Posted by Becky Jo (Columnist) on April 14th, 2020 at 8:24 am
Insurance is a tricky thing, particularly in times of social and economic uncertainty.
I’m always conflicted about it: Part of me feels like it’s legalized racketeering, part of me feels like it falls under the idea that “laws keep people free” which has its own set of conflicts. Specifically for our purposes here on BikePortland, let’s talk UM/UIM, aka uninsured motorists or under-insured motorists.
When I first started, there were suggestions of getting some sort of insurance in the event I was hit by a person driving a car, and either they kept going or were under/uninsured. When I sold my car, my Geico policy offered ever so kindly to keep me on as a cyclist for $60 a month, which seemed pretty steep. Come to find out later, most insurance companies don’t even offer to cover you as a cyclist unless you also have a car. Isn’t that bonkers? Car insurance has always been my least favorite, so I find it difficult to believe there’s an avenue for making money they’re not exploiting. Maybe the numbers aren’t in our favor? State Farm and Farmers said they don’t cover without an auto policy. I called Cindy at a local Farmers Insurance office, and she said motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians are all covered under personal injury protection under the auto policy in addition to the required UM/UIM coverage. My research was brief and by no means exhaustive, but more for us to have a general idea.
I have, however, always quite enjoyed working with lawyers and found contacting a few of the BikePortland-listed lawyers preferable to calling more insurance companies. I got Scott Kocher of Forum Law Group on the phone and boy, did I drink from the firehose. Scott is a wealth of information, as you well know because he’s also written for BikePortland.
Scott is insistent that we cyclists need UM/UIM insurance. In fact, Scott suggest that you max out the UM/UIM option at the $500,000 to $1 million mark if you can. The idea is that if you actually get hit and need hospitalization, you’re going to go through the Oregon minimum of $25,000 liability really quickly.
I don’t know if you’ve experienced hospital billing collections, but they’re ugly and gross. My last kid’s birth, I had excellent private insurance, but the anesthesiologist’s office messed up my billing address, so unbeknownst to me, I had a bill for my epidural floating about, and it went to collections in less than 6 months. I actually had people showing up at my work for a bill I had the insurance and flex money to pay, but it was too late. I got a subpoena. They did not care. That bill cost me more than double what it should have – and that was only $3,000. Imagine blowing through $25,000!
Did I mention I dislike insurance companies? And I take back what I said about lawyers — I like all lawyers except collections lawyers.
What do you do? Do you fly by the seat of your pants, or suck it up and pay the insurance?
I also asked Scott about cameras. Cameras and insurance coverage seem to go hand-in-hand.
Scott was kinda “meh” on cameras for court purposes. Sure, he gets sometimes you want some killer footage of your weekly training ride or maybe you want footage to help police bust a dangerous driver. I’ve been watching you on social media, and have seen mixed results from the latter with Portland Police. I’ve personally had a driver threaten to hit me with their car by swerving into me, right in front of a Portland Police officer without even so much as an acknowledgement. (I actually have quite a few family members in law enforcement including my mother, so I don’t hate police. This particular experience made me more disappointed than anything.)
But the real kicker? Scott has seen the offending driver’s legal team slow down the footage from a cyclist, frame by frame, to prove the cyclist didn’t do enough to avoid getting hit.
THE CYCLIST DIDN’T DO ENOUGH TO AVOID GETTING HIT?! (I said this with more swear words on the phone.)
I’ve yelled at pedestrians, cyclists, and skateboarders to myself from inside my car when they’ve pushed it way too close. But you know, I’m of the mind that if I’m going to murder someone, I want to plan it. I don’t want to murder someone without a good reason. (Please know me by now to read that with tongue-firmly-planted-in-cheek.) But every time I ever have got to that scary point of where I’m yelling in my car because of a too-close-call, obviously I saw them and I used that amazing pedal called a “brake.” It’s a wondrous pedal. It stops thousands of pounds. I haven’t murdered anyone to this day, intentionally or otherwise. But to prove a cyclist didn’t avoid my car enough?? I’m not saying it doesn’t happen. I have friends who’ve admitted to running into stopped cars because they spaced out for a few seconds; but we all know this is different, right? We all know exactly what Scott was talking about: A car insurance company fighting an injured human.
Yes, I really do dislike insurance companies.
That said, there are plenty of proponents of dashcams and bike-mounted cams. Rumor has it Multnomah County DA Rod Underhill is a cyclist and is in favor of cams.
What are your thoughts? Are you pro/anti bike camera in regards to safety and possibly having to go to court against a driver? If so, what has your experience been? Is it worth the expense? And do you always have it plugged in? I have a hard enough time keeping my lights charged.
As always, thank you so much for hanging out with me here.
— Becky Jo, @BeckyJoPDX
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Becky Jo lives in North Portland with her husbeast, four children, two cats, and has packed more fabric into their modest house than anyone will ever know. While she knows her way around a sewing machine, cycling is new, filling her with great wonder, confusion, and occasionally panic.