By Joel Zanatta
As a passionate cyclist and lawyer, that is one of the most common questions I get asked. And although it’s a complex issue, the answer is an unequivocal yes.
I purchase life insurance, disability insurance and third party liability insurance. And if you are a cyclist, you should too.
If you have basic home or rental insurance your bike is probably covered, but there are usually very low limits. If you have an expensive bike, say in the $2,000-$5,000 range, you may be shocked at the low replacement cost your home insurance provides, and that’s before your deductible. If you have a high-value bike, you should increase your coverage for it, as you would for jewelry or art. Yes, you’ll pay more on your monthly premium. But if it would devastate you (financially or emotionally) to lose something so important, it’s worth it.
One thing a lot of people don’t know is that most home insurance policies also cover you for liability when riding your bike. So if you were riding and you accidentally struck a pedestrian, and that person decides to sue you, you could use your home, condo or tenant policy for liability coverage. Though cyclists causing accidents is rare, having third party liability coverage does provide some piece of mind.
But home insurance is just one way to cover yourself and your ride. As cycling has become more popular, it’s also created a niche insurance market, with firms now selling insurance policies specifically for cyclists. Velosurance is one company that provides cyclist-specific coverage in the US, and organizations like Cycling Canada, Cycling BC and the Ontario Cycling Association offer it in Canada.
This insurance can cover just your bike, in the event it’s stolen or damaged, or you can buy a plan to cover you for injury and general liability.
But what if you are so severely injured in a riding accident, you can’t work? Or your quality of life is severely compromised? Until recently, cyclists injured by a vehicle had the ability to sue the motorist involved for pain and suffering and income loss. Unfortunately some provinces— including BC— have moved or are moving to a “no fault” auto insurance model. That means no longer will cyclists be able to sue for losses and additional damages. Instead the system shifts to a “care model” deemed appropriate by the provincial care provider. And compensation models will be a lot lower.
Over the years, I’ve represented many cyclists who were physically devastated by an accident after being hit by a car. They faced weeks and months of recuperation. Some fought their way back over years. Yes, their basic medical expenses were covered, but not their pain and extended suffering. I have represented people who had to fight every step of the way for fair compensation, and I tell you it wasn’t easy. Eliminating pain and suffering claims and capping income loss claims is going to have a very negative impact on injured cyclists.
In the future, I see third-party insurance providers increasingly filling in the gap the auto insurers have created. And the amount of coverage you need will be in direct proportion to your income and liabilities. I expect that the cost of this additional insurance will be high, but in spite of the cost, it would be very risky to ride without it.
More and more cyclists have to take control of their own insurance protection. My best advice is to review your insurance policy, and talk to an expert—a trusted lawyer or third-party insurance provider—about the coverage that is right for you. Remember, you buy insurance hoping you never need to use it. But should you face an accident, you will be glad that you had taken the right steps in advance.
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