Now that warmer weather has arrived, more people are participating in outdoor activities, including bicycling. For many, though, riding a bicycle is more than just recreation – it’s a daily mode of transportation and part of a health and fitness routine.
Bicyclists frequently share the roads with motor vehicles. In fact, bicycle riders in Michigan have the same rights as motorists. Unfortunately, more bicyclists on the Michigan roadways means a higher risk for automobile-bicycle accidents.
All too often, when an automobile-bicycle collision occurs, it is the bicyclist who may be catastrophically injured or killed, while the motorist is unharmed. Thousands of bicyclists are injured every year in crashes with motor vehicles. In fact, one bicyclist dies in the United States every six hours, with many of these deaths caused by traumatic brain injury.
Various factors can cause or contribute to a rider’s bicycle accident injuries, including not wearing a helmet (or not wearing it properly), lack of riding experience, and distracted motorists on the roads. Some of the most common bicycle accident injuries are:
- Spinal cord injuries.
- Head/brain injuries.
- Broken bones and fractures.
- Neck, back, and shoulder injuries.
Bicycle-Automobile Accident: Does No-Fault Apply?
The most devastating injuries happen when a bicyclist and a motor vehicle collide. In the very worst situations, the collision can cause the wrongful death of the bicyclist.
When a vehicle hits and injures a bicyclist, there is one question that always arises: is the cyclist entitled to insurance coverage under Michigan’s No-Fault Insurance Act? While the answer to this question is generally “yes,” several factors must be considered.
Because a bicycle is not considered a motor vehicle under Michigan law, an injured bicyclist is only entitled to no-fault benefits if the collision “involved” a motor vehicle. A motor vehicle is “involved” when the operation of the vehicle was a significant factor in causing the injury. It is important to note that for a vehicle to be “involved,” there does not have to be physical contact between the bicycle and the motor vehicle.
When that threshold determination is met, the No-Fault Act provides that bicyclists injured in collisions with motor vehicles are entitled to no-fault personal injury protection (PIP) benefits, including:
- Reasonable medical expenses.
- Lost wages for up to three years.
- Reimbursement for household services for up to three years.
PIP benefits are typically available to an injured bicyclist no matter who was at fault for the crash.
Keep in mind, however, that if a bicyclist is injured in a collision with another bicyclist, or if the crash is caused by a defect in the roadway or does not involve a motor vehicle, then the cyclist cannot claim no-fault benefits.
Insurance and Michigan Bicycle Accidents
The No-Fault Act details how a person injured in a Michigan bicycle accident can obtain insurance coverage. First, an injured bicyclist must try to claim PIP benefits through his or her own automobile insurance policy. This is true even though the bicyclist’s own vehicle was likely not involved in the accident.
What if the injured bicyclist does not have a no-fault auto policy? Then according to the law, the cyclist should seek coverage from a spouse’s auto insurance policy. If a spouse does not have an auto insurance policy, the injured bicyclist should seek benefits through an auto policy that covers a relative who lives in the same household as the cyclist.
If none of the above applies, Michigan law allows a person injured in a bicycle accident to seek coverage from the company that insures the owner or registrant of the vehicle that hit the cyclist. If no coverage is available there, then the cyclist should look to the insurer of the driver of the vehicle that caused the injuries (if the driver is someone other than the vehicle’s owner or registrant).
But that’s where it gets complicated. A bicyclist who seeks PIP benefits from the insurer of the striking vehicle might also file a negligence suit against the driver who is at fault for the crash. That means that the insurance company that pays no-fault PIP benefits to the injured bicyclist may end up being named as a defendant in a separate personal injury action brought by the cyclist. Given the complexities, it’s critical to consult an experienced bicycle accident and auto negligence attorney.
In those cases where there is no insurance coverage available to the injured bicyclist, he or she may turn to the Michigan Assigned Claims Plan (MACP). It is the responsibility of the MACP to assign the claim to a no-fault insurance carrier for coverage.
Get the Right Legal Help Today
Have you been struck by a vehicle while riding a bicycle? The attorneys in Sommers Schwartz’s Personal Injury Litigation Group can answer your questions about insurance coverage and help you obtain the compensation you deserve. Please contact us today.