Uninsured & Underinsured Motorcycle Insurance Explained

As a lawyer practicing in the field of personal injury, I frequently see motorcyclists suffer serious injuries in motorcycle accidents who are unable to obtain sufficient compensation because they don’t have the insurance they thought they had.  Many motorcyclists say they asked their agent for “full” coverage for their motorcycle and are shocked to find that they could have obtained adequate compensation if they had purchased the right coverage for only a few more dollars.

New York State requires that motorcycles carry at least $25,000 liability and $25,000 uninsured motorcyclist coverage.  When your insurance policy has the NYS minimum liability limit, your policy will pay someone else a maximum of $25,000 if that person was injured because of your negligence.

With the minimum $25,000 uninsured motorcyclist coverage, your motorcycle insurance policy will pay you up to a maximum of $25,000 if you are injured because of someone else’s negligence and the identity of that person is unknown or that person was operating a motor vehicle without insurance.  Motorcyclists are frequently injured after being cut off by a car whose driver is never even aware of having caused a motorcycle accident.  In these motorcycle accidents, the driver’s identity is usually unknown.

If your motorcycle insurance policy provides you with only the minimum $25,000 liability coverage, then your insurance policy cannot have any underinsured coverage which protects you if you are injured because of someone else’s negligence and they have less liability coverage than you have.  This is because you cannot purchase uninsured or underinsured coverage in amounts greater than your liability coverage.

Many motorcyclists tell their insurance agent that they want “full” coverage.  But, there is no such thing as “full” coverage.  Most insurance agents interpret this to mean that you do not want the minimum liability coverage, but this does not adequately protect you.  They will usually sell you $100,000 liability coverage, but without increasing the minimum uninsured coverage and without giving you any underinsured coverage!  However, for very little money, you can also purchase “matching” uninsured coverage and underinsured coverage with the same coverage amount of $100,000.

Uninsured coverage and underinsured coverage is so important, especially for motorcyclists, that it is worth purchasing increased liability limits, such as $300,000, just so that you can purchase increased uninsured and underinsured coverage.

Uninsured and underinsured coverage is particularly important for motorcyclists without health insurance to pay for medical bills and disability insurance to pay for lost wages.  The money you can collect from your uninsured or underinsured coverage can be used to pay for your medical bills, offset lost wages, or any other reason.

Consider how much money you may need if you are seriously injured and unable to work for a long period of time.  What will happen if you have to take a physically easier job at a reduced income.  Chances are that most motorcyclists will not be able to survive very long on $25,000.  If you don’t have adequate health insurance coverage, $25,000 will disappear before your eyes.

To see if you have $100,000 or more Uninsured/Underinsured coverage, take a look at the declarations page of both your motorcycle insurance policy and automobile insurance policy.  This is the page which indicates the types and limits of coverage you have and the amounts you are being charged.  Look for Uninsured/Underinsured, UM/UIM, Supplemental Uninsured/Underinsured or SUM and make sure that the coverage limit is the same as that listed for Liability; Bodily Injury; or BI.  If it is not, call your insurance agent or insurance company immediately and increase your Uninsured/Underinsured coverage to the maximum you can buy.  This is very inexpensive.

If your Uninsured/Underinsured limit is the same as your liability limit, but is insufficient for your needs, consider raising your liability limit so that you can raise your Uninsured/Underinsured limit.  This is a little more expensive because you have to raise your liability coverage, but it’s worth it.  If you need coverage greater than your insurance company can sell you, the only insurance company I am aware of that sells very high Uninsured/Underinsured coverage is Chubb.

If you have liability insurance greater than $25,000, always make sure that you purchase matching uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage.  In fact, it is well worth increasing your liability insurance just so that you can purchase increased uninsured and underinsured coverage.

Check your motorcycle insurance policy right now or call your insurance agent.  Be sure to check both your motorcycle and automobile insurance policy because the coverage explained here applies to both.

See a simple and in-depth explanation of underinsured coverage for motorcyclists including the benefits and an uninsured/underinsured calculator to find out how much you need.