My Motorcycle Accident

A Note About Insurance

2 September 1999

This is a message I sent to a motorcycle email list. I am no longer in need of a lawyer and the insurance issue seems to have fortunately sorted itself out without additional hardship for me.

Does anyone know a very good lawyer? Or better yet, a lawyer referral service you really trust?

My insurance case manager has informed us that the lady who was driving the Jeep has retained a lawyer. At first the implications of this were not apparent to me (maybe it is my drugs, maybe I am just a big idiot) but my wife's irateness has made it quite clear. While it is possible that the driver and her husband are just trying to protect their own "reasonable" interests it could be that they intend to go after a big monetary judgement.

While it is true that our insurance company will represent us in any suit stemming from this accident, their interest is in themselves and in any event their is a cap on the amount they would have to pay. If a judgement is rendered in excess of that depressingly low cap ($60,000) then the rest will have to come out of our pocket. We really need someone to be directly representing our interests. I am pretty sure that any suit would be in a New York court because the accident was there and the plaintiff lives there, so I would need a New York attorney.

In any event, I just think I am getting to the stage in my life where I should be able to say, "I'll have my lawyer look into it." I should probably be looking for a Vermont lawyer too.

While I've got your attention, I want to again preach about the importance of adequate insurance coverage. Right now my wife would not be quite so (understandably) angry and resentful at me about the possible ramifications of my having insufficient coverage and then being involved in this accident. I don't really blame her, and I feel very sad and anxious right now. I have never been sad or upset about my personal injuries throughout this whole period, but I am so depressed now about this other pile of shit I have dumped on our little family. The stress on our relationship is extreme.

The financial difference for peace of mind is minimal. It chokes me up when I think about how little money it would have taken to make this picture look a whole lot different. Today I asked my insurance agent to run some quotes for me and the results were distressing to hear. I was paying $125 annually for my motorcycle for the Vermont state minimum of $60,000 of liability coverage. For a mere six dollars more that coverage could have been raised to $100,000, and for an additional $44 ($175 total) I could have had $300,000 of liability coverage.

I would have gladly paid those amounts, when I originally bought the policy, if only I had thought to ask what the cost was and not had the silly, stupid, ridiculous notion that I could not cause all that much damage with my motorcycle. Well, heck, even though my motorcycle did go up against an SUV, supposedly the "winners" in typical accidents with smaller vehicles, the Jeep was still totalled and the driver had a back injury. Now think .... what if you were involved in an accident with a small car, another motorcycle, a bicycle or heaven forbid a pedestrian? Do you think your coverage is enough? Why didn't I think of those scenarios before? I could kick myself from here to the moon.

While I had my agent on the phone I also asked about our auto insurance, which at $300,000 liability I thought was already at the maximum. Not so – $500,000 is the maximum, which I need to carry before I can get an umbrella liability policy for one million dollars. The difference? Just $70 more for both vehicles. Without hesitation I said, "Do it and send me the bill." It is a no-brainer. If you are not living on the edge of your income or even if you are but can give up a hundred dollar luxury per year, then I urge you to raise your coverage. Let my experience be a lesson to you, and don like me, having to learn these lessons the hard way.

All of this is overshadowing what should otherwise be a pretty happy time for me right now, a milestone. Yesterday I had my first home visit, where my physical therapists evaluated how well I would be able to manage at home. Though there were a couple of tricky spots, and it was hot as hell to make me drip with sweat (typical Vermont house with no air-conditioning, and a 92 degree day), I was able to handle all my tasks – and have a nice visit with my cats. The current plan is that I will be able to go home for good next Tuesday afternoon.

Thanks for listening.


In another message, the following came up:

John P. Hite, Jr. writes:

Out of curiosity, I called my insurance company (State Farm) and asked what my current medical coverage was and what it would cost to up it...and guess what? I don't have medical coverage on my bike (I do on my truck) and I can't get it -- according to my agent, it is that way everywhere...so now I am confused.

Can somebody address this issue?

I wish I could, but I am not an insurance expert.

Some of it has to do with the state your are in. Since insurance is heavily regulated by each state individually, the rules vary quite a bit as far as what is mandated, permitted or forbidden. Some states require personal injury protection to be underwritten on all motor vehicle policies; apparently you are in a state that either forbids it or makes it optional.

Even so, still see if you can raise your liability limits. I have proven that a 600 pound motorcycle is capable of totalling an SUV, and the base price for most mid-size SUVs starts around $25k right now. While it might be unlikely that you end up being responsible for the wrecking of a luxury car, if you _do_ total it you're on the hook for a lot of money. Now that I finally have assets to protect it is really worth it to me to raise my liability coverage for a couple of dozen more dollars per year. The incremental change for doubling your coverage is notably less than double the premium.

Personally, when I get out of here I plan to buy an umbrella insurance policy. Basically they protect your assets in the event that you become liable for damages to someone else, such as if someone slipped on ice on a sidewalk the city requires you as a homeowner to keep clear and then sued you for compensation. For a relatively small premium you can get fairly substantial coverage; for example, about $100 can get you one million dollars worth of coverage. It works in conjunction with your auto and homeowners policies to cover whatever liability you incur above their limits. You normally need to meet certain minimum limits on those policies before an umbrella policy is issued.

I am not an insurance agent; some of this information may be factually wrong and should not be relied upon in any material way. Get the straight scoop from your own agent.

Several years later, writing now in 2003, I have one additional note about insurance. My agent recommended that I keep the bike policy in effect even though I no longer had that bike, because he said it would be easier for me to get coverage for a new bike after this event if I had an existing policy in effect rather than trying to start a new one. I paid for that policy for three years until I finally got a new bike in 2002, at which point they would not insure it. Apparently the issue was that the Honda VFR800 I got was a problem, since as a sport tourer they pushed it into the sport bike category. Reportedly if I had gotten a standard, a tourer or a cruiser than I would have been ok. Fortunately I was able to find another insurer quickly.

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