Can A Cyclist Claim On My Insurance?
If you were involved in an accident with a bicyclist, you may wonder whose insurance policy must pay for the cost of damages or, more specifically, if the injured cyclist can claim on your insurance. The answer depends on the circumstances surrounding and leading up to the incident. State law may also come into play.
Bicycle accidents can result in significant damages, especially if the other party — which is you, in this case — was driving a motor vehicle. Depending on the severity of the cyclist’s injuries, he or she may be able to claim medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more. Even if your insurance does end up covering the exorbitant costs, you will end up paying for them over time in increased premiums. If the costs exceed what your insurance will cover, you may have to make up the difference by either drawing from your bank accounts or liquidating assets. To prevent such adverse outcomes, it is crucial that you understand your rights and responsibilities following a bicycle accident.
Your Responsibilities Following an Accident Between Your Vehicle and a Bicyclist
For auto insurance to kick in, an accident must involve at least one motor vehicle. If your car, truck, SUV, van or other type of passenger vehicle collided with a bicyclist, your auto insurance may have to cover the cost of damages if both facts are true:
- You live in a fault state.
- You were at fault.
You Live in a Fault State and Were At-Fault
38 states, not including Michigan, are fault states. In fault states, the insurance company of the at-fault party in an accident must cover the cost of damages. This is true even if the other party was a bicyclist.
If you accidentally hit a cyclist while driving your car — or even if you happened to open your door into an oncoming biker — your auto liability coverage should kick in. Liability coverage should cover the cost of the biker’s medical expenses and property damage, including the costs to repair or replace the bike and to replace safety equipment. Depending on the type of coverage you maintain, the bicyclist may be able to claim lost wages for time he or she had to take off work to recover.
You Live in a Fault State and Were Not At-Fault
Say you live in one of the 38 fault states and the biker was the one who hit you. In this case, can the biker still file a claim against your auto insurance policy for damages?
In some states, the answer is a resounding “no.” If the biker assumed the majority of fault, he or she must file a claim against his or her own personal liability policy through his or her homeowners’ insurance or renters’ insurance. In some cases, a cyclist’s health insurance coverage may cover the cost of medical expenses.
In some states, however, an injured person may be able to claim against another party’s auto insurance despite fault. This is due to more lenient pure comparative negligence laws.
In states that adhere to pure comparative fault laws — which include Florida, California and New York — accident victims may recover compensation for their losses regardless of the degree of fault they assume. If the bicyclist in your accident sustained severe and extensive injuries, he or she may still be able to recoup compensation from your insurance company. However, the insurance company can reduce the amount of the agreed-upon settlement by the percentage of fault the bicyclist assumes.
You Live in a No-Fault State
If you live in a no-fault state, there are few instances in which the bicyclist in your accident case can file a claim against your auto insurance policy. The only instance in which he or she may do so successfully is if his or her damages are extensive and if he or she was not at-fault for the collision. If the biker’s losses do not exceed his or her own insurance coverage, and/or if he or she was at-fault, then the law is unlikely to allow a claim against your policy.
When Your Accident Involved Two Bikers — Yourself and Another Cyclist
What happens, though, when your bicycle accident was between two cyclists, one of which was yourself? Whose insurance covers the costs of damages then?
When You Were At-Fault
Accidents between two bicycles can result in serious injury to one or both cyclists, depending on how fast either was riding. If the other rider sustained considerable harm in your collision, and if you were at-fault, he or she may file a claim against one or several of your insurance policies. Unlike if you were in a vehicle, however, the other biker cannot file a claim against your auto insurance policy. Instead, he or she must pursue compensation from your renters’ insurance policy or homeowners’ insurance coverage.
Both renters’ insurance and homeowners’ insurance typically come with some amount of personal liability, which a premises liability accident or animal bite usually triggers. However, a bike accident can also trigger it. In addition to covering the cost of medical expenses, personal liability coverage often pays for property damage.
Of course, this all assumes that you live in a fault state. If you live in a no-fault state, the same rules apply as with auto insurance — your coverage only kicks in if the other party was not at-fault and if his or her damages exceed his or her policy limits.
When the Other Cyclist Was At-Fault
Say the other cyclist was at-fault in your bike-on-bike crash. Whose insurance, in this case, kicks in? As in the case of a motor-vehicle-on-bike collision, the other biker will most likely have to pursue compensation from his or her own homeowners’ or renters’ insurance policy. However, if you live in a state that adheres to a pure comparative negligence doctrine, the other cyclist may be able to file a claim against your personal liability coverage. He or she may succeed if his or her injuries and losses are extensive. Again, though, your insurance company has the right and legal obligation to reduce the agreed-upon settlement by the percentage of fault the other party assumes.
What To Do Following a Collision With a Bicyclist
Whether you were in a motor vehicle or on a bicycle at the time of your bicycle accident, there is a strong likelihood that the other party will file a claim against your insurance policy. To prepare for such an event, and to protect your bottom line, there are certain steps you can take after the incident:
- Exchange information with the bicyclist, including names, phone numbers, addresses and insurance info.
- Take pictures of the scene of the accident, the damage to both the bike and your vehicle or bicycle, and each parties’ injuries.
- File a police report if the law dictates you do so.
- Seek medical care if necessary.
- Consult with your insurance company regarding your rights and responsibilities.
If you suspect the other party plans to come after you for compensation, consult with a personal injury attorney. An experienced lawyer can inform you of your rights as well as those of the cyclist and inform you of what to expect going forward. He or she can also advise you on whether you have a claim against the other party. A free case evaluation with a knowledgeable bicycle accident attorney will cost you nothing, but it could save you considerable time, headache and money in the future. Schedule yours today.