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Get Legal: Auto insurance, biking, walking, and you

Posted by on June 4th, 2014 at 11:58 am

Charley Gee helps us work through the
wonk on insurance.

Welcome to our Get Legal column. This is usually written by noted local bike lawyer Ray Thomas. But this time we’ve got one of Mr. Thomas’s co-workers Charley Gee filling in. Gee, an attorney at Swanson, Thomas, Coon & Newton is also an expert on how bicycles fit into the legal fine print. Today he’ll unravel confusion that often exists around insurance. Specifically, how auto insurance policies impacts those of us who don’t drive much (or at all).

Q. I have an Oregon automobile insurance policy. What does that mean?

A. In Oregon, every automobile insurance policy has four areas of coverage: Liability, Personal Injury Protection (PIP), Property Damage, and Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage (UM/UIM).

Q. What is PIP?

A. PIP covers medical expenses and lost wages if you are injured in a collision. In Oregon, the minimum amount of coverage is $15,000. PIP is (usually) “first party” coverage which means your automobile insurance covers your medical bills and wage loss despite the collision being the fault of another road user.

Q. I ride a bicycle and walk places sometimes, do I need to buy an additional insurance policy that covers me when I ride?

A. It depends. In Oregon, your automobile insurance will cover you in some ways when you are walking or riding your bicycle. If you are injured in a collision with a motor vehicle, your PIP insurance will pay your medical bills. However, if you are injured in an accident that does not involve a motor vehicle, PIP will not cover you, but your health insurance would. If you hit and injure a pedestrian or another bicyclist while you are riding your bicycle, your automobile liability insurance will not apply. There are other insurance options available to cover your liability, such as homeowners/renters insurance or personal liability umbrella policies.

Q. I usually walk or ride my bicycle for transportation. I don’t own a car. Can I get insurance?

A. Yes, so long as you’re a licensed driver. Some national insurers offer insurance for drivers who don’t own their own cars. These policies usually need to be purchased through a broker or local agent, though. This coverage is very affordable and offer the same protection.

Q. Do I still need a big policy if I mostly walk or ride my bicycle?

A. Yes. It is just as important (if not more so) to have adequate insurance when you are riding your bicycle. In Oregon the amount of your UM/UIM insurance is the same as your liability insurance. Therefore higher limits means more protection for you as well as any other road user you may injure.


Q. Will my automobile policy cover my bicycle if it is stolen?

A. No. However, your homeowners/renters insurance policy might cover the loss.

Q. I was hit by a car while riding my bicycle and had to go to the hospital, how do I pay the bills? I have automobile insurance and health insurance.

A. Since you have your own automobile insurance, your PIP coverage will become the “primary” insurer to pay the bills. Any bills not covered by your automobile insurance will be paid by your health insurance. Additionally, any bill not paid by either of your insurers, like co-pays, can be submitted to the motor vehicle driver’s PIP insurer. Your insurers will then seek repayment from the negligent driver’s insurer in a process called subrogation.

Q. I was hit by a car by a car while I was walking. I had to go to the hospital. How do I pay the bills? I don’t have automobile insurance or health insurance.

A. In Oregon, pedestrians (and that includes bicycle riders in the context), can access the PIP coverage of a motor vehicle that hit them, regardless of whose fault the collision was. As a result, if you are struck and injured by a motor vehicle while walking, your medical bills and wage loss will be covered as if you had automobile insurance yourself.

Q. I was hit by a car while walking and injured. Now I can’t work. How do I recover my lost wages?

A. Your lost wages will be paid by PIP coverage, but not 100%. First, you have to be unable to work for two weeks. Even then you will receive only 70% of your gross pay up to $3,000 a month. The other portions of wage loss not covered will need to be recovered from the driver’s insurance company through a settlement or trial.

Q. I was hit by a car while riding my bicycle and my bicycle was damaged. How do I get it repaired?

A. Your property damage is covered under the automobile insurance policy of the car that hit you. Once you have a claim open with the insurer, take your damaged bicycle to a bicycle shop for a damage estimate. The damage estimate will need to contain the cost of repairing the bicycle. If the bicycle is a total loss the shop should provide you with the value of the bicycle, as a used bicycle with the components it had, at the moment before it was hit and its value now.

Q. I was hit by a car while walking and I don’t think I was hurt. Should I still file a claim with the driver’s insurance company?

A. Yes. First, sometimes injuries can stay “hidden” for several months. Second, by reporting a driver that hit you to their insurer, you are ensuring some repercussion (higher insurance rates) for their negligent driving.

Q. I was hit by a car while riding my bicycle and the driver did not have insurance. What can I do? I have automobile insurance.

A. Your insurance policy contains UM/UIM coverage which will cover you if you are hit by an uninsured or underinsured (damages exceed their policy) driver. Your insurer essentially steps into the shoes of the negligent’s driver’s insurance (if they had any).

Q. I was hit by a car while riding my bicycle and the driver did not have insurance. What can I do? I do not have automobile insurance.

A. First, file a police report. If you have medical insurance, that coverage will pay your medical bills. If you do not have medical insurance then you may need to find a treating doctor that will accept payments or treat you for a reduced charge. If the uninsured driver struck you while engaged in a crime (assault, driving under the influence) then you may be able to obtain compensation from the Oregon Crime Victim’s Fund.

Thanks Charley! And by the way folks, he’ll be watching the comment section for your questions and feedback.

This article is part of our monthly legal series sponsored by Swanson, Thomas, Coon & Newton.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for discrimination or harassment including expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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Non-Named Owner Policies (for those of us who drive occasionally, but don’t own a car) are relatively affordable, but they aren’t at all cheap. I pay ~450 a year to cover myself and my mate. 90% of the time I drive I am covered by ZipCar, Car2Go, or GetAround, but I keep the policy for uninsured motorist coverage and for when I rent a car. Renting a car for about 2 weeks a year out of town balances out the insurance policy, pretty well.

That said, I really wish a company like MetroMile would offer me pay as I go Non-Named Owner insurance. I suspect I could save 300 a year or more on my insurance if I could pay non-car rental rates for the two weeks I need it.

Todd Boulanger
Todd Boulanger

…how about us BP readers in SW WA…or Portlanders riding north of the border for work commute or recreation? Any additional info on WA law?

Craig Harlow
Craig Harlow

In all of the above examples (not just the last one), isn’t it advisable to file a collision report with ODOT, regardless of whether the police were called to the scene?

When I was hit on my bike by a car, the other party’s insurance required a government collision report number (they didn’t haggle and paid the full claim, thank goodness).

Timur Ender
Timur Ender

is your UM/UIM triggered if you are the victim of hit & run? I’m assuming yes but wasn’t sure.

Steph Routh
Steph Routh

Charley, you’re a delight! Swell article. (and BikePortland forgot to mention that you have been serving as Umbrella Board President for the past x years. WNBR riders around Portland … umm … salute you?)


This is really helpful … especially the part about hit & run. When I got hit while riding 4 years ago (vehicle at fault, ironically none of the 8 or so witnesses got the license plate), my State Farm agent told me that I did not have any applicable coverage for either my injuries OR damage to my bike. Luckily both were fairly minor, but now he and I are going to have a little “come to Jesus” meeting. The explanation was that riding a bike in the roadway was the same as being a pedestrian on the sidewalk. Total BS!


I was struck by a TriMet bus while riding my bike just yesterday afternoon, and sustained an injury to my shoulder and damage to my bicycle. The driver was aware that he had hit me, told me that I was fine, and chose to leave the scene of the accident. I’m not sure how to handle this situation. I have enough information to identify the driver and the bus that hit me, but after contacting TriMet, I feel like they’re just going to sweep this under the rug in typical TriMet fashion. Any suggestions?


If I’m reading this article right, since I have neither a driver’s license nor a car there’s no way for me to be an insured bicyclist.