Insurance and liability risks in the emerging e-bike market | PropertyCasualty360

E-bike riders are three times more likely to collide with pedestrians than scooters or traditional bicycles. Injuries caused by an e-bike collision can be very serious due to the weight and speed of the e-bike on impact; unlike the touch of a normal bike. (Credit: Michael Marciano/ALM)

The summer of 2022 has seen a big rise, and not just in terms of weather. Travelers in the United States have seen gas prices rise more than people thought, although there has recently been some relief. Rising gas prices and inflation have forced travelers to find other means of transportation. For some, cycling to work, public transport and driving electric cars have become the new norm.

Along with this, electric bike manufacturers have seen an increase in sales. Electric bicycles, or “e-bikes,” are the most popular way to get from Point A to Point B, as long as they are not too far. According to the Light Electric Vehicle Association, the United States imported about 450,000 e-bikes in 2020. In 2021, imports were close to 790,000 and this year may set a new sales record.

E-bikes attract riders because they cost much less than electric cars, making them more accessible, especially for workers who live 35 miles from work and don’t need to go faster than 28 mph, a high speed. . In addition, e-bus riders are not burdened with filling up at the pump or buying mandatory insurance.

Choosing to ride an electric bike, whether it’s for a long commute or a visit to a local taqueria, has health and financial implications, especially if the vehicle works with the pedals. They also have their problems, like everything else. They are not highway drivers, have little or no storage space and will not do well in Minnesota winters. They present other safety hazards: no airbags, serious injuries from careless drivers and, as the prefix “bi” means, they only have two wheels, which makes them prone to fall.

Saving a few dollars at the pump can expose e-bike riders to a huge liability if they are found to be uninsured or underinsured following a motorcycle collision. A report found that e-bike riders are three times more likely to collide with pedestrians than scooters or traditional bicycles. Some of the most common injuries caused by e-bike and pedestrian accidents include broken bones, fractures and head injuries. Injuries caused by an e-bike collision can be very serious due to the weight and speed of the e-bike on impact; unlike the touch of a normal bike.

E-bike riders may want to purchase special insurance, although maintaining e-bike insurance is not required. When someone is hurt, someone has to pay. Injured parties will seek compensation from those deemed responsible. Where better to start than with the owner or operator?

Even fish or birds

E-bikes live in the murky area of ​​the insurance pond, neither fish nor fowl, but they share risk management systems with their lone-travel relatives and car-assisted neighbors. They ride on public roads like Schwinns and Harleys, but don’t require a driver’s license, special training or proof of insurance.

A number of insurers offer a comprehensive coverage package specifically for e-bike owners. That market will grow as e-bikes continue to gain popularity. But with so many e-bikes on most city streets, property damage and injuries are common and dangerous.

Major property insurers, such as homeowners, renters and car rental companies, are generally silent on e-bikes, but they are often excluded because they are considered vehicles: “A self-driving vehicle or vehicle that moves on land.” Owners should ask their insurers or agents if ee bikes are covered, or, better still, buy an independent policy, especially if they use their bikes regularly or for business. Buying an electric bike is often more expensive than a bicycle. An entry-level bicycle can cost more than $1,000. A top model can cost as much as $12,000, with an average price of $3,000. Full coverage and rental will be needed to get the passenger back on the road faster after a theft or accident than starting from scratch.

The demand for e-bikes may be significant but it is not a given. As with cars, it’s hard to know how much your insurance should be. The “15-30” car policy may not be enough for a serious injury accident. The same is true of e-bikes.

According to a study by the Consumer Product Safety Commission conducted from 2000 to 2017, e-bike riders were found to be more likely to suffer internal injuries and require medical attention than cyclists.

We have litigated the most common bike accident cases where no one was permanently injured. It’s an unscientific estimate, but $50,000 to $100,000 living in the suburbs is not uncommon. It is because physical damage can be combined with lost wages, continued medical treatment and pain relief. In serious accidents, such as those that result in death or loss of limbs, the damages may be similar to what they would have been if the same injuries had occurred in a car accident.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that, “Costs of bicycling injuries and deaths from accidents generally exceed $23 billion in the United States each year,” and, “nearly 1,000 bicyclists die and more than 130,000 are injured in accidents that occur on the roads of the United States. United States every year.” These numbers include both traditional bikes and electric bikes.

How much insurance should you have on your e-bike? Try dividing $23 billion by 130,000. It’s an alarming number, but remember that extreme events tend to skew high-flyers.

What’s out there?

There is no standard e-bike insurance policy, but several insurers offer an independent e-bike policy with different features. In writing this article we compared three insurance products, offered by Markel, Spoke, and Velosurance. There may be others on the market or about to launch. By mentioning these three providers, we are not endorsing them, just noting that they offer e-bike insurance.

Generally, e-bike insurance policies provide coverage for bodily injury or property theft, subject to policy limits. There may also be deductibles that adjust other repair costs, or replacements, and limits on medical expenses on behalf of the owner/passenger may be included. Some policies include independent insurance, others add such coverage at a premium.

There are other types of insurance that can delay loss or provide services such as:

  • E-bike loan repayment
  • Damage during the operation of the electric bicycle when it is not in use
  • Help on the way
  • Change of gear
  • Round clothes

Some insurance policies have annual premiums starting at $100.

There is no system that we know of that provides comprehensive coverage of all possible on- and off-road issues. Owners should discuss with their insurers or insurance brokers when excess coverage – a higher limit than the basic policy – is available, or if the owner’s insurance umbrella can include e-bike risks among the protections that these policies provide.

Safe cyclists know that helmets reduce the risk of serious head injuries, and that protective clothing does a better job of protecting legs from “road rash” than t-shirts and cuts. Owners should think of e-bike insurance as equal protection for their equipment and luggage.

Louie Castoria is a partner at Kaufman, Dolowich & Voluck, LLP, a law firm, chairman emeritus of the Insurance Educational Association and adjunct professor of law at Golden Gate University.

Berlinie St-Fort is a subsidiary of the same company. Both are located in the company’s San Francisco Bay Area offices.

This article does not necessarily reflect the views of the law firm or law school.