By Francis M. Smith
Q: Do I need to buy a separate insurance policy for my motorcycle?
A: Yes. Car insurance does not extend to cover motorcycles, due to the significant differences in risk between the two kinds of vehicle, so you will need to purchase a separate motorcycle insurance policy, regardless of whether you already have auto insurance. New Jersey law requires riders to carry a minimum of $15,000 per person and $30,000 per accident of liability coverage. However, this legal minimum is almost certainly insufficient coverage for any serious accident. If a passenger riding with you is hurt, their injuries could be very severe and require extensive medical treatment. Liability coverage of at least $100,000 per person and $300,000 per accident is recommended, along with an equal amount of uninsured/underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage.
What does my insurance cover?
Q: Who pays for damage to my motorcycle?
A: In theory, if another motorist caused the accident in which your motorcycle is damaged, you could seek compensation for the property damage through that driver's insurance company. However, betting on a negligent driver to carry enough insurance coverage to pay for the damage to your bike is a risky proposition, so it's safer to make sure that you carry enough collision coverage on your own insurance policy to pay for the damage, with a low enough deductible for you to readily afford.
Q: What if my motorcycle is stolen?
A: To guard against theft, vandalism, or fire, you should make sure that your policy includes enough comprehensive coverage to cover the cost of your bike. You will still have to pay a deductible, but your insurance will compensate you for the rest of the book value of the stolen or destroyed motorcycle.
Q: Will my collision and comprehensive coverage pay for the extras and enhancements that I have added to my motorcycle?
A: Rarely. However, you may be able to purchase insurance coverage for your options and extras for an added premium by providing your insurance company with itemized receipts or proofs of purchase.
Q: How are my medical bills covered if I'm hurt in a motorcycle accident?
A: Unlike with car insurance, motorcycle insurance does not automatically include personal injury protection (PIP) coverage, that would normally pay the costs associated with your medical treatment after an injury. Some insurers offer optional, limited medical coverage, but in the majority of cases your first recourse will be your own health care insurance. If your injuries meet a certain threshold of severity, you may be able to sue the party responsible for your accident, but again, there is no guarantee that the negligent driver will have enough medical liability coverage to pay for your care and expenses. If you are a passenger on another person's motorcycle and are injured, you may be able to receive some compensation for medical care from your own automobile insurance policy under a provision called extended medical benefits.
Q: What happens if I'm hurt in an accident caused by a driver without insurance?
A: Check your motorcycle insurance policy and find the provision for uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage (UM/UIM). This coverage comes into play when a negligent driver who injures you does not carry insurance, or the coverage limits are too low to fully compensate you for your injuries, or you are the victim of a hit-and-run accident and are unable to identify the driver (and thus cannot obtain his or her insurance information). If you would be entitled to seek compensation from another motorist to pay for your injuries, but that driver is uninsured, has insufficient coverage, or eluded identification, your own UIM coverage picks up the slack. It is strongly advised that you carry as much UIM coverage as you have liability coverage, because paying for your own medical treatment is no less important than paying for another person's, and your financial assets may be at risk if you have insufficient coverage of either kind. $100,000 is the minimum you should carry, and $250,000 or $300,000 is much better.
What should I do in the event of a motorcycle accident?
Q: When should I report the accident to my insurance provider?
A: As soon as possible. The more time passes between an accident and your reporting it to your insurance company, the more excuses they might find to deny your claim for coverage, no matter how legitimate your claim is.
Q: When should I look for a motorcycle injury lawyer?
A: Again, as soon as you can. As complicated as injury law in automotive accidents can be, the laws surrounding motorcycle accidents are even more complex. Moreover, due to the nature of motorcycles, the likelihood that your injuries will be serious and costly is much higher, and thus making sure that you have an experienced attorney to protect your rights and help you obtain fair compensation is all the more important.
If you or a loved one have been injured in a serious accident, please contact me or call me at 908-233-5800 for a free consultation.