Tag Archive for Uninsured Motorist coverage

Guest Post: Bikes Have Rights™*

Jim Pocrass, Pocrass & De Los Reyes LLP

Jim Pocrass, Pocrass & De Los Reyes LLP

Make Sure You’re Protected Before You Need To Be

 
By James L. Pocrass, Esq.
Pocrass & De Los Reyes LLP

 

I recently represented a cyclist who was the victim of a hit and run accident that broke almost every bone in his body and caused traumatic brain injuries. The driver of the car turned out to be a 19-year-old woman who was driving drunk. She claimed not to have known that she hit my client, in spite of his leaving nine teeth in her SUV’s back seat.

My client’s medical bills were astronomical and because of the brain injuries, his life would never be same. The compensation my client received from this case would be his primary source of income for the rest of his life. The woman’s insurance company wanted to settle the claim for “policy limits,” which is the maximum amount they are required to compensate a victim of serious personal injuries or even a wrongful death.

Policy limits is how much insurance you bought in a specific category. In California, you are required to carry car insurance of $15,000 per person for bodily injury liability; $30,000 per accident, which covers all persons hurt in one accident; and $5,000 for property damage liability for one accident. It is likely that your insurance policy includes a minimal amount of uninsured and under-insured auto insurance, but rarely is it a significant amount.

If you suffer catastrophic personal injuries or a family member is lost in a wrongful death due to a motor vehicle accident (car, bicycle, motorcycle, truck, bus, boat), your damages (medical and economic) could cost hundreds of thousands – or even millions – of dollars.

The person who was negligent is responsible for your damages. (In some cases, negligence may include one or more companies or a public entity like the state or a county, but for the purposes of this article we are focusing on individual drivers.) Their insurance company will cover those damages only to the limits of the individual’s insurance policy.

If the person who caused your accident owns a house or other property, you may be able to recover some monies from them after a long and expensive court process. You might even be able to garnish any money they earn or receive in the future.

But many drivers own nothing – or not enough – to ever come close to compensating you for your injuries or for your lost loved one.  You will be on your own to pay your medical and therapy bills, to subsidize your living expenses either for the short or long-term, to pay childcare expenses, and to replace your destroyed property.

The best way to protect yourself from this disaster is to carry as much uninsured and under-insured auto insurance as your insurance company will permit you to buy. The cost is pennies on the dollar.  The more you have to lose (meaning the more you own or could own in the future), the more uninsured and under-insured auto insurance you should have.

Uninsured and under-insured auto insurance protects you when you are hit by a driver who has no insurance (and a Los Angeles County sheriff told me recently that in approximately 50 percent of all motor vehicle accidents he sees the driver is uninsured). It also kicks in when you reach the maximum the OTHER driver’s insurance will pay. It compensates you for the difference between what the other driver’s policy limit is and the actual compensation you need to recoup from the damages caused by the accident.

Uninsured and under-insured auto insurance also protects you if you suffer serious personal injuries (or worse) in a hit-and-run accident. With the frightening rise in hit-and-runs, it is critical that you protect yourself.

In my client’s case, I was able to negotiate additional monies from the woman’s family. Though I was able to recover a multi-million dollar settlement for this client, it is still nowhere near what he should have received considering the damages she inflicted on him and for which he will have to live with for the rest of his life.

My hope for you is that you never need to use your uninsured and under-insured auto insurance, but I urge you strongly to get as much uninsured and under-insurance auto coverage that your insurance company will allow you to purchase, before you need it.

*California Vehicle Code 21200: A person riding a bicycle or operating a pedicab upon a highway has all the rights and is subject to all the provisions applicable to the driver of a vehicle. . .

For more than 25 years, Jim Pocrass has represented people who were seriously injured, or families who lost a loved one in a wrongful death, due to the carelessness or negligence of another. Jim is repeatedly named to Best Lawyers of America and to Southern California Super Lawyers for the outstanding results he consistently achieves for his clients. Having represented hundreds of cyclists during his career, and Jim’s own interest in cycling, have resulted in him becoming a bicycle advocate. He is a board member of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition.  For a free, no-obligation consultation, contact Jim Pocrass at 310.550.9050 or at info@pocrass.com.*

*sponsored post

Give your loved ones the gift of peace of mind this holiday season

The tragic news about Carol Schreder brought a lot of responses this morning.

One of the most moving was exchange of emails with a 40-year friend of Carol’s, telling me how loved she was by everyone who knew her.

She was the most wonderful of friends in every way. None of us can hardly find a single thing to complain about her — some little irritating habit that we couldn’t stand? Not a one. She was pure gold and we are so terribly heartbroken. I can’t imagine she is not here to comment on life, politics, bike riding, good movies.

Another exchange came from South Bay attorney Seth Davidson of CalBikeLaw.com discussing a few issues raised by the tragedy — including the importance of having your own insurance coverage in case anything should happen while you’re riding.

And yes, you can get insurance that covers you on the bike. In fact, if you own a car, you probably already have it.

But I’ll let Seth explain.

CalBikeLaw.com sees the results of car-bike collisions daily, everything from trashed bikes to people who are never going to walk again to people whose last moment on this earth was pedaling a bicycle. What follows is some advice that I hope you’ll heed.

You may think that if you’re in a bike-car collision, you’ll be able to recover money from the driver as long as the driver is insured. What you may not know is that in California the minimal insurance for accident liability is $15,000. What you also may not know is that an estimated 85% of the drivers on the road have only this minimal coverage.

This means that the money you can recoup from the careless idiot who takes you out while he’s texting his girlfriend will be completely used up on the life flight trip to the hospital, and once your expenses exceed the $15k that most drivers carry, you’re done. There is no other “pot of money” in most cases from which to collect damages for lost earnings, pain and suffering, future medical care, or even to replace your fancy road rig.

That’s what happens when you get hit by someone with no insurance, or with a very small liability policy. Imagine how hard it is as a lawyer to tell someone who’s been trashed for life that the driver’s insurance policy won’t even pay for their first day of medical care…then imagine how hard it is for the victim who has to actually live through it.

There is, however, a very cheap and very effective way to protect yourself and your family. It’s called uninsured motorist or underinsured motorist coverage, and it comes standard with almost every auto insurance policy. Many cyclists are unaware that this coverage even exists, and many more are unaware that it covers you in a bike-car collision.

This means that when the driver’s policy tops out at $15k, you have the legal right to turn to the uninsured motorist coverage on your own liability policy for the remainder. So far, so good, but there’s a catch: most UM coverage is also minimal, often only $15k or $25k, which is hardly enough to make you whole when you suffer significant injuries.

Unlike most insurance stories, though, this one has a very happy ending if you’re proactive about it, because you can increase your UM coverage to very high levels for only a very modest increase in your monthly premium. Although your UM coverage generally cannot exceed your liability coverage, if you have $500k worth of liability you can bump up your UM from $25k to $500k for only a few bucks a month.

For the sake of yourself and your family, take a minute to look at the declarations page of your insurance policy, check the UM coverage, and then call your agent to ratchet the coverage up to the max. With the spate of deaths and serious injuries occurring in our midst this past year, this is something you really can’t afford to put off.

It’s good advice.

My own uninsured motorist coverage paid all of my medical and rehab expenses when I was hit by a car in a road rage incident. Without it, I wouldn’t have been able to afford the care I needed until the case settled nearly two years later.

And even then, the meager settlement was eaten up by attorney’s fees.

So give yourself and your loved ones an early holiday gift, and call your insurance agent today. Because a little piece of mind is one of the best — and most affordable — gifts you can give them.

……..

I’ve also added CalBikeLaw.com to the list of lawyers over there on the right.

Scrolling through the list of cases they’re working on, you may recognize a few high profile ones, even without listing any names. In fact, I’ve written extensively about at least three of the cases listed on their website — which pretty tells me what I need to know about them.

And Seth promises to write again about a dangerous roadway in Palos Verdes Estates that has already nearly taken the life of another rider.

You may also have noticed that I’ve also added the El Dabe Law Firm to the list, our first bike attorney from Orange County.

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A couple other quick notes:

C.I.C.L.E. hosts the Toys and Mittens Ride on Saturday the 17th; the family friendly toy ride will gather toys and warm clothes for Burbank residents in need.

The LA Streetsblog fundraiser scheduled for this Thursday has been moved. The new location will be at Earl’s Gourmet Grub at 12226 Venice Boulevard; your food is included in the suggested $25 donation.

And Allan Alessio forwards a link to Life Cycles, an Ultra HD short documentary detailing the story of a mountain bike, from creation through breathtaking rides to its ultimate demise.

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Finally, thanks to Chris Willig, and Paul Herod of RockStorePhotos.com, for letting us know about Carol Schreder’s death yesterday. Oddly, the story still hasn’t hit the news, so without their efforts, we’d still be in the dark.

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