Here’s what you need to know about type and amounts of motorcycle insurance that are required in Michigan
Last week, I wrote about the results of the joint study by the IIHS and the University of Michigan, which showed that since Michigan’s motorcycle helmet law was repealed in 2012, the fatality rate for motorcyclists not wearing helmets was nearly twice that for helmeted riders. The study also showed that Michigan’s helmet law repeal has resulted in a 14% increase in head injuries in motorcyclists injured in crashes.
After this sobering news and reminder about how dangerous riding a motorcycle can be, I thought today would be a good time to review the legal requirements in Michigan for motorcycle insurance.
In particular, I want to talk about the types and amounts of motorcycle insurance that are required and/or available to motorcyclists, depending on whether they wear helmets, don’t wear helmets and whether the unhelmeted motorcycles have passengers with them.
Motorcycle insurance that’s required for all motorcyclists
Under Michigan law, all motorcyclists – helmeted or unhelmeted – must carry “liability” insurance to cover “loss resulting from … property damage, bodily injury, or death suffered by a person arising out of the ownership, maintenance, or use of [their] motorcycle.” (MCL 500.3103(1))
The motorcycle “liability policy” coverage limit must be, at a minimum:
- “$20,000 because of bodily injury to or death of 1 person in any 1 accident …,”
- “$40,000.00 because of bodily injury to or death of 2 or more persons in any 1 accident” and
- “$10,000.00 because of injury to or destruction of property of others in any accident.” (MCL 500.3103(1); 500.3009(1))
NOTE: Failure to obtain and maintain this motorcycle liability insurance coverage will disqualify the motorcyclist from collecting No Fault auto insurance benefits (such as medical-expense and wage-loss reimbursement) in the event the motorcyclist is injured in an accident with a car or motor vehicle. (MCL 500.3113(b))
Optional first-party medical benefits for motorcyclists wearing helmets
Unlike motorcyclists who recklessly choose to ride without a helmet (whom I will discuss more below), helmeted motorcycle riders have the option of choosing to purchase medical-benefits coverage.
Specifically, they can obtain from their motorcycle insurance company “first-party medical benefits … in increments of $5,000.00, payable in the event the owner or registrant [of the motorcycle] is involved in a motorcycle accident.” (MCL 500.3103(2))
A “motorcycle accident” is an accident involving a motorcycle, but not a car or truck, i.e., a “motor vehicle.” (MCL 500.3101(2)(g))
What motorcycle riders must wear a helmet?
Under Michigan law, both the age of a motorcyclist – or a motorcycle rider – and the circumstances determine whether a helmet must be worn:
- A motorcyclist and/or a rider (i.e., “a person operating or riding on a motorcycle”) who is less than 21 years of age “shall wear a crash helmet on his or her head …” (MCL 257.658(4) and (5))
- A motorcyclist (i.e., a “person who is operating a motorcycle”), who is “21 years of age or older,” “is not required to wear a crash helmet on his or her head if he or she has had a motorcycle endorsement on his or her operator’s or chauffeur’s license for not less than 2 years or the person passes a motorcycle safety course …” and has the legally required motorcycle insurance. (MCL 257.658(5)(a))
- A rider (i.e., a “person who is riding on a motorcycle”), who is “21 years of age or older,” “is not required to wear a crash helmet on his or her head if the [“rider”] or the operator of the motorcycle” has the legally required motorcycle insurance. (MCL 257.658(5)(b))
What insurance coverage must unhelmeted motorcyclists have?
A motorcyclist (i.e., a “person who is operating a motorcycle”) who is over 21 is “not required to wear [a] crash helmet” if he or she has motorcycle insurance coverage for “first-party medical benefits” in the following amounts:
- “[N]ot less than $20,000,” if the motorcyclist is operating his or her motorcycle “without a rider.” (MCL 257.658(5)(c)(i))
- “[N]ot less than $20,000 per person per occurrence,” if the motorcyclist is riding “with a rider …” and neither of them are wearing motorcycle helmets. (MCL 257.658(5)(c)(ii))
What insurance coverage must unhelmeted motorcycle riders have?
A rider (i.e., a “person who is riding on a motorcycle”) who is over 21 is “not required to wear [a] crash helmet” if he or she has motorcycle insurance coverage for “first-party medical benefits” in an amount “not less than $20,000.” (MCL 257.658(5)(c))
Consequences for not getting first-party medical benefits coverage
Interestingly, neither the Michigan No Fault law nor the Motor Vehicle Code specifically addresses what happens if an unhelmeted motorcyclist or an unhelmeted motorcycle rider is injured in an accident involving a motor vehicle, but doesn’t have the legally required “first-party medical benefits” coverage.
Arguably, if he or she has the legally required liability coverage, then the No Fault Law’s exclusion provision for “uninsured” motorcyclists would not apply. (MCL 500.3113(b))