On August 28, 2020, Missouri saw the reversal of decades-long law requiring motorcycle riders to wear a helmet in our state. The law allows those over 26 years, with proof of health insurance, to opt-out of using a helmet. There are two significant parts to this new law, but let us focus on one, “health insurance.”
We’re all aware that anyone who operates a motor vehicle, including motorcycles, must carry insurance for the vehicle they drive. This type of insurance covers bodily injury if a driver is injured from a crash and property damage. Coverage amounts can range depending on the policy. Some policies can be as low as $25k and as high as $500k, or more, for bodily injury.
Most injuries from a car or truck crash can be financially supported within the policy limits. However, statistically, motorcyclist injuries are more catastrophic than injuries suffered in any other vehicle crash. The National Highway Traffic Association (NHTSA) reports that motorcyclists are about 28 times more likely than people in passenger cars to die in a traffic crash. Even with a mandatory helmet law in place, Missouri still saw significant motorcycle injuries and deaths :
- 11% of all 2018 Missouri fatal crashes involved a motorcycle.
- 79% of 2017 motorcycle crashes resulted in injury or death.
- 98% of deaths in 2017 motorcycle crashes were the riders themselves.
- 107 Missouri motorcyclists were killed in crashes in 2018. This is down from 2017 when there were 115 crashes, but recent years have seen more fatal crashes than ever before.
Those fortunate enough to survive a motorcycle crash can suffer horrific and permanent injuries, including a “TBI” or traumatic brain injury. Medical cost for a TBI can easily reach over $400k, not to mention future care cost and treatment a TBI victim will need in their lifetime. When you combine the medical bills and lost wages, the financial repercussions can be catastrophic.
Therefore, some states may require a rider to purchase an additional personal injury protection(PIP) policy. PIP is for the motorcyclist and can be used regardless of who is at fault for the crash. PIP is intended to help with the medical cost, lost wages, and supplementing lost wages in case of death. Missouri law does not require motorcyclists to purchase a “no-fault” coverage like PIP, but there are available options, and we recommend you look into them.
An insurance provision call Med-pay, short for “medical payments coverage,” will help pay for medical expenses in the event of injury due to a crash. Depending on your injuries and the Med-pay limit you purchased, Med-pay still may not cover all your out-of-pocket costs, but it can help. Typical medical payments coverage limits range from $1,000 to $5,000. Additional amounts can be purchased.
There is an additional policy option called Uninsured Motorist(UM). Missouri requires motorcyclists and all motorists to carry a minimum UM coverage of $25,000. This will help some in the instance of a hit and run driver or a driver without insurance. However, again, severe injuries like a TBI will require medical care exceeding those amounts.
That is where health insurance coverage comes in. A rider will be able to dip into their health insurance policy to pay for a portion of the injuries not covered by the vehicle insurance policy, Med-pay, or UM coverage. The idea behind adding health insurance to the new law was to ensure and/or increase coverage for a motorcycle crash victim. But even then, this may not work out for the injured motorcyclist.
There are many health insurance options out there, including group, private, state-funded, etc. They all offer different plans, with different coverages percentages with different deductible amounts to be paid. Some may even have a right to be reimbursed, be sure to check with your health insurance provider to learn your Rights & Responsibilities in the event of a crash.
So what is a rider to do? Seriously consider including Underinsured Motorist (UIM) coverage in your vehicle insurance policy, which will protect you if the at-fault driver has insufficient insurance. In Missouri, UIM coverage is not required by law. However, it would help if you considered purchasing UIM coverage at the highest level you could afford. Even though your premiums may be slightly higher, it is not as expensive as you may think. For a relatively modest increase, you can buy a significant amount of UIM coverage to give you peace of mind and protection from financial ruin in the event of an accident.
For safety tips on sharing the road: Finney Injury Law Newsletter
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