In California, if a cyclist or pedestrian is injured as a result of a motorist’s negligence, the Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist (UIM) coverage for cyclists and pedestrians applies. This is established by California case law, starting with Daun v. USAA (2005) 125 Cal.App.4th 599. It is crucial for any attorney representing an injured cyclist or pedestrian, as well as all cyclists and pedestrians, to be familiar with this aspect of California auto insurance law.
For example, if a cyclist has $100,000 of UIM coverage in their auto policy and suffers $100,000 worth of injuries as a result of the negligence of a motorist who only has $25,000 in liability insurance for personal injury the cyclist can first reclaim $25 K from the motorist and then can reclaim $75,000 from the cyclist’s own auto insurance. However, if the UIM coverage is only $25,000, the cyclist has no reason to claim a UIM policy because the policies cannot be stacked. UIM coverage requires the other driver’s insurance limits to be fully exhausted in order to qualify for UIM coverage – failure to offset full policy limits may constitute misconduct.
Bicycle attorneys and pedestrian injury attorneys consulted by injured cyclists or pedestrians should therefore begin by determining whether the injured person is covered by a motor vehicle policy and, if so, whether the policy provides UIM coverage and the limits of such coverage . This also provides the attorney with an opportunity to find out the driver’s limits of liability before filing a lawsuit. Personal injury attorneys should be familiar with the requirements for making such UIM claims.
With high rates of bicycle accidents, especially in cities like San Francisco, the bicyclists should be made aware of this law and encouraged to meet high UIM limits on their auto insurance in case they injure themselves while riding their bikes. UIM coverage is also one of the most cost-effective components of coverage, but insurers do not allow the UIM limit to exceed the insured’s liability limit for personal injury.