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General September 20, 2021
So you’re in a motorcycle accident. You are transported by ambulance to the hospital. And the next day you have no idea where your bike is. All you have, hopefully is a little card for the CHP or Police Department with the report number. So what do you do?
CHP or Police Department:
The first thing you, or your attorney, will do will to call the responding CHP office (address typed on card) or the responding Police Department and ask where the bike is. If they do not know, ask the what tow yards are you “contracted” with usually it’s 3 or 4 tow yards. Then call the tow yards and give them the date time, description of you bike which will include with the license number or the last four of the VIN. Hopefully, you have located your bike.
“Liability Only” or “No Insurance”:
The next issue is what type of insurance coverage you have. If you have “liability only” insurance coverage this means you only have bodily injury and property damage coverage at least the legal requirement in California (bodily injury coverage of $15,000.00 per person, $30,000.00 per accident (more than one claimant) and $5,000.00 property damage coverage) that you cause to other people or property. This means you have no “collision coverage” for the repair or replacement of your bike.
This means you are “at the mercy of the other insurance” and you have to make a claim with the third party/ driver at fault’s insurance company for the towing, storage, repair and/or replacement of your motorcycle. This is also the case if you have “no insurance”.
The issue arises is that the Traffic Collision Report will take ten days (CHP) or worse, 30 Days (Police Departments), to be completed. In the meantime, the other driver’s insurance company almost always will say they are “investigating liability” pending receipt of the Traffic Collision Report They will also say that you have what is called a “Duty to Mitigate” your damages. This means, that YOU have a duty to get the bike out of the tow yard by paying the towing and storage bill even though you were not at fault! So you need to stop the storage charges by moving your bike to a “fee free” location and to stop a potential “Lien Sale”. If you don’t get the bike out, the insurance company will argue that you didn’t “mitigate your damages” and will only pay a portion of your storage bill.
Only after both liability and coverage of the driver at fault is confirmed, can you seek reimbursement for the insurance company for the towing and storage bills. The average towing and storage bill in 2018 was $584.00.
“Full Coverage” Insurance:
If you have what is called “Full Coverage” insurance you have comprehensive and “collision coverage” which means you purchased insurance to pay for the repair or replacement of your damaged motorcycle. Collison coverage includes towing if you are involved in an accident.
However, storage and towing expenses paid under collision or comprehensive coverage are usually handled though reimbursement. This means you have to pay for the towing and storage and you insurance will reimburse you. However, the reimbursement may count toward your deductible. So you are still “out of pocket” for the bill unless you specifically purchased “Towing” coverage. Call your agent or look at your motorcycle insurance Declaration Page to see what type of insurance you purchased.
Even if you do have “Full Coverage”, insurance companies do not inspect motorcycles at tow yards. They will request that YOU move the bike (a second tow) to a repair location of your choice (I always recommend a dealer) to give an estimate of repair and send photographs of the damage to the assigned claims adjustor.
But I’m not at fault. Why should I use my insurance?
If you have “Full Coverage” insurance, ALWAYS use your insurance to pay for the repairs or replacement of your motorcycle. Why? Because if you go through the “driver at fault’s” insurance you will get screwed! The other side’s insurance company has no duty to be fair, just or reasonable.
The “driver at fault’s” insurance will first try to allege that you were somehow partially at fault for the collision even though you did absolutely nothing wrong and the Traffic Collision Report and facts have the driver at 100% at fault. Due to inherent bias against (and downright hatred) of motorcyclist, the insurance companies will claim you were speeding (most likely), inattentive or overreacted.
In addition, they have no contractual or statutory duties to be fair. They will “low ball” the estimate or repair failing to include aftermarket parts (pipes, upgrades chrome etc.) or further “low ball” a total loss offer using a third party company called CCC (Certified Collateral Corporation) to find low comps. to undervalue your bike. They will force you to accept their low offer or hire an attorney and sue.
On the other hand, your own insurance has both no contractual or statutory duties to be fair, just and reasonable. The motorcycle repair work will be at a shop of your choice and the work will be guaranteed for life. If there is a problem, take it back and they will re-inspect and repair. As to a totaled bike, your insurance will also use CCC but they will accept internet (Cycle Trader) comps and will negotiate a fair settlement.
If you or a loved one have been involved in a motorcycle accident and need answers, please call Tom Reinecke at (800) 275-8326.
About Thomas G. “Tom” Reinecke: Since 1987, Tom Reinecke has been a highest rated California Motorcycle attorney. A graduate of UCLA, former Superior Court Judge Pro Tem, and Author of California Motorcycle Law, Tom Reinecke has successfully handled thousands of motorcycle accident and injury cases.