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Insurance Q&A

Motorcycle Insurance Tune-Up: '97
The following was written by and is courtesy of Sam Hochberg, AIM Attorney for Oregon

Nobody likes to think about going down. But, bike or car, you've got to be prepared with the right information, legal advice, and above all, the right insurance. "But I've got full coverage." No you don't, unless you have HIGH LIMITS of uninsured/underinsured!

Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist (UM/UIM): By far this is THE MOST IMPORTANT COVERAGE you need, bike, truck, or car. Buy the highest limits you can. This protects you, your passenger, and even relatives in your household for injuries in any UM/UIM wreck for medicals, pain and suffering, lost wages, and future losses. You still need a lawyer to wring the money out of your own company, but at least there will be something there to get at, if you have high limits. UM/UIM is used when it's some else's fault, and they either have no insurance, or not enough insurance to cover your damages. Oregon requires: "25-50" (same as with liability) which means up to $25,000 per person; not enough in most bike accidents. WHAT TO BUY: As much UM as you can. Not less than $100,000 per person, more if you can. It is not too expensive. One way to pay for more UM is to raise the deductibles (your "co-pay") in your collision and comprehensive policies.

UM/UIM is "Jerk Insurance": If a covered person is hurt, your UM/UIM stands in the shoes of the jerk who hit you, and who should have had insurance, or more insurance. Your own company, however, then becomes your enemy, (even if they act nicely) and you ordinarily need a lawyer to get a fair settlement. (You're probably not "In Good Hands with ..."). And if you have high UM/UIM limits, you've got a shot at a better settlement, so you don't end up short, owing money. A broken bone or two, or even lesser injuries can rack up very high medical bills and lost wages that can eat up your settlement. Just ask someone who's been down without enough insurance.

Underinsured Coverage (UIM) is the same as UM except it adds to the other guy's limits, up to your total limits, if his policy isn't big enough to handle your claim. You automatically have as much UIM as you do UM. If You've Been Hurt in an accident, neither your UM/UIM nor the other guy's insurance will get you money up front. Usually, your best settlement will come at the end, after you are "medically stationary," when your doctors and lawyer can assess the full extent of all your present and future damages. There are usually no interim payouts, except for property damage and PIP (see below). Short term money problems may happen if you don't have medical insurance and some savings. Your lawyer may be able to at least keep medical creditors at bay until settlement. If you are hurt, call a personal injury lawyer.

Liability: Also known as "BI" (bodily injury). Your BI pays for someone else's injuries, not yours, only if an accident is your fault. Likewise the other guy's BI pays you if it's his fault. This is for all damages, present and future, including pain and suffering, except for property damage. Oregon requires "25-50", or up to $25,000 coverage for each person's claim per accident, and $50,000 for all claimants combined for each accident. That's very inadequate. WHAT TO BUY: Get at least "50-100", preferably "100-300" or even more. If you hurt someone else on a bike, it is likely to be your passenger. You want that person to get a decent monetary recovery if there's a serious injury. And whoever is hurt, you don't want their lawyer to come after you personally and take your property, just because your BI insurance limits were too low.

Property Damage (P/D): Your PD pays for damage you do to someone else's property. Oregon requires a minimum of $10,000. Buying more doesn't hurt, since most new cars and bikes cost more than that these days. This does not cover your own bike. That's under either Collision, Comprehensive, or UM/PD.

Uninsured Motorist for Property Damage (UM/PD): It's a good buy, and usually fairly cheap, but if you already have collision coverage, it's probably not necessary. As the name implies, UM/PD covers damage to your bike if it's the other driver's fault and that driver has no insurance. UM/PD may also pay for your leathers and helmet damage, while collision ordinarily won't. Also, UM/PD typically has no deductible.

PIP: is Personal Injury Protection, but it's not a lot of protection. PIP covers a limited amount of "reasonable and necessary" medical bills (usually up to $10,000 for one year), lost income (minimum is 70% of your gross, up to $1,250 a month), and loss of household services for you and your passenger, REGARDLESS OF FAULT. Bills should be paid quickly, ordinarily within a few weeks or months. WHAT TO BUY: Usually very costly for bikes. If you and your usual passenger(s) have health insurance, you don't need PIP, although then you won't have it for lost wages. You should be able to recoup lost wages later, from the BI or your own UM, assuming there's enough coverage.

COLLISION: Just covers your bike, minus a deductible, for damage from a crash of any sort, regardless of fault. Not required, except by finance companies to protect their loan. It's not cheap, but the higher your deductible, the cheaper the premiums.

Comprehensive: Also just covers the bike, but for other losses, such as fire and theft. Not required by law, but usually worthwhile to add. Higher deductibles also get you cheaper premiums.

Umbrella: The Cadillac of insurance, it's best to get it for both UM and BI, if you can. It picks up where your regular policy leaves off, usually up to $1,000,000. It requires underlying coverage, ordinarily at least $100,000 per person. If you buy it from the same company where you have your underlying policy, you may be able to get an umbrella for about another $100 - $150 a year.

Premiums: Once you figure out what types of coverage you want for your bike or car, compare rates with other carriers. They can and do vary widely. Call agents, including your own, and some independent brokers.

Towing: Surprisingly, often very cheap to add, especially on autos. Check out the private towing policies for bikes that are similar to triple-A, such as MTS (Motorcycle Touring Service, pays most of the tow, some restrictions, costs about $50 a year, 1-800-999-7064), BRO's (through Easyriders magazine), and other programs through HOG, GWRRA, and other groups. Don't forget your free ABATE road list, and AIM volunteers may be available nationally at 1-800-531-2424.

If You Are Injured: The first and last rule: DO NOT TALK to any insurance people without first consulting an injury lawyer. Not about ANYTHING. Remember, the adjuster's job is to find every excuse to pay you as little as possible, whether it's your own company or not. Just because you are in the right doesn't mean things won't end up slanted against you by the adjuster. You may not even think you are hurt after an accident, say so to the adjuster, but discover later your injuries are much worse. You've just damaged your case. Just say "no." Don't talk to the adjuster. This can make a huge difference in how well you do. The opposing adjuster also won't help you to get your claim handled properly under your underinsured (UIM) policy, and could easily take actions that would ruin your UIM claim. Be safe. Call any good personal injury lawyer, including any AIM lawyer. At least get a free phone consultation. Call an attorney that does a lot of personal injury work regularly.

Questions: For questions about your car or bike insurance, or regarding any kind of accident claim, please feel free to call me or one of my able legal assistants, Ann, Don or Gunny, at no charge, at 503-224-1106. Outside the Portland area, call me direct, toll-free, at 1-800-347-1106.

Caveats: Insurance regulations and case law change, and they vary from state to state. Check with your agent, or call me or the AIM attorney in your state for a free insurance review. If you've had an accident, this article is not designed to show you how to handle your claim on your own!

Free Talks: As a service of the AIM program, I will speak to your motorcycle group and answer questions about insurance, tickets accidents, and other matters. Call to set up a time. It's fun for me, and your members will appreciate getting free legal advice.

Ride Safe!

The preceding was written by and is courtesy of Sam Hochberg, AIM Attorney for Oregon. He asks us to remind you to be sure to check your OWN state insurance laws and requirements. For additional information, an accident FAQ and for updates, please visit Sam's site, at

Insurance Companies with Motorcycle-Specific programs

Let me first say that I do not like dealing with local agents for big companies.  I want a 1-800 number I can call anytime, anywhere in the country and have someone able to pull up and service my account. Plus, to be quite honest, the level of customer service I have experienced just trying to get the several local agents I called to give me a quote has been dismal. I urge you to contact all the companies below however, you simply never know who will give you the lowest quote unless you call them all (regardless of what the competitors promise :)

Progressive: 1-800-377-2925
(The May Agency, 1-800-313-0285 advertises in the BMWMOA & very pleasant and responsive.)
GEICO Cycleguard: 1-800-44-CYCLE
Midwest Mutual Insurance Company: 1-800-247-4176
Dairyland: 1-800-225-1390
Must go through local agent.
State Farm: 1-888-942-4760
Must go through local agent.
Natonal General: 1-800-325-1190, 1-800-847-2886 x6148
They could only offer me 25/50 for underinsured/uninsured coverage. I like to have at least 100/300.
Allstate: They do not list a 1-800 on their website.
Must go through local agent.

Some Ugly Insurance Links:

Bad Faith, Dairyland & State Farm

Insurance Q&A

I just had a single bike accident. I am OK and the bike is driveable.
Q: I called my insurance company and they want me to drive the motorcycle over to an adjuster for him to look at/want an adjuster to come by and look at the motorcycle.
A: Here is where buying all those $11 oil filters from your local dealer really pays off. Your local dealer will in all likleyhood know the adjuster your insurance company uses. So, take your bike to your dealer and let him deal with it. They may go to bat for you, and already know all the little tricks of the claims-avoidance trade. Even if you plan on only repairing part of the damage, buy the parts from your dealer or let him do the work (by the time it is over he will have earned it!) That said, it is entirely possible your dealer may spend his time not going to bat for you, but making sure he gets to buy the wreck at the lowest price possible. I urge you to discuss this possible scenario with your local dealer so you can find out the easy way how you will be treated (and have time to go to another dealer should your welfare not seem to ba an issue.)

Q: OK, I don't have a local dealer, or my local dealer seems more interested in his short-term bottom line.
A: If you don't have a friendly local dealer, take a full set of photographs of the bike and make specific notes about what is damaged. Make sure to check under and behind any damage as well. DEMAND an adjuster that has experience writing motorcycle claims (I sat for 30 minutes trying to explain how a motorcycle can be damaged on both sides in a high-side, only to have the clueless adjuster ask when I had finished, "So, are absolutely you sure it happaned that way?"

under construction :)

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