I can’t say that I consider myself an avid cyclist, but I definitely love riding my road bike when I have time. I’ve done a few century rides—that’s 100 plus miles on a bike—myself, but my magic distance is somewhere between 30 and 60 miles. If you know me, and know how big I am, you’ll understand that 60 miles is about where enough discomfort sets in that I’m ready to end the ride. Partly because I don’t ride enough, of course, but mostly because I’m a big guy and I’m not comfortable sitting on a tiny seat for much longer. That’s not to mention the long climbs that some of these rides include. Of course, my “athlete attitude” often gets the best of me and I ride like I’m trying to win the Tour de France from time to time.
So how does this relate to insurance? Recently, I came across an article by Paul Lew titled “A Life-Altering Crash & A Life Enhancing Comeback” in the March 2014 Issue of Road Bike Action Magazine (www.roadbikeaction.com). The article is Paul’s account of being in a horrific bicyclist vs. vehicle accident:
I was riding through a quiet neighborhood when a car traveling at approximately 45 mph T-boned me. The driver never hit her brakes and continued for approximately 1/4 mile before swerving into oncoming traffic and stopping to avoid a head-on collision with another automobile. At that point I rolled off the hood of her car and hit the ground (Road Bike Action Magazine, March 2014).
As I read this, I cringed in horror at the thought of being hit by a car at 45 miles-per-hour while riding my bike. I occasionally ride on roads that are somewhat congested and I wondered, “what if this happened to me?”
The Importance of UM/UIM Coverage
So how does this story relate to insurance? First of all, UM/UIM (uninsured motorist/under-insured motorist coverage) is that coverage part of your automobile policy that covers you and your passengers for bodily injury when the at-fault motorist’s limits in their own policy are exceeded, or in some cases non-existent, as in the case of uninsured motorists. At this point, your own policy steps in to cover your bodily injuries (or those of your passengers) where another is at-fault. UM/UIM coverage does not cover YOU if YOU are at-fault in the accident; it covers you when another party is at-fault.
Most people, however, do not realize that when you are a pedestrian or a bicyclist, barring written exclusion, your UM/UIM coverage follows you as if you were in your vehicle. Think about the extent of injuries you would sustain and the potential financial calamity that could result if a similar incident were to happen to you. This is one of the many reasons why I never recommend that my clients take lower UM/UIM limits or exclude them altogether. With auto insurance, your UM/UIM limits are generally a small portion of your premium in comparison to your liability and/or your collision coverage. It’s best to think about it this way: when you are purchasing liability insurance you are providing financial protection for yourself, of course, but you’re really indemnifying (or protecting) someone else as well. UM/UIM coverage is protection for yourself from the liability of others in the instance of auto accidents. I personally feel it best to insure yourself as much as you are insuring others.
Another instance where UM/UIM coverage is very important is for motorcyclists. Many of us have heard of the horrific incidents where a motorcyclist has been struck by a vehicle and either sustained substantial injury or have been killed. Yet, I find many clients ask for lower UM/UIM limits on their motorcycle insurance. While it is true that UM/UIM coverage for motorcycles generally makes up the bulk of the premium, there is a reason for that and, while it ought to be obvious, it is because the damage to the rider often is fairly catastrophic. For this very reason, I always recommend higher limits to my clients.
Ultimately, of course, when I work with clients, I don’t simply offer higher limits creating a situation where you may not be able to afford the insurance. I am cognizant of each individual’s situation and recognize that we also buy what we can afford. However, in the long run, paying the extra money for protection now could be the decision you should make to prevent, or at least minimize, a much greater financial impact in the future.