Who is the Florida Bike Guy?
Hello, my name is Jim Dodson. I’d like to give you a little background on who I am and make some context for the message I want to give you today. I’m a Floridian and I was born in Sanford. I’m a second generation Floridian which is a little unusual for people in my generation. I went to all Florida schools. I went to Florida State for my undergraduate and graduate. I have been a lawyer for many years. I was a federal prosecutor, state prosecutor, JAG officer and I have been in private practice for several years now. And, for the last 25 years I have been exclusively doing personal injury law.
Related to cycling, when my son was in high school and college we were mountain bikers together. We mountain biked all over the country but then he got married and I kind of lost my partner. So in 2011, I bought my first road bike and started road biking extensively here in Florida. And, I still ride and ride all of the same roads other Florida cyclists ride. This is how I’ve become aware of all the issues cyclists face on a day to day basis which has led me to this message for cyclists. Over the last few years, we have devoted a significant part of our practice representing cyclists who have been involved in serious crashes all over the state. Currently we represent cyclists from The Villages to Fort Myers to Sebring to Orlando to all over Florida. So, distance really isn’t an issue.
Dealing with cyclists and dealing with cycling crashes with having the experience of representing injury victims of car crashes, pedestrian collisions and other types of accidents, I’ve come to recognize that so many people, particularly in the cycling world, do not understand some very basic things that you need to understand as a cyclist on Florida roads.
Uninsured Motorist Coverage… Don’t Leave Home Without It!
The first thing you need to understand is that 40% of the cars on our roads carry no insurance that will cover you if you were to get into an accident. So, what does a cyclist need to do to protect themselves from these uninsured drivers or the millions of drivers in Florida that have very little coverage? The protection every Florida cyclist should have on their auto policy is Uninsured Motorist coverage. So, when you look at your auto policy, you need to understand that not only does it need to protect you in your vehicle but it needs to protect you on your bicycle in case you are involved in an accident with a vehicle.
The important message I want to get across to cyclist is how vital it is to have this coverage on your policy. I tell people that I wouldn’t leave my driveway without at least $100,000 of UM coverage. Obviously, $250,000 is better and $1 million is better yet. We all have to make individual choices on how much you want to carry but most importantly I just want you to understand the importance of having it and how it’s not good enough to just have health insurance.
Here are some reasons why Uninsured Motorist coverage is so important. UM is personal to the insured on the policy. It protects you when you are in your car, when you’re in a rental car, your neighbors or whoever’s car you may be in and you’re in an accident. It also covers all your family members that live with you.
Cyclists have never really understood that UM protects them when they are ridding on their bike and are in an accident with a vehicle. For example, let’s say you’re on your bike and you get hit by a vehicle that makes an improper left turn and it turns out that the driver doesn’t have any bodily injury liability on their auto policy. If you don’t have UM on your auto policy there will be no coverage for you. If that driver does have some insurance, like a $10,000 bodily injury liability but you have a $100,000 claim, you could get the $10,000 from their policy and then the rest would have to come from your Uninsured Motorist policy to pay the full value of your injury claim.
I’m not wishing anyone to ever need UM but I can tell you that every cyclist that has ever called my office always assumed that they wouldn’t need UM either. It’s just the nature of how insurance works. We buy it, we don’t want to use it but we have to have it if we want to be fully protected.
If I Have Health Insurance Do I Really Need UM?
This is a huge misunderstanding in the insurance industry. I have many people come to me and say my health insurance agent told me I don’t need UM because I have Medicare or health insurance. This type of thinking is very shortsighted. Health insurance will pay for your medical bills but it won't pay for your pain and suffering, the loss of a limb, the loss of a life, the loss of future wages, etc. Essentially, all the big contributors of an accident claim are not covered by health insurance. So, it does cover some of the crash but not all of the high valued things.
The other thing to remember is that if you have health insurance and you’re involved in an accident that caused you an injury, when you recover from the third party that caused the injury, you have to pay your insurance back. The bottom line is that having only health insurance in Florida doesn’t leave you in a very good position for the recovery of the value of your claim when you’re involved in an accident.
How Much Uninsured Motorist Coverage Should I Have?
When you look at your auto insurance policy it usually shows the bodily injury liability and it will show the amount. In our example it shows $100,000/300,000. What this means is that this particular person has $100,000 bodily liability insurance (or UM, it’s the same). So, this means that $100,000 is the most someone could claim in an accident but if there were multiple people in the accident they would be sharing up to $300,000. So, essentially this means that one person can claim up to $100,000 and if there are multiple people in the accident they share the $300,000 but no person getting more than $100,000.
Uninsured Motorist coverage is not as expensive as many people will tell you. I think that there is a tendency when we go to an insurance company or we call our agent and you hear them quoting auto insurance you feel like they are trying to sell you something you don’t need. I would urge everyone to look at your auto policy and determine if you have UM and make sure, in my recommendation that you have at least $100,000 of UM coverage. In Florida, if you buy $100,000/$300,000 in bodily liability insurance it’s presumed that you want the same coverage for UM. And, if you don’t, you actually have to sign a form waiving that UM coverage which I would urge you not to do.
In my situation, I was carrying $500,000 in UM and then I increased it to $1 million and it costs me around $60 more every six months. So, it really wasn’t that much of an increase. Recently, I went from $1 million of UM to $2 million and it cost me $30/month to increase it. How much you carry is totally dependent on how comfortable you feel but what I want you to understand is the process and the importance of having it. We offer a free auto insurance review of your policy and I will personally look it over and tell you what I recommend if you’re interested. You can download this form on our website and send it to our office.
There is one other thing I want to address about Uninsured Motorist coverage that seems to be a misunderstanding in Florida. There’s two ways you can increase your UM coverage. If you have a household in Florida with two cars on the policy, you can “stack” Uninsured Motorist coverage. Stacking simply means that you are broadening the coverage in which your UM will apply and it doubles your UM coverage. So, if your policy was $100,000/$300,000 and you stacked it, it would then be $200,000/$600,000. I would always recommend stacking UM whether you have one car on the policy or two. The obvious benefit is that it doubles your policy coverage but if you have one vehicle it broadens your coverage as well.
The other thing you can do in Florida is you can buy an umbrella policy. In my situation, I had a $1 million umbrella policy but it was a liability policy. An umbrella policy, is like opening up an umbrella over your home, your vehicles, and your boat, RV, or motorcycle if you own one. It provides a layer of protection over all of those things. In Florida, you can add an Uninsured Motorist component to your umbrella policy and that’s what I did. So, these are two things you should talk to your insurance company about in order to find out the best way to get the most coverage.
I will tell you that it is a very sad day when I get a call from someone who has been in a crash and they tell me they don’t have Uninsured Motorist coverage. This is not an enjoyable conversation because so many times there isn’t enough liability coverage from the driver to cover their injuries and then they end up with a claim that is larger than the available insurance. Cycling is a tremendous fantastic sport that we all love but it does have it’s down side risks and when the worst happens it’s very easy to have a claim that is worth more than $100,000. It’s shocking but it’s because of the nature of the medical bills, reimbursement and how these claims are actually valued.
If you have a questions about Uninsured Motorist coverage, I urge you to get a free copy of my book Uninsured Motorist Coverage… Don’t Leave Home Without It! It’s very short easy to read guide. And, always feel free to call my office with any questions you may have as well.
Preventing a Traumatic Brain Injury in a Bicycle Crash
If you’re involved in any cycling club, you know that you have to wear a helmet on any ride or event that they have. I personally wouldn’t ride out of my garage without a helmet on. The statistics show that 85% of all brain injuries sustained by a cyclist could have been prevented by wearing a helmet. And, that 75% of bike fatalities are caused by a head injury.
What we as cyclists need to understand is we are looking for any edge we can get to minimize our exposure to a brain injury. So many times when someone is knocked off their bike, regardless of how serious the collision is there is a likelihood that they are going to hit their head on the pavement. Even if they weren’t injured elsewhere just hitting their head on the pavement could cause a pretty significant brain injury.
There is a technology out there called MIPS and this is a technology that has been developed independently and then sold to helmet manufacturers. MIPS stands for the Multi-Directional Impact Protection System. This helmet technology is designed to minimize the secondary impact. The MIPS technology won’t prevent a concussion but it will minimize the chance of having a concussion or the severity of a concussion.
When looking for a bicycle helmet to buy be sure that you look for the MIPS sticker or logo on the helmet. Inside the helmet you will see the MIPS suspension system which is the technology that minimizes the concussion impact. My view on this is that this is the only helmet technology in cycling that I’m aware of now that minimizes the chances of a concussion or brain injury.
In terms of the cost of a bicycle helmet, the basic design hasn’t changed since the 1970s. The Consumer Product Safety Commission established the basic criteria and they have never changed it since. And, the basic function of a cycling helmet is to prevent a skull fracture. The MIPS technology is in addition to what the CPSC requires. From a basic protection standpoint, a helmet that costs $7 will have the same impact resistance for skull fractures as a helmet that costs much more. What you get with a more expensive helmet is a much higher degree of technology with aerodynamic design, more breathability, more strength and durability, better straps, etc. I’ve been wearing a MIPS bike helmet for four years now. I urge all cyclists to wear one as they have that added technology that will better protect your head if the worst happens.
Getting Your Bike Repaired or Replaced
I’m going to move to another topic that I have found very interesting. I think you would be shocked if you sat in my office and fielded the calls that we get from cyclists all over Florida. I have received a number of calls from people who have ridden their bike into something that has caused the frame to crack. There are many ways to crack or destroy a bike frame particularly a carbon frame.
My legal assistant when I first started representing cyclists years ago was astonished when people called who had been in a cycling crash. It was surprising to her that many cyclists were more concerned about their bike then their injuries. One of the things cyclists want to know if they have been in a crash and their bike has been damaged is how do they get it paid for.
If you have been involved in a cycling crash with a vehicle, you will look to the driver’s insurance company to get your bike repaired or replaced. But, what happens if you ride into a fixed object or your bike falls off the back of your car or what happens if your bike gets stolen? I had a call from a cyclist who was doing a ride and they parked their bike at the rest area and someone parked next to them and their bike fell over and destroyed their $6000 frame. In instances like this many people believe they just need to look to their homeowners insurance but there might be limited liability and many times you have to have a special policy to cover your bike. There also might be a limit on how much they will actually cover.
Another thing that could happen with a homeowners insurance claim is it will depreciate the value your bike based on how old it is. And then thirdly, they are going to apply your deductible. So, if you have a $1000 deductible on your homeowners policy and you have a $5000 bike that is five years old you might only get $1200 or less.
There are policies out there that will actually help you pay for your bicycle regardless of how it gets damaged and one of these companies is called Velosurance. I insure my bike with them. I don’t have any relationship with them so I don’t want you to think I get something by mentioning their name. But I do think that they offer a good product/service. So, for example, I ride a 2011 Specialized Rubaix bike which is about a $3000 bike and my Velosurance premium a month is $11. The biggest advantage by using a company like this is that if your bike is destroyed they only apply a deductible of about $100 and then they repair or replace your bike.
We had a claim recently where the cyclist did have Velosurance and they wanted to repair the frame instead of replacing the bicycle. They told me that they were one of the largest carbon bike repair companies in the world which surprised me because I just thought they were an insurance company. But what happened in this situation was that when we asked them if they would stand behind and guarantee the repair they just ended up replacing it instead. So, overall I think Velosurance is good insurance to have on your bike, especially if you have a more expensive bike.
What Does th Florida Bicycle Association Do & Why are They Important?
Let me conclude by mentioning one last thing that is very dear to my heart. I’m a member of the Florida Bicycle Association (FBA) and I’ve been on the Board for several years. The FBA is the association representing cyclists in Florida. We really need individual cycling memberships. You might belong to a cycling club that already belongs but I urge you to join individually or as a family. Individual membership is as low as $25. The FBA is the only organization in Florida that is really standing up for cyclists from the legislature to meeting with the FDOT to creating initiatives in Florida for safe cycling and promoting cycling. Here is some more information on what they do.
Free Cycling Information & Goodies for Florida Cyclists
We offer some great information and free goodies for Florida cyclists on our website. Below is a list of things we offer that every cyclist should have in case the worst happens.