Insurance for Motorcyclists: Required or Not?

Jan 24, 2020 | Firm News

Since Motorcycle Safety Month in May, our spring and summer blog campaign has aimed to educate readers about important issues in motorcycle ownership, insurance and safety. As we dug into a variety of topics over the past two months, we discovered that different websites contained conflicting information regarding Florida’s insurance requirements for motorcyclists.

Some resources assert that motorcyclists, just like automobile operators, are required by law to carry liability insurance. Other reputable sources, including the Florida Department of Motor Vehicles, clearly state that motorcyclists are not required to furnish proof of financial responsibility in order to ride — in basic terms, you don’t have to carry any insurance at all to operate a motorcycle within the limits of the law. This begs the question — which is it?

The cause of this confusion likely derives from an unclear understanding of the Florida No-Fault Law, the Florida Responsibility Law, how they work together and how they conjointly apply to motorcyclists. Let’s break it down and solve this puzzle.

The Florida No-Fault Law requires all automobile owners and drivers to carry a minimum of $10,000 in both personal injury protection (PIP) and property damage (PD) liability. PIP covers bodily harm to yourself and your passengers, regardless of who is at fault in an accident, while PD liability pays for damages to the other party’s vehicle and other possessions if you caused the crash.

The Florida Financial Responsibility Law’s name makes it somewhat self-explanatory: If you are at fault in an accident, you are legally obligated to pay the cost of the damages. Like the No-Fault Law, the Financial Responsibility Law demands that the at-fault party in the crash carry the same minimum limits in PIP and PD liability. It adds a minimum of bodily injury (BI) liability — $10,000 for one affected person, $20,000 for two or more affected people — which covers injuries or fatalities among members of the party not at fault in the crash. If the at-fault party fails to meet these minimum insurance requirements, they face serious penalties, including steep fines, drivers license revocation and even jail time.

The No-Fault Law does not apply to motorcyclists. Therefore, the purchase of PIP and PD liability is not mandatory in order to own and ride a motorcycle. An exception can arise if you’re financing a new bike; oftentimes a lender will require you to purchase insurance until the motorcycle is paid in full.

On the other hand, the Financial Responsibility Law does apply to motorcyclists. This may cause some people to jump to the conclusion that PIP, DL and BI liabilities are all legally required to own and ride a motorbike. This is not the case. If you look closely at the language of the Financial Responsibility Law, you’ll find the law requires that ”any person at fault in a crash resulting in bodily injury and property damage to others must have in effect at the time of the crash full liability insurance coverage.” To put it plainly, you’re not required to carry full liability coverage until you’re involved in a wreck — the precise moment event when you’ll need it the most.

In summary, you can see that automobile operators are subject to mandatory PIP and PD liability minimums, and are strongly encouraged to opt for BI liability — or face the consequences. Technically speaking, motorcyclists are not required by law to carry any of the above, but will face the same penalties under the Financial Responsibility Law if they cause an accident.

This informative breakdown is not intended to justify any motorcyclist’s choice to go without insurance. In fact, at Wittmer | Linehan, we strongly advocate for all motor vehicle operators to protect themselves against the unexpected by obtaining the maximum insurance coverage available. Click here to read more and find out why.