zip to court on that on a regular basis).

Bottom line-even if the other driver is hit and run you probably have uninsured motorist coverage which can protect you. Consider obtaining personal injury protection insurance and raising the limits.
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