Now that we are well into motorcycle-riding season here in Minnesota, it is important to consider less exciting but very important insurance issues directly affecting motorcycles.
Liability Coverage Required
Motorcycles are treated markedly different depending on the type of coverage being considered. Under § 65B.48 an owner of any motorcycle has to purchase “liability” coverage of at least $30,000 per person/$60,000 per accident for bodily injury suffered by a pedestrian or driver of another vehicle and $10,000 of coverage for damage to someone else’s property. So if a motorcycle owner or someone using the insured motorcycle with the owner’s permission causes injury or damage to someone else, the injured person can recover from the motorcycle owner’s “liability” insurance coverage.
Motorcycles, however, are not motor vehicles for “No-Fault Benefits” Purposes
Everyone who owns a car licensed or garaged in Minnesota has to purchase “no-fault” coverage which includes minimum amounts for medical bills, wage loss and other specified economic losses. However, § 65B.46, subd. 3 specifically excludes motorcycles from the definition of “motor vehicles” for these purposes. In fact, a motorcycle owner who purchases the above-mentioned liability coverage is required to be notified in writing that the liability policy does not provide any no-fault benefits. Thus, a person injured when driving their car, SUV or other “motor vehicle” would be eligible to be reimbursed for up to $20,000 or more of medical expenses, $20,000 of wage loss and other economic loss benefits. However, a motorcyclist with the same injuries would not be eligible for those benefits.
What Should a Motorcycle Owner Do?
Thus, a motorcyclist who doesn’t want to get stuck with unexpected medical bills or uncompensated lost wages should buy insurance that is available specifically for motorcycle owners. They can also buy an “endorsement” adding coverage on their motorcycle to their automobile policy.
I have a client who was, unfortunately, injured while riding his motorcycle. He had the foresight and good judgment to buy such an endorsement that provided $5,000 worth of benefits to cover part of his medical bills. He also purchased considerable uninsured motorist “UM” and underinsured motorist “UIM” coverage on his bike. These coverages help him if he’s injured by any motor vehicle owner who did not purchase any (UM) or enough (UIM) insurance.
It’s sometimes possible for a passenger on a motorcycle to obtain no-fault or UM/UIM benefits because sometimes their automobile/car policies are written broadly enough to cover them in such a situation. It’s critical to look at the injured passenger’s policy to determine whether they are fortunate enough to be covered under these circumstances.
It’s also important to know that an injured motorcyclist who did buy optional medical pay coverage, that these bills would be offset from any jury verdict since there is no right of subrogation under the No-Fault Act. What that means is that the insurance company that provided the medical pay coverage cannot recover any of those bills it paid toward the injured motorcyclist’s medical bills from any settlement. One way in which motorcyclists are somewhat benefited by the No-Fault Act is that such injured motorcyclists do not have to meet the tort “thresholds” to recover non-economic loss harms and losses (pain and suffering). Motorcycles are defined under the law as a self-propelled vehicle with fewer than four wheels having an engine with more than 5 horsepower. “Motorcycles” do not include electric-powered or assisted bicycles.
Seek Competent Advice
A smart motorcyclist will talk with his or her insurance agent about coverages that apply to and can be purchased for their motorcycles. It is far better to know ahead of time what would be available in the unfortunate event of being injured while riding a motorcycle than to find out the hard way after it occurred. Our firm and other experienced attorneys are always available to talk to motorcyclists who have been injured about their rights.