Over the past few decades, Indiana, as well as nationwide, has witnessed a surge in the use of bicycles—for health and recreation as well as for transportation to work, school, and everywhere in between. But one consequence of this increased bike usage is the large uptick of serious bicycle-related injuries and deaths. Since 2011, bicycle accidents rose by nearly 50% in Marion County.
In Indiana, accidents and injuries often occur because “a person riding a bicycle upon a roadway has all the rights and duties under this article that are applicable to a person who drives a vehicle.” Ind. Code § 9-21-11-2. This means cyclists and motorists must obey the same rules of the road, but those rules sometimes conflict depending on whether you’re behind a steering wheel or handlebars. An injured person’s ability to recover and pay any medical bills or receive treatment often hinges upon who has insurance. Below are different scenarios involving cyclists, pedestrians, motorists, and insurance policies which become intertwined because of a negligent party.
What if you’re injured by a motorist on your bike?
Indiana’s Financial Responsibility Law, found at Ind. Code § 9-25-4-1, requires all motorists to possess minimum liability insurance in the amount of $25,000 per person, $50,000 per occurrence if more than one (1) person is injured or killed, and $10,000 for property damage. Although it’s the law to possess this minimum coverage, unfortunately there are plenty of uninsured drivers on the road. Hopefully, the negligent motorist who hit you on your bike has insurance, and the amount of your injuries do not exceed his/her policy limits. But what if your medical bills are $40,000 from your bike accident and that motorist only has $25,000 in coverage? Even as an injured cyclist, depending on your car insurance policy, you may be entitled to utilize your underinsured motorist (“UIM”) coverage if you have paid for such benefits as part of your premium. UIM coverage enables an individual to recover damages for their injuries to the extent those injuries exceed the negligent party’s policy limits. Sometimes the language of the auto policy does not require the injured party to be inside his/her vehicle if s/he is hit by an UIM. A scarier situation is if you are injured on your bike by an uninsured driver. If you have also similarly purchased uninsured motorist (“UM”) coverage through your car insurance, as an injured cyclist you may be able to recover whatever damages you have under your policy depending on its language. UM coverage frequently becomes an issue when the motorist does a hit and run. To ensure that any injured party is made truly whole, the attorneys at Jacobs Law always recommend purchasing UIM/UM coverage as part of your auto policy. The small difference it makes in your premium amount will make all the difference in the world when you need this coverage the most.
What if a pedestrian or cyclist is injured by another cyclist?
Although it would be prudent for cyclists to purchase bicycle insurance, the vast majority the risk and go without it. Unlike automobile insurance and Indiana’s Financial Responsibility Law, neither Indiana nor any other State compels cyclists to purchase insurance. So if you’re a pedestrian or cyclist injured by another cyclist, where can you turn to recover? Unless the wrongdoer’s homeowners’ insurance provides coverage or s/he has money set aside for this very occurrence, you may need to hire an attorney to bring a civil lawsuit against that person. Regretfully, even if negligence is proven, a judgment against that person won’t do much good if s/he is “judgment proof,” meaning there are no assets from which to satisfy the judgment.
Should bikers be required to carry insurance, just as motorists do?
This last circumstance where a cyclist injures another cyclist or a pedestrian raises an interesting question: would it be wise public policy for cyclists to carry a minimum amount of insurance in case they cause a collision or negligently injure someone? Although it may sound crazy, in fact, insurance companies such as Markel, Velosurance, and Spoke already offer this service. Admittedly, the “bicycle insurance market” is anything but robust right now because of low demand. The attorneys at Jacobs Law take no position as to whether such a policy is in Hoosiers’ best interest. Suffice it to say that a compulsory insurance program for regular cyclists would surely help innocent victims get back to the position they were in before being injured by the negligent party.