Insurance Coverage for Bicycle Crashes
If you ride a bike long enough, you are bound to be involved in a crash at some point. Maybe you were hit by a car, or another bicycle, or a pedestrian, or ran into a parked car. You got hurt and now you have medical bills you don’t know what to do with.
How are you going to pay for these medical expenses?
The answer is most likely with insurance you already have. Insurance for injuries from bicycle accidents can come from a range of different insurance policies that most people in the metro DC area already have, but never think about. The truth is that you probably already have one or more types of insurance that can help cover your expenses after a bike crash.
How do you know what type of insurance you have available to you after a bicycle accident in Washington, DC, Virginia, or Maryland?
The answer is that is it depends on where you live, and also how the crash happened.
Bicycle Crash Insurance Coverage For Residents of Washington, DC
You are a DC resident and unfortunately were involved in a bicycle accident. What type of insurance do you have available to you?
The answer depends on what you collided with.
You Collided with a Car: Auto Insurance
If you hit a car or a car hit you while you were riding your bicycle, then auto insurance comes into play. Most bicyclists seem to know that when they are hit by a car, the driver’s auto insurance may cover their damages. But this only scratches the surface.
Your own auto insurance could also provide additional insurance to you after your bike accident with a car. This is something most people miss. Your own car insurance covers you while you are riding your bicycle when you are involved in a collision with a car. For insurance purposes, a bike vs. car accident is still an “auto accident.”
Liability Coverage in Bike vs. Car Collisions in Washington, DC
Liability coverage applies when the collision is someone’s fault. When someone’s driving behavior or poor decision-making causes a collision, we hold that person financially responsible for the damage or injury they cause. When the collision is your fault, typically you have to pay up.
In steps liability insurance.
If the vehicle driver was at-fault, then the driver’s liability coverage under his auto insurance is available to you, the injured bicyclist. Even though you were riding a bicycle and not driving a car, the driver’s auto insurance will cover your medical expenses and pain and suffering.
This is why its important to get the driver’s insurance information when you are involved in a bike accident with a car. You need the driver’s policy number to start a claim after the accident.
If you cause an auto accident while you are riding your bicycle, then your auto insurance liability coverage will step in to pay for the damage. Not only will they protect you from owing money to the innocent party (up to your policy limits, at least), but your auto insurance will provide a lawyer to defend you in court if needed.
What happens if both you and the vehicle driver are at fault? In this circumstance, you may not be able to recover for your injuries.
Up until late 2016, courts in DC still applied an antiquated legal doctrine called contributory negligence to bike v. car collisions. The effect of contributory negligence was that an at-fault bicyclist couldn’t recover for his injuries, even if the cause of the collision was mostly the driver’s fault.
However, the DC Council changed the law so that a bicyclist injured in a collision with a car can still recover as long as the bicyclist isn’t more at-fault than everyone else involved. The outlines of this new law haven’t been tested in court yet, but I think its safe to say that bicyclists should be able to recover when their contribution to the collision was small.
If you were involved in a bicycle v. car collision in DC, and collision was partially your fault, you should definitely talk with an attorney. But depending on the circumstances, you may still be able to recover from the driver’s liability coverage.
PIP Coverage for Bicyclists in Washington, DC
If the vehicle driver was at-fault, your own auto insurance may provide you with additional coverages. Two common sources of additional coverage in bicycle v. auto collisions are Personal Injury Protection (“PIP”) coverage or Uninsured/Underinsured Motorists coverage (“UM/UIM”) even though you were riding a bicycle.
PIP coverage may provide payment for your medical or rehabilitation expenses, missed work, or funeral benefits. In Washington, DC, insurers are required to offer you PIP coverage, but you are not required to buy it. So the PIP coverage you have, and what it covers, depends on what you chose when you bought your auto policy.
But DC residents should beware that using your PIP coverage can prevent you from being able to collect for your pain and suffering from the at-fault driver. DC Code 31-2405 says that an injured victim that receives PIP coverage is only able to maintain a lawsuit against the at-fault driver in limited circumstances.
Pain and suffering is not available to you if you file a PIP claim. This means that injured victims who are DC residents are normally better off not not making a PIP claim, even if they have PIP coverage available under their own auto insurance.
You should probably talk with a lawyer before you decide to take your PIP coverage after a bicycle crash in DC.
Uninsured/Underinsured Motorists Coverage for Bike Crashes in Washington, DC
Uninsured or Underinsured Motorists coverage (“UM/UIM”) provides additional insurance coverage to you when the at-fault driver doesn’t have insurance, or doesn’t have enough of it.
Since you choose how much UM/UIM coverage you want on your own auto policy, it’s a simple way for you to protect yourself against drivers with minimum limit auto policies, even when you are riding a bicycle.
Go check your auto insurance and make sure you have lots of UM/UIM coverage. You should have at least $300,000 (I have $1,000,000 on my personal auto policy).
If you don’t have at least that much, call up your insurance company and ask them how much it will cost for more. Most likely you’ll be surprised to find higher UM/UIM coverage only costs you a few dollars a month. And this coverage protects you when you are struck by a vehicle while riding your bicycle.
Don’t Forget Your Health Insurance After a Bike vs. Car Crash
If you were injured in a bicycle accident involving a car and you have health insurance, consider yourself lucky. Health insurance covers your medical expenses regardless of whether the accident was your fault or the driver’s fault. You will still have to deal with your health insurer’s deductible and co-pays. But your health insurance should be your first method of payment after any bicycle collision.
Some doctors, hospitals, or billing departments will try to tell you that if you were involved in an auto accident, your health insurance doesn’t apply.
For DC residents, this is simply wrong.
Your health insurance should always be “primary.” This means that your health insurance should apply first no matter what kind of accident your were involved in. No matter where you are getting medical treatment, when it comes time to pay the bill, pull your health insurance card out of your wallet.
You get a great deal when you use your health insurance first (as opposed to any auto insurance coverage). Here’s why:
- You pay less. When you use your health insurance, you only have to pay a discounted, “contractual” rate, instead of the full price.
- Your bills get paid quickly. Your health insurance should pay your bills relatively quickly (usually within 15-60 days), whereas it could take a long time if you are planning to use your auto insurance to pay your medical expenses.
- You pay back less. Under some circumstances, you are obligated to reimburse your health insurer if you recover money from the at-fault driver. But instead of having to reimburse your health insurer the full sticker-price of your medical expenses, you only have to pay back the “contractual” rate.
You Collided with a Pedestrian or Another Bicyclist: Homeowner’s or Renter’s Insurance
If you collide with a pedestrian (or another bicyclist) while riding your bike, the place to look for insurance coverage for your injuries is through a homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy.
You read that right, homeowner’s insurance or renter’s insurance usually covers bicycle accidents, even when the accident occurs somewhere other than your home or apartment.
Not every homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy is the same, so to be sure a bike accident is covered, you’ll need to read your policy or talk with your insurer. But the typical triggers for your own insurance policy to take effect after a bike crash is:
- An accident happened.
- The accident was your fault and you are going to be liable to someone else for damages
- The other person was injured or you caused property damage.
- There was no motor vehicle involved.
So if the accident wasn’t your fault, the other person’s homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy should pay for your injuries and damage to your bicycle.
How do you find out if the person you collided with has homeowner’s or renter’s insurance?
Just ask the person.
If you were in a car accident, you’d get the other driver’s contact information and insurance. Do the same thing if you are involved in a bicycle crash with a pedestrian or another bicyclist. Ask for the person’s name, address, phone number, and insurance info. If the collision was the other person’s fault, then start a claim with his insurance company.
Most apartment complexes in Washington, DC require residents to have renter’s insurance. Usually a copy of the renter’s policy must be provided to management each year. So the chance that the person you collide with has renter’s or homeowner’s insurance is probably much better than you think.
Health Insurance Covers You When You Collide with a Pedestrian, Too
If you hit a pedestrian (or another bicyclist) while riding your bicycle in Washington, DC, your health insurance will pay for your medical expenses (according to the terms of your policy). Health insurance covers you even though it was an accident, and even when it was the other person’s fault you were hurt.
As with bike vs. car collisions, if you hit a pedestrian, your health insurance will be “primary”, meaning it will pay first. In fact, if you are a DC resident, you are pretty much always better off having all your medical expenses billed to your health insurance.