Please understand that due to the nature of the subject and the fact that every state has slightly different liability insurance laws, you must afford me a certain amount of flexibility in my explanations. For specifics as they apply to you, consult with your local agents, brokers or direct insurer.
Liability coverage is for the benefit of others. No matter if youíre riding a sportbike, vintage motorcycle, constructed motorcycle (assembled by hand), dual-sport or full dresser, if you are the at-fault party, liability insurance covers everyone involved except you!
There is some protection that is afforded to you through the purchase of the coverage, but we will explore those options in future installments. For now, we will address what your motorcycle liability coverage does. Since your stateís minimum liability policies are unique, I want you to make sure you ask your insurance professional what that minimum is. Most agents, brokers and underwriters prefer you keep your limits at the minimum. It may seem like itís smart to do because ďItís just a bike. How much damage can it do?Ē Wrong!
In Georgia, my home, those minimum liability limits are $25,000BI/$50,000BI/$25,000PD. The BI is Bodily Injury and the PD is Property or Physical Damage. Those first two numbers are critical to understand. The $25,000 covers any single injured individual. The $50,000 covers all of the injured (and no, itís not an equal division). Weíll address property damage in the next installment.
To put these terms in a real-world scenario, my favorite scenario is this: You are rolling down the road on your FJR, and suddenly you manage to slam head-long into a bus full of nuns. Who gets help after you come to rest from your aerial ballet? The nuns get some help and the bus gets some help, but youíre S.O.L. if you have only liability insurance.
Letís say four of 10 nuns have managed to break bones and two need corrective surgery. Is there enough money of that $50,000 to pay all the medical bills? No way! Your decision to save a few bucks or your agentís lack of understanding just managed to get you sued.
The difference in what I do compared to my counterparts is simple: I want continuity in all of your vehicle coverage. If you own a house worth $100k-plus or a car worth more than $20k and you are not buying $100,000/$300,000/$50,000 policies for your vehicles, youíre set up for a lawsuit. You have assets to protect, and your desire to save a few bucks by purchasing cheap motorcycle insurance will throw you under the nunsí bus if thereís a bodily injury claim.
Is that really what you want? Think about this: Your liability limits are only a small portion of the premium total if you buy comprehensive and collision coverage. To go from the lowest limits to the highest in casualty liability coverage will usually cost less than $70 for a policy term. Is not being sued worth $70 over six months to a year? If your agent talked you into the minimum limits, ask him or her why, especially if you have auto policies that are at high casualty limits.
Another thing to address is Passenger Liability for your bike. In some states this coverage is optional, which is madness! Why would you exclude your passengers from liability coverage? Do you not love your family or friends? If you ride a bike and exclude passengers yet you travel with passengers, you are just like the squids that most of us make fun of. Itís just that simple.
In the next installment we will cover property damage, medical payments and uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage to help you select the best motorcycle insurance for your needs. Remember that cheap insurance is quite different than the best rates. Motorcycle insurance is a specialized service. Find an agent, broker or insurer that understands your needs.
Kirk Harrington is a longtime rider and avid motorcycle enthusiast, and heís one of the nationís only specialized motorcycle insurance agents, operating from his location north of Atlanta, Georgia.
Motorcycle Insurance Buyerís Guide
Motorcycle Insurance: Property or Physical Damage
Motorcycle Insurance: Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage
Motorcycle Insurance: Comprehensive Collission Coverage