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What motorcyclists in Washington need to know about insurance

SPONSORED — It’s about more than just looking cool. Considering that motorcycles are far more economical than automobiles and parking is typically much easier to come by, it’s no wonder so many people decide to opt for motorcycles rather than a car or truck. But if you drive two wheels for work or play, it’s important to understand the ways in which Washington state’s traffic laws might affect you differently.

You’re more likely to be injured in an accident

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says that, per each vehicle mile traveled, the risk of fatality is 26 times greater for motorcyclists than it is for drivers of passenger vehicles and the risk of injury is 5 times greater. And while this may not deter most riders from saddling up, it should get motorcyclists to think about the ways they can protect themselves in the event of a crash. Since Washington state law doesn’t require motorcyclists to carry liability insurance, it’s up to individual riders to take control. And just as it’s definitely in your best interests to wear a protective shell around your head, it’s also a smart idea to pony up a few extra bucks every month for adequate insurance coverage.

“Motorcycle accidents often leave the rider or passengers with very serious injuries because motorcycles don’t provide the same kind of physical protective barrier that cars and trucks do,” says Chris Davis, principal attorney and founder of Davis Law Group, a leading personal injury law firm in Seattle. “For these reasons, motorcyclists have a statistically higher rate of serious injury and fatality than drivers of passenger vehicles.”

In fact, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) says that a whopping 13 percent of all traffic fatalities in 2015 were motorcyclists, even though motorcycles only represented 3 percent of all registered vehicles in the U.S. and accounted for just 0.7 percent of vehicle miles traveled that year.

You’re at a greater risk of hit and run

With the increased risk of serious injury comes a higher cost of recovery. The medical bills, missed time at work, and diminished physical ability can easily add up to tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages for an injured motorcyclist. If another person is at fault for your injuries and has adequate liability insurance to provide coverage for your damages, then you should be taken care of – assuming that you can identify who the other driver was. NHTSA data shows that hit-and-run crashes continue to be on the rise, and that can be problematic when you consider that identifying a responsible party is key to any successful personal injury claim.

“We have seen lots of hit-and-run motorcycle accidents, some where the at-fault driver may not even realize that they had struck the motorcycle, and we’ve had some success in identifying and locating these drivers for our clients,” adds Mr. Davis. “Knowing the identity of the person at fault allows us to hold them responsible for causing the collision.”

The fact of the matter is that hit-and-run motorcycle accidents are not uncommon, particularly because drivers sometimes don’t even realize they’ve struck a motorcycle. If you are unable to identify the party responsible for causing the crash, you may be on the hook to pay for all of the damages — both to your property and your person.

The other driver might be underinsured

Distracted and drug- or alcohol-impaired drivers pose a serious threat to everyone on the road, especially motorcyclists. Even the most seasoned rider can’t avoid every impaired or otherwise negligent motorist. If an irresponsible driver causes an accident involving you and your motorcycle, their liability policy will cover your damages — to an extent.

“If the other driver only purchased $25,000 in liability coverage and the motorcyclist never bought their own insurance because they weren’t legally required to, then the motorcyclist will likely be unable to make a claim for anything above that $25,000 limit,” Davis explains. “And an impaired driver is more likely to carry one of these low-limit policies because insurance companies are typically reluctant to provide higher levels of coverage to drivers with a history of driving under the influence.”

Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist (UM/UIM) coverage can provide several hundred thousands of dollars in additional coverage, depending on the level of coverage you decide to purchase. And it’s likely to come in handy, too, considering that in 2012 Washington state ranked tenth in the United States with a 16.1 percent uninsured driver rate.

You’re not just protecting your bike

A fender bender is one thing, but a serious accident can leave you with more than just a damaged motorcycle. Your auto insurance policy is there not only to cover medical bills and property damages; it’s there to protect anything else you might own. When you can’t cover the cost of your medical treatment or other damages resulting from accident, those bills could be sent to collections and have a negative impact on your credit score. And since UM/UIM coverage typically costs the average driver just 5 percent of their total insurance premium, the return on investment in the event of a serious accident could make all the difference for your financial future.

Your bike might be replaceable; but the rest of your life isn’t.

Understand your rights before the unthinkable happens

Most riders don’t have a good understanding of what their own legal rights are, and this lack of preparation can lead to dire mistakes in the event of an accident. The good news is you don’t even need to shell out money for a lawyer in order to learn more about your rights on the road.

In 2007, Mr. Davis began to author and publish the Washington Accident Books series of legal guides on personal injury law for residents of Washington state. The books explain in plain English how various state laws affect drivers, motorcyclists, pedestrians, bicyclists, and others who would benefit from a more comprehensive understanding of their legal rights.

Today, the Washington Accident Books series is contains 12 different books including Road To Justice: A Legal Guide to Motorcycle Accident Claims. The books are absolutely free (including shipping) and are available for order at WashingtonAccidentBooks.com

Davis Law Group is an award-winning, civil litigation law firm seeking justice for those who have suffered serious or life-changing personal injury as the result of carelessness or negligence and for families that grieve over the wrongful death of a loved one. The firm also offers a series of free legal guides to personal injury law in Washington state, which are available free of charge at WashingtonAccidentBooks.com

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