Motorcycle Riders: Look Carefully at Your Insurance Coverage

April 12, 2012  |  John T. Buchman

Our unseasonably warm weather and early spring certainly has many motorcycle riders out early this year. All motorcyclists should carefully consider their insurance and review their coverage. It’s easy to think that the coverage someone has on their car will be similar to the coverage they have purchased for their motorcycle. However, this is not true in many respects.
Under the Minnesota “No-Fault” Law, motorcycles are not defined as “motor vehicles.” Thus, motorcyclists have significantly fewer rights under the No-Fault Act than those who drive cars, trucks, SUVs, etc. Motorcyclists have to pay extra for optional benefits that are required in every automobile policy. For example, motorcyclists have to pay extra for medical expense, wage loss and other similar benefits.
A recent Court of Appeals decision has shown another area where some insurance companies have included provisions in their policy that provide less coverage for the dollar than policies provided by other insurance companies. In Farmers Insurance Exchange vs. Eschen; Mike Brown paid for $100,000 in underinsured or UIM coverage for his motorcycle. He was tragically killed when he was hit by a car driven by Gary Arens. Mr. Arens had only $50,000 in coverage. If Mr. Brown had been driving or riding in a car, his family would have received $100,000 in UIM coverage that he had paid for. However, Farmers included a “reducing” or “limits less limits” clause that lowered how much money it had to pay by the amount of coverage purchased by the at-fault driver (Arens). As a result, the family only got $50,000 out of the $100,000 coverage Mr. Brown had purchased.
Such a clause can not be included in any car policy issued in Minnesota. However, since a motorcycle is not considered a “motor vehicle,” insurance companies are somewhat free to restrict the amount of coverage they offer to their insureds. Often these limitations are not readily apparent to most people, particularly those who assume that their motorcycle policy will be similar to the coverage they have on their car.
Anyone looking to insure a motorcycle should ask their agent about such clauses and how specifically the coverages are different from what they might have on their car. In the above case, Mr. Brown’s UIM insurance would have been worthless had the other driver carried $100,000 in coverage. There would also be no reason at all to purchase only $30,000 of underinsured or UIM coverage since it would never be available. A Minnesota auto policy must have at least $30,000 in liability coverage or is considered uninsured, which is a different but similar coverage.
We here at Barna, Guzy & Steffen, Ltd. are always willing to answer any questions or help those injured in crashes involving cars, motorcycles, bicycles and/or pedestrians. We are conveniently located in Anoka County and have been handling personal injury matters for over 70 years.
~ John T. Buchman
Personal Injury Attorney