Recently I was approached by a prospective client, who, while walking along a busy San Francisco Street, was hit by a car in the crosswalk. She was thrown to the ground and sustained a fracture to her wrist and tailbone. The car took off and there was/is no way to identify it or the driver. She wanted to know if there was any way she could bring a legal action to recover the costs of her medical bills, which were in the thousands of dollars. She did not have health insurance, she did not own a car, nor was she on any applicable policy of insurance held by a family member which would have given her coverage.
Unfortunately, I had to tell her that unless she could identify the driver of the vehicle, and that driver had insurance to cover her losses, the answer was no. But that doesn’t need to be the answer any more. A new revolution in insurance is occurring responding to the fact that people own fewer cars, especially in urban areas, and they are turning to walking and cycling, and public transportation, as their primary means of travel.
Given that San Francisco has one of the highest per capita injury and death rates for pedestrians and bicyclists, if you leave your apartment/house or office (i.e., you are not incarcerated or homebound) you should pay careful attention to the following as if your safety and security depended upon it.
The traditional way in which someone receives compensation when injured is to look to the at- fault party to pay for the harms they cause. This is the very core of our civil justice system: personal responsibility. It’s the legal version of “you break it you fix it.” As this we have lived in a car driven culture (pun intended) insurance for negligence has focused on and been tied to car ownership and operation through liability insurance. The California Insurance Code, Section 11580.1(b), sets forth the financial responsibility of an owner and operator of a motor vehicle. It requires that an owner and driver have a minimum amount of personal injury/bodily injury coverage for their liability of $15,000.00 per person, $30,000 per occurrence (the maximum amount recoverable by all parties harmed in a same incident). This same law also required owners to have at least $5,000.00 in property damage coverage. This traditional liability coverage extends to a wide range of people who could be injured by the insured, negligent, driver: a driver of another vehicle, a passenger in the negligent driver’s car, a bicyclist or pedestrian to name a few.
A major insurance player, State Farm, has introduced a revolutionary policy of insurance that is adapted for todays “on the go” urban citizen: the Personal Mobility Protection plan. I learned about it by speaking with my State Farm Representative, Tucker Williams. He knows that I represent many injured pedestrians and bicyclists, as well as people injured by the uninsured/underinsured. When I heard of it I immediately (like within a half an hour) decided that this information needs to get out.
The Personal Mobility Protection plan offered by State Farm provides coverage for a wide range of events that can happen to people who do not own cars and do not have liability insurance to provide them coverage in the event of their own negligence. Likewise, it provides protection to an individual who is harmed by the negligence of another who may have either no insurance, be unidentifiable (such as the driver who fled the scene in this example), or have inadequate insurance to cover all the harms suffered by a covered person. So, in lawyer speak, if you buy the coverage it would protect you if you caused harm to another, or if they caused harm to you. This is huge!
This protection covers you if you are jogging, walking, on MUNI, in a friend’s car, Lyft etc. It provides coverage if you are using a Zip Car, City Car Share, or rental car. For those types of cars, if you have no other coverage that protects you when you are liable, it provides liability coverage and some coverage if you damage the vehicle. When you are hurt it provides coverage for your lost wages, medical bills, property damage and pain and suffering. Until now, aside from your own private medical insurance, you were left to chance if you were hit as a bicyclist or pedestrian by an uninsured or underinsured driver. Now you can protect yourself. You should protect yourself.
Tucker told me he recently issued a $500,000.00 policy for an annual premium less than $500.00. Given that upwards of 25% of California vehicle drivers are uninsured you should have this coverage. Call Tucker at 415-580-7987 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.