Each year I post one entry about the importance of Uninsured Motorist Insurance. This is that entry.
Uninsured Motorist Insurance is part of the auto insurance each of us can buy. It compensates you and your family for the harm caused by financially irresponsible motorists. Harm can include medical bills and lost income.
The need for such insurance was underlined recently by two events involving bicyclists. In January 2020, a female cyclist riding on a sidewalk was struck and killed by a motor vehicle in Naples, Florida, on Livingston Road. News reports claimed the motorist may have been texting.
Since July 2019, Florida has had a “Ban on Texting While Driving Law.” That law makes texting while driving a noncriminal traffic infraction. Without other facts showing something like driving under the influence, running a stop sign while texting and causing a fatal crash only results in a noncriminal traffic ticket. This motorist was issued a traffic ticket for running a stop sign.
Many of you are aware that in November 2018, a motorist struck a Saturday group ride in Davie, Florida. Two bicyclists were killed. Others received severe injuries. There was evidence that the motorist was speeding.
This crash was back in the news in January 2020. The motorist recently received her sentence in traffic court. She lost her driver’s license for 6 months, she was fined court costs, ordered to serve 120 hours of community service, and to take a four-hour driver improvement course.
This paltry punishment is because she was charged in traffic court, not criminal court. It is very difficult to charge a motorist criminally unless there was alcohol or drugs involved. It requires proving that the motorist acted intentionally. Traffic laws use words like “reckless” and “careless”.
This motorist was punished to the fullest extent of traffic law. There have been attempts to pass a Vulnerable Victims Law by the state legislature. Such a law would allow enhanced punishment to one who harms a pedestrian or bicyclist. The efforts have thus far not succeeded.
Bicyclists can also pursue motorists who harm them in Civil Court for money damages. Forty-eight states require motorists to insure themselves to cover harm they cause to others. Florida does not. There is currently a bill pending in the Florida legislature requiring motorists to carry such insurance, insuring damages up to $25,000.00 per person and $50,000.00 per accident. I encourage you to tell your representatives to support such a bill.
Now back to the importance of Uninsured Motorist Insurance. There is little chance that the motorist in Davie has sufficient insurance or financial means to compensate the victims and their families. This is where Uninsured Motorist Insurance comes in. Since each cyclist was struck by a motorist the Uninsured Motorist Insurance for each cyclist can be used to compensate that cyclist and his or her family. The same principles apply in the January 2020 Naples crash.
Purchasing uninsured motorist insurance is the best way to protect you and your family from damages caused by a financially irresponsible motorist. It covers a person damaged by such a motorist when he or she is bicycling.