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What insurance policies apply in a Texas motorcycle accident case?

If you choose to file an insurance claim following your motorcycle accident, you'll want to have an idea of how insurance works.

In this article, we'll break down the different types of insurance and how they impact a motorcycle accident claim.


Questions Answered on This Page:

  • Under Texas law, what insurance policies play a role in a motorcycle accident case?
  • How does motorcycle insurance work?
  • In a motorcycle accident, do I file with my own insurance or the other driver?
  • How much does insurance cover in a motorcycle wreck?
  • Does the insurance company have to pay me after a motorcycle accident?

Insurance coverage for motorcycle accidents:

Under Texas law, there are a few kinds of insurance that come into play in a motorcycle accident case. For simplicity's sake, we'll explain which insurance policies may come into play by discussing them in terms of who owns the policy: the other driver or you.

  • Other Driver's Insurance:

    As long as there have been cars and motorcycles on Texas roads, there has existed the right to sue someone when they cause an accident and hurt you. But for many years, the only way to get compensation from someone you sue was by taking the money they had in the bank, because Texas law did not, at the time, require drivers to carry liability insurance. The problem with this old way of doing things was that accidents were common, but far less common was the likelihood of being hurt by someone who actually had the means to pay you a fair amount. To solve this "you have the right to sue but most people can't afford to pay even if you win" dilemma, Texas lawmakers long ago decreed that all drivers are required to carry some minimum level of liability insurance.

    • Liability coverage - The way that liability insurance works, in general, is that a driver purchases a predetermined amount of coverage. The minimum amount of coverage that a driver can purchase is set by law, but drivers can always buy additional coverage. When someone buys a policy that provides, say, $50,000 in liability coverage, their insurance carrier has agreed to act as their "financial body guard" up to $50,000 worth of harm inflicted, but the carrier is not liable for anything beyond that amount. So, if a driver buys a $50,000 policy and causes $60,000 worth of injuries, the insurance carrier only has to pay $50,000 and the driver is on the hook for the remaining $10,000.

       

      But here's where things get tricky. Insurance carrier do not agree to automatically pay for injuries sustained by people their insured drivers hurt. Instead, they agree to pay as a method of last resort. What this means for you is that if you were injured in a motorcycle accident and the other driver has $100,000 in insurance, all that signifies is that their insurance carrier is willing to pay UP TO $100,000, but only if a jury makes them do so.

      In Texas, liability insurance is paid on an at-fault basis, meaning that the driver who hit you may have all the insurance coverage in the world, but that means nothing if you don't have the skills to prove his fault in a court of law. The only thing that truly obligates the other driver's insurance carrier to pay you is a jury verdict saying that insured driver is liable for an amount of money determined by the jury.

      Now, you may be thinking, "But don't most cases settle out of court?" Yes, they do, but the reason they settle is because, even though the law says that the insurance carrier doesn't have to pay you absent a jury verdict saying they must, the insurance carrier can agree to voluntarily accept responsibility. What makes them do so? Knowing that they will lose if they take the case to court. Therefore, your ability to force an insurance carrier to settle comes from making them afraid of losing in court.

      Think of it this way. Imagine the school bully stole your bike and you want it back. How can you make him give you your bike back? Well, you can either call the cops and they will eventually make him do it, or you can just threaten to call the cops. Some bullies will not be fazed by your threat and you'll actually have to get the police involved, but other bullies will think, "If he calls the cops, I'll have to pay a bunch of extra money to get out of jail and pay my defense attorney, so, even though I don't want to voluntarily give him the bike, it's cheaper for me to do that than to go through a long legal battle and still have to give the bike back anyway." Insurance carriers are no different. If they can be made to understand that they will lose in court, then even though you haven't gone the full distance (taken your case to trial), the mere fact that you're willing and able to is what makes them realize that it would be cheaper for them to do the right thing and voluntarily compensate you rather than prolong the inevitable and end up both compensating you and paying for their own legal fees. Again, though, nothing under Texas law says that they have to do so, and the burden is on you to convince them that they should. Naturally, that's where your lawyer comes into play.

      The current minimum requirement for liability coverage in the state of Texas is what is referred to as the 30-60-30 policy. It's called a 30-60-30 as a way to denote (through shorthand) the amounts of coverage for various claims made under the policy. The first "30" refers to $30,000 as the maximum amount the policy will pay to any one individual injured person, "60" refers to the fact that $60,000 is the maximum the policy will pay for the combined injury claims of all persons injured in the wreck (whether it's two injured people who file a claim or 100), and the second "30" denotes $30,000 as the most the policy will pay for property damage. Most drivers have this kind of policy. But insurance carriers will sell drivers any amount of coverage (with $30k as a minimum) they're willing to pay for.

      It's also worth noting that when you're hurt in a motorcycle accident and you file a claim against the driver who hit you, their insurance carrier is not obligated to tell you how much insurance coverage they have. You might assume that they have a 30-60-30 plan, but the driver may actually have a more valuable plan that would be capable of covering more of your losses, but you can bet that his insurance carrier isn't going to volunteer that information. However, your attorney can use the authority of the court to find out how much money the other driver's policy covers, but this is a process unto itself.

    • Commercial Vehicle Coverage - This is used when vehicles are used for business purposes. Since the insured has business assets to protect as opposed to their individual assets, purchasers of these policies typically buy far more coverage then individuals do. While that might sound like a good thing (it is if you play your cards right), that also means these insurance carriers are more willing to fight dirty in order to protect their insured and their money. Simply put, with more on the line, they fight harder. Nevertheless, it is important for your attorney to determine whether the policy covering the person who hit you is a typical consumer policy or a commercial policy. And in this modern era, company vehicles are often unassuming, regular passenger cars, not just 18-wheelers and dump trucks.
    • Umbrella/Excess Coverage - One of our employees has an insurance carrier that will only sell policies up to $300,000, but he wanted extra coverage. So he also invested in an umbrella policy to give him additional coverage. If, hypothetically, he were to crash into you, you'd effectively have two insurance policies to be compensated from. But the question is, would you know that you do? Attorneys know how to ferret out excess coverage like an umbrella policy, and that's just one of the reasons that we're able to get our clients so much more money than what they can obtain through self-representation. It should also be understood that umbrella policies only come into effect when the underlying liability policy is exhausted. So, if you fail to get all of the money from the liability policy, the umbrella carrier won't even take your call. The liability policy is the first line of defense, and the umbrella policy is the second.
    • Additional Liability Policies on Other Vehicles - For some reason, rather than buying one policy to cover all of their vehicles, many people will buy a policy with, say, Progressive for their car and, say, Geico for their truck, and yet another policy for their boat, etc. We can't tell you why people do this, but when they do, these policies "stack," and you can file claims against all of them. Again, this is just another argument for having an attorney dig into the other driver's insurance. Otherwise, these other policies may never see the light of day.
  • Your Own Insurance:

    You likely have liability coverage, but this is only good if you hurt someone else, and they come after your money. Your own liability coverage does not cover your injuries at someone else's hand. However, there are other add-on polices, called "riders," that you may have also purchased when you bought your liability coverage on your motorcycle. These include:

    • Personal Injury Protection (PIP) - Personal injury protection is no-fault coverage that you buy to cover yourself. It's usually low in value (usually $10,000 or less), but since it is no-fault coverage, it is paid to you from your own carrier just because you were hurt. In other words, irrespective of fault, this add-on coverage, if you bought it, will pay you a few thousand dollars just because you bought it. However, PIP can only be used to reimburse you for lost wages or medical bills. If you have incurred neither, you can't file a PIP claim, even if you bought PIP coverage. Now, you may be thinking, "Why do insurance carriers sell PIP coverage? If insurance carriers love to put up a fight, why do they just give this money away with practically no questions asked?" The answer is because it's ridiculously expensive, proportionately speaking. You may buy $30,000 in liability coverage and pay $100 per month. That means that every dollar of coverage costs 1/3 of a penny. But to add PIP coverage to your policy, you'll pay an extra $25 per month and get, say, $2,500 in coverage. That means that you're effectively paying 1 cent per dollar of coverage, or slightly more than three times what you pay for liability coverage. The way your insurance carrier sees it, it's basically free money. The liability coverage they sell you is likely to be used (most people will get into some kind of fender bender and their carrier will have to pay to fix the other guy's car), but the likelihood of an injury is far less likely.
    • Uninsured Motorist / Underinsured Motorist Coverage (UIM) - You may also have UIM coverage as a rider to your liability policy, but many people don't understand how this functions in the event of an accident. Essentially, when you buy UIM coverage, you're buying an insurance policy for the rest of the world. You're effectively contracting with your own insurance carrier to step in and act as the other driver's carrier in the event that the other driver doesn't have any insurance or if they don't have enough. The ugly secret of UIM coverage, though, is that it's not like PIP at all. Whereas PIP does not have any regard for who, what, when, where, or why, and it simply pays just because you're hurt while in your car, UIM coverage works exactly like a liability policy. As such, your carrier is not obligated to pay you just because they're your carrier. On the contrary, they are even allowed to defend the other driver against you. Again, when you buy UIM coverage, you're effectively buy a liability policy for the other driver. However, under Texas contract law and fair business rules, when your own carrier goes too far out of bounds to avoid paying you through the UIM policy, we have some additional leverage that we can use against them. Nevertheless, do not make the mistake of assuming that just because you bought the policy that they have to pay you.

    Lastly, a common concern among people in your position is that they don't want to file against their own policy; they want the other guy to pay. Two thoughts. First, we'd rather make the other guy pay, too. Our first order of business will be to do just that, and that's usually how most cases are resolved, and your own policy is never touched. Second, if you have a genuine need to file against your own policy but are reluctant to do so, ask yourself why you purchased PIP or UIM coverage if not for this exact scenario. If handled correctly, making a claim against these policies will not affect your insurance premiums, so, if the need arises, there's no good argument for not taking advantage of the insurance that you purchased.

Why motorcycle accident cases are different from car accidents.

Since insurance companies often don't want to pay up (either denying your claim because the other party claims you are at fault, or because the police report was incorrect, or through appearing generous but only giving you a small percentage of what you are really owed) it is often a good idea to contact an attorney that will be able to represent you and get the compensation that you are owed.

When juries look at motorcycle cases, they often have the biases that this article mentions earlier, which is why it is important to have a good attorney to highlight your dedication to safety. In addition, if your injuries are very severe, the jury will be able to see how it has affected your ability to work or to enjoy certain aspects of your life.

Texas motorcycle accident attorney Michael Grossman can help.

Many personal injury law firms, like ours, specialize in making sure you receive the compensation you deserve, and in addition, don't charge any fees unless you win your case. If you think you have a case, but aren't sure, you can also get a free consultation at (855) 326-0000. Our attorneys are happy to speak with you 24/7, at no additional cost to you. We know dealing with motorcycle accidents is a frustrating and sometimes devastating experience, so we're here to help you find some answers.


Read our other articles concerning motorcycle accidents: