WhyBike Motorcycle Blog

Mailbag: Uninsured motorist coverage: Do you need it?

By James - 3/7/2007

Aaron wrote in . . .

I have a question about Uninsured/Underinsured motorist coverage. I called my health insurance that I receive through work and they told me I would be covered for emergencies, office visits, etc. if I were to be in an accident of any sort, being motorcycle or other, I would still be covered.

My question is, wouldn’t it be redundant to pay for uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage if my copay for emergency room is only $50?

I have to sign a waiver to refuse it. Is this a scam by the insurance companies or is this really a good idea? If I don’t get the uninsured motorist coverage, I’d be saving about $200 a year.

Is uninsured motorist coverage a scam? Yes and no. Is it worth $200 per year? That depends. I am not helping much am I Aaron. Let me explain this better. This is a timely subject for me as my wife and I just raised our liability coverage so that we could also raise our uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. More on this later. First here are some facts.

Depending on which state you live in 30-50% of the drivers are uninsured. According to Devvy Kidd:

Here in California the numbers are astronomical. Statewide, over one third of drivers lack insurance–about 33 percent, according the California Department of Insurance. The figures skyrocket in low-income and minority city neighborhoods: nearly 50%. In San Jose, California, 55% of all drivers on the road have no insurance. Statewide, the problem is worst in the Los Angeles, Imperial, San Diego and Alameda counties. With the exception of Alameda, the uninsured rates in those counties reaches a whopping 90 percent range. Alameda County’s worst neighborhood, Oakland, is 63 percent uninsured.

If you do happen to have an insured motorist hit you, there is an even better chance that they are only carrying the state minimum amount of insurance. So you can see that if you are in an accident, you will probably have to deal with an uninsured or underinsured driver. An underinsured driver is one that is carrying insurance, but insufficient to pay for all your medical bills or fix your bike. Here in California the minimum is $15,000 bodily injury liability, $30,000 bodily injury liability maximum for all injured, and $5,000 property damage liability.

If you spend any amount of time looking at motorcycle classifieds you know that it is easy to total any motorcycle with just a minor accident and reclassify the title as salvaged. A low speed collision can total a $20,000 Road Glide and easily leave you with $40,000 in medical care. Fairings are expensive, frames are tough to straighten, and doctors are paid the big bucks to sew you up. If the at-fault driver has no insurance you are on the hook for the deductible on your comprehensive and health insurance and your rates will go up. What is more frightening is the time you miss from work, and your ability perform your duties at work and at home could have suffered. Your health insurance or comprehensive coverage will not compensate you for lost wages or diminished capacity to perform your duties. This is where uninsured motorist coverage comes in. If you are absent from work for months or can no longer perform your duties, uninsured motorist coverage will compensate you.

After finding out about this and researching it, we decided to up our coverage to $100K/$300K. Unfortunately, your uninsured motorist coverage cannot exceed your liability insurance, and here is where I see the scam. As a motorcyclist, I am at far more danger from uninsured motorists than the danger I pose to others on the road. But it is more important to cover myself and pay extra for the increased liability insurance than to leave myself open to a devastating injury by a judgment-proof driver.

It is up to each person to decide whether uninsured coverage is worth it to you. If you have a family, a mortgage, an integral part in a company, it may be worth it. It only takes one inattentive moment for you to be hit by a motorist and have your life changed forever.



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  1. I was in an accident and Blue Cross settled with the other guy’s insurance company but didn’t give a full and final release. Now, they want to recoup more from my UIM coverage. Can they do that?

    Comment by Rdub — 4/11/2007 @ 2:51 pm

  2. Hey Rdub, they can, see this article for more info.

    Comment by James - Whybike.com — 4/12/2007 @ 10:36 am

  3. Thanks for the helpful info. I had the same question about UM coverage but I was told by my insurance company (Pacific Specialty/McGraw) that UM will not cover lost wages; only medical expenses and deductible. Is this even legal? Like Aaron, I also have health insurance through work, while my deductible is only $250 and I owe 10k on my bike, so comp, collision and 25/50/15 liability without UM should be sufficient (combined with my company’s health plan) for a non-catastrophic accident. If UM does not cover lost wages, then it really is redundant.

    Comment by Oakland Dave — 12/27/2007 @ 1:08 pm

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    Comment by hananim_vw — 7/18/2008 @ 4:05 pm

  5. Many insurance companies will not cover lost wages. They only covers medical expenses and deductibles. Anyways thanks for the info.

    Comment by rghins — 8/25/2008 @ 8:56 pm

  6. This is very timely, as here in Georgia, they just changed the law on this. You can not get two types of UMI. For add-on, if you get $300,000 of coverage, you get that on top of what the other fellow might have (underinsured), whereas the new kind will only increase your covergage FROM the others guys limit to your limit.

    Do you NEED this coverage? If you have good health insurance, it will cover a lot of your medical bills. If you have collision insurance, that should cover the vehicle damage (shouldn’t it?). If you are sued by your passengers, your liabilty insurance should cover you as well.

    I am not sure of a scenario where this UMI plays a big part, but I can see several fraud-based scenarios where it would pay out - e.g. have an uninsured friend smack into your car and then claim a neck injury. I think this might be why UMI is SO expensive in the first place.

    Umbrella Liability insurannce is arguably a better deal. For that $200 a year, you can buy a million bucks of umbrella coverage, so if your passenger is seriously injured, you won’t be bankrupted.

    Similarly, a good disability policy might be a better investment that this UMI.

    In many States, such as Georgia and NY (my two homes) you are fined by the State for every day a car has no insurance, so the incidence of uninsured motorists is not as high as California.

    I compromised by lowering my coverage to the mininums (I could opt out entirely). Perhaps I am taking an unnecessary risk, but it is all too easy to be overinsured. The insurance industry loves to tell horror stories of what can happen if you don’t buy a full policy, of course.

    Comment by Robert Bell — 1/3/2009 @ 2:16 pm

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