I need to tell you a tragic story about a young woman whose life was completely altered simply because she got on the back of a motorcycle. The young man driving the motorcycle did nothing wrong but, like so many other motorcycle accidents in Denver, the car driver who hit them said he “never saw them.”
The most tragic piece of this story, however, is that the young woman was wearing no helmet and she was also wearing shorts, short sleeves and flip flops. Meanwhile, the young man was in a full-face helmet, long pants and long sleeves.
They had just recently met, were enjoying the excitement of young love, and made one very bad decision.
I was recently asked, “Do motorcycle passengers get more hurt in motorcycle accidents than the driver?” The truth is that there isn’t anything more inherently dangerous about being a passenger on a motorcycle than being the driver. But all too often, passengers are not prepared to ride and the consequences can be catastrophic.
In the motorcycle accident that these two young riders endured, a car pulled left in front of their motorcycle. The bike T-boned the car and both riders were thrown into the intersection. The young man suffered multiple broken bones and some internal organ damage. The young woman fared much worse. She survived but she will likely never look or move the same way again.
The woman’s legs and arms were degloved, which is even more awful than it sounds. Essentially, her soft tissues and muscles were ripped away from her bones. She also has traumatic brain injuries, in addition to broken bones and organ damage.
As if the injuries weren’t enough, the young woman has few options for insurance coverage for her medical care. And, to me, this is the absolute worst news that an accident victim can receive.
Here’s how the insurance story breaks down:
- The driver who caused the crash only carried the bare minimum insurance coverage required in Colorado: $25,000.
- The motorcycle driver has insurance but, since he didn’t cause the accident, the passenger cannot access his liability coverage.
- Also, the motorcycle driver did not have Underinsured Motorist Coverage, also called UIM. I have written extensively about this kind of coverage and every motorcyclist should have at least $250,000 in UIM. But this rider did not, so the woman could not access anything from his insurance.
- The woman also did not have UIM on her own auto insurance policy. If she had UIM, she could have accessed her own insurance.
So, as it stands, she will only get $25,000, which won’t even cover her first couple of days in the hospital.
People have said to me, “Well, doesn’t she have good healthcare insurance?” I would call her insurance “middle-of-the-road.” She has some coverage, but the co-pays alone will easily exceed her ability to pay. Additionally, her care will take many years and she may even max out her insurance coverage.
This is an awful, horrible situation and it was completely avoidable!
Never, ever get on the back of a motorcycle without checking the biker’s insurance and making sure you’re covered with UIM!
Before you get on the back of any motorcycle, ask the driver if he or she has liability insurance of at least $100,000. If the motorcycle driver causes the accident, you will be able to access that coverage. The driver should also have Underinsured Motorist Coverage of $250,000 or more. No matter who causes the accident, a passenger on a motorcycle can access the driver’s UIM for help with medical bills.
And as a motorcycle passenger, you should have UIM coverage on your own auto insurance, too. Honestly, everyone should have UIM, even if you never get on a motorcycle in your life. UIM can protect you in all kinds of catastrophic situations.
Additionally, you should never, ever get onto a motorcycle without the proper gear! Here is a list of what I consider the “gold standard” of motorcycle riding gear:
- Full-face helmet
- Riding gloves
- Long leather pants
- Long sleeves, preferably a leather coat
- Riding boots
- Riding glasses
At a bare minimum, riders and passengers should have the following:
- Long pants in abrasion-resistant material
- Long sleeves in abrasion-resistant material
- Closed-toe shoes
I’m a big supporter of biker rights and I understand the spontaneous excitement of jumping on the back of a new friend’s motorcycle, but please remember to protect yourself. Your future is too bright to risk!!