E-bikes & crashes: what Florida electric bike riders should know
As the popularity of electric bicycles, or e-bikes, continues to grow in Florida and the US, so will the likelihood of crashes with drivers increase to perhaps the same levels we see with riders of conventional bicycles. So what protections do e-bike riders have? What are their rights and obligations? What are their options if they are injured in a crash?
In 2020 the Florida Legislature clarified all of that for e-bike riders and caught up with 20 other states by passing House Bill 971 (2020). This new law also provided clear definitions of what e-bikes would be allowed in Florida. I wrote about that passage and the new law here.
So, if an e-bike rider is injured in a crash with a motor vehicle, like a car or truck, what are their options to g
et the medical bills paid? Since that law was passed in 2020, e-bike riders have the same options that bicycle riders have.
First things first, any rider in a crash with a motor vehicle should get checked out! Injuries aren’t always apparent, and it might be a few days after the adrenaline wears off before the rider begins to feel pain. And while some injuries are quite obvious, like road rash, broken bones or worse, many injuries may be internal and only discoverable by diagnostic tests like MRIs. That’s why it’s important to get checked out. But how will you be able to pay for all these medical bills?
If the e-bike rider also owns a car, or lives with a relative that does, they should also have Personal Injury Protection (PIP) with their auto insurance. Under Florida’s “No Fault” law, all the parties in a crash turn to their own auto insurance policy and the mandatory PIP coverage that is included to cover any medical expenses. PIP covers the holder of the auto insurance policy, as well as any relatives living with that person.
But you might ask “how does my auto insurance cover me if I’m on a e-bike or bicycle?” The way the law is written, PIP also covers “…other persons struck by the motor vehicle and suffering bodily injury while not an occupant of a self-propelled vehicle….” That means any pedestrian or bicyclist struck and injured by a motor vehicle driver would be covered by PIP. Even though an e-bike is somewhat self-propelled, the 2020 law extended the PIP coverage as if it were a conventional bicycle. Should a bicyclist not own a car or live with family that does, the PIP coverage of the driver in the crash would then cover that bicyclist or e-bike rider.
What does PIP actually cover? With some exceptions and variations, PIP covers 80% of your medical bills up to $10,000. A rider, though, must seek treatment within 14 days of the crash to be afforded PIP coverage, otherwise it is waived.
In many situations, especially car versus. bike, that $10,000 will go fast. In Florida, if the rider is permanently injured in any way, a claim can also be made against the driver’s bodily injury (BI) liability coverage of their auto insurance. These claims can cover medical bills as well as for pain and suffering.
Unfortunately there are many drivers who don’t carry BI coverage because Florida doesn’t require it. There are also many drivers, especially in areas like Miami and Fort Lauderdale in South Florida, that drive illegally by carrying no insurance at all. That’s why it’s important for bicyclists and e-bike riders to carry Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist (UM) protection as part of their own auto insurance policy.
While Florida requires that UM coverage be offered by insurance companies, it is often rejected by the person purchasing the policy. Yet the benefit of UM protection certainly outweighs the small cost of having this protection. UM coverage protects the injured person if the driver who caused the crash and injuries has little or no BI insurance. Said another way, UM coverage steps into the shoes of the driver that caused the rider’s injuries and damages if that driver has little or no BI liability coverage. In hit & run situations that are unfortunately all too common in bicycle and e-bike crashes, rider’s UM coverage may be the only compensation that rider can get if the driver isn’t found.
Along with injury coverages, the same protections for property damage caused to bicycles by drivers in a crash also extend to e-bikes. As we know, drivers in Florida are required to have PIP coverage. Florida also requires drivers to have Property Damage (PD) liability coverage. That insurance covers the damage to property of others up to $10,000.00 but does not cover the driver’s own vehicle (there is a separate, optional coverage a driver can take out for damage to their own vehicle). So, if a rider’s e-bike is damaged in a crash, the driver’s PD coverage will compensate either repairing or replacing the e-bike. That’s why it is a good idea to keep any receipts from the e-bike purchase and to make sure the e-bike gets checked out by a bicycle mechanic to determine the repair costs or if it is totaled.
Before 2020 the rights and protections of e-bike riders was unclear in Florida. But as you can see, since the change in the law e-bike riders are now protected in the same way bicycle riders are and, in the event of a crash, have options for compensation for their injuries and damage to their e-bikes.
It’s important for bicycle and e-bike riders involved in any crash to reach out to an attorney to help them through the process and protect their rights. Especially an attorney who is also a bicyclist just like them that can cater to their unique needs and situations and knows what it’s like out on the road.