As a South Carolina bicycle crash lawyer, I often speak to clubs and teams about bicycle law and safety.
And every time, I say this: “One of the most important things you can do to protect yourself as a bicyclist is to carry enough Under-Insured Motorist coverage on your car’s insurance policy. Along with a helmet and lights, UIM insurance is crucial.”
And ever time I do, some fellow in the back will say: “My car insurance will not cover me on a bicycle!”
So let me answer this yet again: Yes, it will.
Not only will your car insurance cover you in a bike crash with a motor vehicle, South Carolina laws is actually more helpful than most other states.
Here’s how it works. When you purchase car insurance, you are required by law to carry Un-Insured Motorist Coverage. The coverage, called UM, gives you insurance coverage if you are struck by a driver who hits-and-runs or who does not have any insurance. Both situations happen much more often than you would think. Sad but true.
And yes, UM coverage applies if you are injured because of the negligence of the driver of a motor vehicle, whether you are a passenger in the same car, driver or passenger in another car, pedestrian, or bicyclist.
Under-Insured Motorist coverage (UIM) is similar, but kicks in if the amount of the at-fault driver’s coverage is insufficient to cover your damages. UIM insurance is not required by law. You must be offered it in writing, and if you decline you must sign a paper saying so. Many people do decline, even though the additional premium is not very much.
In South Carolina, the minimum liability limits are 25,000 / 50,000: which means $25,000 per person per occurrence up to a maximum of $50,000 per occurrence.
If your damages (medical bills + compensatory damages (such as lost wages) + pain and suffering) exceed the driver’s limits then your own UIM insurance kicks in.
In many states, including in North Carolina, the total amount of insurance available is the greater of the two individual coverages. So if an NC driver has $50k in insurance and an NC cyclist has $50k in UIM, the total amount available is only $50k. In the same circumstance in SC, the two coverages are added together for a total of $100,000 of coverage.
How much coverage is enough? As much as you can reasonably afford. I recommend that cyclists try to carry at least $250,000 in UIM coverage.
And for those great folks who don’t own cars, you should carry non-owner insurance that includes UIM coverage.
To read more, including some real life examples, check out Lauri Boxer-Macomber’s post on the Bike Law blog.
Any questions? Please email me at email@example.com, and I will do my best to answer.
Peter Wilborn is the founder of the Bike Law network, headquartered in South Carolina and now including bicycle lawyers in over 20 states and Canada.