Why isn’t liability insurance required on motorcycles?

The in basket: Chuck Weaver of Poulsbo wrote so say, “I was recently told something I could not believe, until I looked it up. I had always thought that  all motor vehicles were required to be insured. A friend told me that RCW 46.04.330 specifically exempts motorcycles.  It does?  How can this be?  “Why would the Legislature exempt such a large group of motorists from the mandatory insurance requirements?” he asked.


The in basket: Chuck Weaver of Poulsbo wrote so say, “I was recently told something I could not believe, until I looked it up. I had always thought that  all motor vehicles were required to be insured. A friend told me that RCW 46.04.330 specifically exempts motorcycles.  It does?  How can this be?  “Why would the Legislature exempt such a large group of motorists from the mandatory insurance requirements?” he asked.
Mel Deven, who heads up the security detachment at the county courthouse, asked me about the same thing.
The out basket: Motorcycles are, in fact, exempted from this requirement, apparently because the insurance industry opposes extending it to them.
‘Cycling activist “Texas” Larry Walker of South Kitsap says there probably isn’t much support for extending the requirement to motorcycles among those who ride (“We hate being told what to do,” he noted).
He said he took an informal survey of local insurers and found that many refused to insure a motorcyclist unless it was part of a package that included other vehicles or one’s home.
He carries insurance on his ‘cycle, he said, and so does Roy Meyers of Kitsap County Motorcycle Programs, the outfit that teaches motorcycle safety and recently established a site near Apex Airpark in Central Kitsap for its classes. Roy said he finds the exemption in the mandatory insurance law “troubling,” and guessed that it was based on a categorization of motorcycles as “recreational vehicles” when the law was first enacted.
There are regular attempts in the Legislature to add motorcycles to the law, but they haven’t passed. Kenton Brine of the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, a lobbying body, said they encourage motorcyclists to carry insurance, but oppose mandatory liability insurance of all kinds, including that which this state demands for cars. His organization considers it ineffective, he said, and feels it makes criminals of people who aren’t insured.
The industry encourages people to carry uninsured motorist coverage instead, he said.
Larry Walker said he would expect that if the state requires motorcyclists to be insured and insurance companies are forced to provide the coverage, they would compensate for such an influx of unknown customers by raising rates across the board.

7 thoughts on “Why isn’t liability insurance required on motorcycles?

  1. Uff Da!
    Automobiles, Recreational Vehicles, Collector and Antique automobiles all require liability insurance when driven on the roads. Any motorbike or motorcycle can damage, kill or maim. Big Harleys, screaming rice rockets, three-wheel trikes, automotive powered, are just as dangerous, perhaps more so, than a small to medium sized automobile.
    “Motorcyclists don’t like being told what to do” just doesn’t cut it- lots of us don’t. but we obey the law anyway.

  2. I owned a motorcycle dealership in Maine for 14 years, and my anecdotal observation is that I never knew a customer to have had a real liability claim. Generally the story is that my customers went under the wheels of some SUV whose operator was on the bloody phone. Automotive insurance companies in the many states where everybody is required to have liability tend to charge the three martini lunch price, because they can. It’s a relatively small non-vocal specialty market.

    So, when I came to Washington, I rather thought that I had died and gone to Heaven. Rational legislation: Could such a thing be? So, since Washington has a population of about 8 million, it should be possible to find out just how many motorcycle liability judgements of more than $1,000 occur in a year. I would like to know the answer.

    The other thing that needs to be mentioned in a state that requires liability for automobiles is that I was rear-ended by a contractor’s truck three months ago. Guess what. No insurance on the nice shiny F150 out of Gig Harbor. I am still out the deductable on my insurance, while Allstate pursues its money and mine. Time is passing and I am getting a little ticked. Can/will the state department of business licensing shut this puppy down? Do I have to personally small claim him?

  3. I think Mr. Walker & Mr. Brine are full of BS on their statements about motorcycle insurance. I do live in Washington and I bought a new motorcycle last summer. I found no problem finding a company willing to sell a plan on it (Geico). In fact Geico was cheaper and had a better policy than the company I have all my insurance with. (State Farm).
    I moved here from Kansas where motorcycle insurance is mandatory and again being able to find a company willing to sell just motorcycle coverage isn’t an issue. Why ‘cyclists think they should be above the law and not have to pay for coverage is beyond me. It’s time to pay up … or park it! If I have to have it for my car … they best be having it for the ‘cycles. Not having ‘cycle insurance is about as stupid as the people that want to ride without using a helmet.

  4. Just to let you know, when my husband and I took the motorcycle safety course, the instructor told us that even though insurance is not required on motorcycles, if you are involved in a accident, you are automatically at fault if you are not insured. My husband and I have insurance through Gieco and the cost for two of us is just over $200 for a year of insurance. We called a lot of insurance companies and some wanted more for motorcycle insurance than what I pay on two cars full coverage. We found that Gieco was the best deal.

    So you see the state will get you either way. But here is another fact, if you do not have insurance and you go to Canada and get pulled over, Canada will take your bike and you do not get it back. Oregon does require you to have insurance, so if you live in Washington you best get insurance if you plan on taking your bike anywhere else.

  5. Does anyone ever bother to look at the data.

    From “The Hurt Report”:
    In multiple vehicle accidents, the driver of the other vehicle violated the motorcycle right-of-way and caused the accident in two-thirds of those accidents.

    12.5% of the damage in a motorcycle crash is outside the vehicle while (ignoring Single and Combination Unit Trucks, which are even higher) other vehicles average over 50% of damage outside the vehicle.

    Passenger cars and light trucks are more likely to be the striking vehicle in collisions than motorcycles. The following are rates of Rear-End, Lead Vehicle Stopped (RE-LVS) collisions, Rear-End, Lead Vehicle Moving (RE-LVM) collisions, Lane Change/Merge (LC/M) collisions, Backing collisions, Opposite Direction (OD) collisions, and Left-Turn-Across-Path (LTAP) collisions per thousand registered:
    RE-LVS: Cars – 5.70 Trucks – 4.41 Motorcycles – 0.78
    RE-LVM: Cars – 2.69 Trucks – 2.28 Motorcycles – 0.79
    LC/M: Cars – 1.27 Trucks – 1.05 Motorcycles – 0.24
    Backing: Cars – 0.72 Trucks – 1.19 Motorcycles – 0.06
    OD: Cars – 1.12 Trucks – 0.84 Motorcycles – 0.42
    LTAP: Cars – 2.61 Trucks – 1.36 Motorcycles – 0.22

    Average damage caused outside of the vehicle (liability) in above collisions (assuming 50% of the damage is outside the vehicle for cages and 12.5% for motorcycles):
    RE-LVS: Cars – $6340 Trucks – $6310 Motorcycles – $3925
    RE-LVM: Cars – $6695 Trucks – $6940 Motorcycles – $5375
    LC/M: Cars – $4840 Trucks – $4970 Motorcycles – $3422
    Backing: Cars – $3830 Trucks – $3140 Motorcycles – $4287
    OD: Cars – $27065 Trucks – $21245 Motorcycles – $22177
    LTAP: Cars – $9645 Trucks – $10860 Motorcycles – $6722

    Average damage caused per thousand:
    RE-LVS: Cars – $36138 Trucks – $27827 Motorcycles – $3061
    RE-LVM: Cars – $18009 Trucks – $15823 Motorcycles – $4246
    LC/M: Cars – $6146 Trucks – $5218 Motorcycles – $821
    Backing: Cars – $2757 Trucks – $3736 Motorcycles – $257
    OD: Cars – $30312 Trucks – $17845 Motorcycles – $9314
    LTAP: Cars – $25173 Trucks – $14769 Motorcycles – $1478

  6. I was involved in a motorcycle accident over six years ago. I was not wearing a helmet and sustained severe head injuries. While I was hospitalized, I was notified that I would be personally responsible for my medical expenses. I insisted I was insured with adequate motorcycle coverage for the injuries I sustained. The hospital argued that according to New York State, all motorcyclists are required to wear a DOT or legally approved helmet while operating a motorcycle and I was at fault for not wearing one, according to their written proof from the police report at the time of the accident.
    As a result I was billed $176,000 for my hospital stay and medical expenses. I hired an attorney and fought the insurance company. I have been threatened with the loss of my home, my credit has been damaged. I started making payments 3-plus years ago, however I may have to declare bankruptcy and lose my home. It has been more painful dealing with this than the actual head injuries.
    I never believed in the helmet law, and always protested my right to not wear a helmet whenever possible. The truth is, it is just not worth it. I know my life has changed forever, physically, mentally, and financially.
    If you are lucky to never have an accident on a motorcycle, you probably will never know what it feels like . My advice always wear a helmet.

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