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If more people chose to ride their bikes to and from work it would save the world an estimated $24 trillion by 2050.
Currently, only about seven percent of commuters choose to get to and from the office by bike. Even with only a small proportion of commuters in the US commuting by bike, cyclist traffic fatalities have risen by almost 16 percent.
Cyclists face a unique risk while they’re pedaling back and forth to work. They can reduce the gas consumption, lower their insurance premiums, and become a green commuter, but they are at risk of suffering major injuries in a minor commuter traffic incident.
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Who is at fault in an auto versus bike accident?
You pretty much know who is going to win in a battle between a car and a bike. Between the motorized engine and the intelligently engineered body of a modern car, a bike stands no match.
All insurance companies have to determine who was at fault for any type of collision, regardless of who is involved:
- A cyclist
- A motorist
- A pedestrian
It’s the actions of each party that will be assessed, not the fact that one party is capable of doing more damage than the other. If you’re the motorist in the scenario, it’s nice to know you aren’t automatically at fault.
Sometimes, auto insurance adjusters will give motorists more of a burden to be safe because of the type of machinery they are driving. Motorists are primarily, but not always, at-fault in bike accidents involving a car.
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When will a cyclist be considered at-fault?
The bike rider can still be held liable for their part. If they suddenly veer into traffic or they drive straight through a crosswalk without regard for the flow of traffic, the end result could be primarily the fault of the cyclist.
Every state has a different set of rules for motorists and cyclists to follow.
Whether or not you or another party will be held liable for damages after an accident depends on the legal rules of liability in your state.
Cyclists can be cited and held responsible for accidents if they don’t follow the rules of the road. The person with the right-of-way will usually not be held liable for the accident.
What happens when you’re at fault in a car accident with a bike?
If you happen to be the motorist in a car vs. bike collision, you do have auto insurance to lean on when you’re held liable for the incident.
Technically speaking, you’re going to be the negligent driver if you’re even just 51 percent to blame for the accident happening. It all depends on how much weight is placed on your actions.
If you’ve been assigned 51 percent or more of the fault, your liability coverage will kick in to protect you against any claims made by the cyclist.
You will have two different types of third-party liability coverage that each pay for different types of damages that can be claimed. Here’s how your third-party coverage works:
- Bodily Injury Liability – pays for medical bills, emergency transport, lost income, and other related damages when a third-party is injured in an auto-related accident that you’re liable for
- Property Damage Liability – pays for the bike, clothing, and other personal items or property that’s damaged in an auto accident that you’re liable for
Are your liability limits high enough?
Driving a vehicle can be risky. You could be happy on your way to a birthday party one minute and then on the side of the road in a multi-car pileup the next.
You just can never predict when you’re going to have a major accident. Picking sufficient liability limits at the inception of your policy is key.
In just the blink of an eye, you could change someone’s life. Since cyclists can easily break bones and suffer internal injuries, you always need to be prepared for the worst.
A broken leg that requires non-surgical treatment can cost upwards of $2500 to treat.
If there are far more serious injuries that require surgeries and hospital stays, you can expect to be held liable for hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage.
The only way to adequately protect your assets is to select higher limits than what is required by law in your state. Some states require as little as $10,000 per person in Bodily Injury Liability coverage.
You could run out those limits with just minor injuries. Consider what would happen if someone was in critical condition for months following an accident with you.
Can the bicyclist sue you?
In states with a tort auto insurance system, victims in an auto accident always maintain their right to sue for damages like pain and suffering.
Some states that operate under a no-fault system eliminate or limit a victim’s right to sue for damages, even when injuries are sustained.
You need to review some of the details about the auto insurance system in your state and your right to sue before you assume that you’ll be an easy target after your crash.
In many states, injured parties have a statute of limitations of only one to two years to file their lawsuit when they have that right. When the statute runs out, you’re safe from litigation.
If the bicyclist doesn’t feel like your insurer is offering a large enough settlement for future losses, they could ask their insurer to take you to court.
When you’re sued after an accident, your auto insurance company will assign their legal department to your case. They will defend you in court for the fairest outcome. The defense is covered separately from your liability limits.
What happens when your liability limits run out?
Serious bicycle accidents can exhaust your liability quickly. None of your own injuries are paid out under your liability limits, but all the damages that are filed by other drivers are grouped into the settlement.
Both the per person and the per accident limits apply to every bodily injury claim.
If you’re carrying Bodily Injury limits of $50,000 per person and $100,000 per accident and someone racks up $75,000 in medical bills, your policy will only pay $50,000 for that person’s treatment.
If it’s two individuals who accumulate a total of $80,000 in medical bills, the policy will foot the whole bill as long as neither person’s injuries exceed the $50,000 limit.
The judge could also order a wage garnishment, where a portion of your pay goes directly to the victim. This is why it’s so risky to be underinsured.
What if you’re injured in an accident while biking?
If you’re the cyclist and you’re injured, your auto insurance works a bit differently. As a licensed vehicle owner, you still have auto insurance to protect you when you are injured in any type of auto-related accident.
Just because you’re not in your car doesn’t mean you don’t have protection on your own.
You need to look over your insurance to check and see if you have Medical Payments coverage. This first-party coverage will pay for your treatment if you’re injured in, by, or around a car.
You can file a claim for your emergency treatments and care against your own insurance when you’re on a bike and you collide with a car, truck, or bus.
What happens when someone hits you without insurance?
Another coverage to rely on is your Uninsured Motorist Protection.
If someone hits you and flees the scene, you can file a claim for your medical care against your own UM coverage.
It is also a nice form of protection to have if someone hits you and has extremely low limits of liability.
Auto insurance does cover most bicycle accident claims as long as the accident involved an automobile. If you don’t want to be stuck licking your wounds without much help from your insurer, build a comprehensive auto policy.
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