Motorcycle insurance laws are made at the state level, and most states require some form of coverage for riders. However, the minimum level of insurance required to ride varies from state to state, and some states make riders carry more coverage than others. This is similar to helmet laws for motorcycle riders – another issue that falls under the jurisdiction of state laws.
At minimum, most states mandate that motorcycle riders carry some level of liability coverage. This coverage offers protection in the event that you are legally liable for an accident that causes property damage and/or bodily injury to someone else, and the other party files a financial claim against you. The only states that do not require motorcycle liability coverage are Florida, Montana and Washington, according to Insure.com. Although liability coverage protects you against claims by others, it does not provide coverage for damage to your motorcycle or injury to yourself.
Levels of Liability Coverage
Different states have different levels of required liability coverage for riders. In particular, states dictate the minimum liability limits that riders must carry for three different categories of potential claims against you. Those categories are bodily injury to one person injured in an accident, bodily injury to all people injured in an accident and property damage. A state's required liability coverage for motorcycle riders often matches its requirements for automobile drivers. The amount of coverage that states require can vary greatly. For instance, New Jersey requires a minimum liability limit of $5,000 for property damage, while several states require a minimum liability limit of $25,000 for property damage.
Uninsured and Underinsured Coverage
No states require motorcycle riders to carry uninsured and underinsured motorist coverages. Unlike liability coverage, uninsured and underinsured coverages do not serve to protect you against claims when an accident is your fault. Instead, they work to protect you if someone else is at fault and cannot pay your claim. Uninsured drivers and riders have no coverage at all, while underinsured drivers and riders have insufficient coverage to pay your claim. An uninsured/underinsured policy does not limit your protection to when you are on your motorcycle, but it protects you in the case of any claim related to a driver or motorcycle rider.
Collision and Comprehensive Coverage
States do not require collision or comprehensive coverage for motorcycles, though it often makes practical sense to own one or both of these types of policies. A collision policy will provide coverage for damages to your motorcycle if you are in an accident. This will will allow you to repair or replace your motorcycle if you are at fault. Comprehensive coverage, meanwhile, will cover expenses if your motorcycle is damaged by something other than a collision, such as theft or vandalism.
Tom Gresham is a freelance writer and public relations specialist who has been writing professionally since 1999. His articles have appeared in "The Washington Post," "Virginia Magazine," "Vermont Magazine," "Adirondack Life" and the "Southern Arts Journal," among other publications. He graduated from the University of Virginia.