[*BCM*] Motorist kills cyclist, sues for car damages
dbx at pobox.com
Thu Jan 31 11:20:03 EST 2008
The difficulty with your formulation of the problem is that drivers
_are_ personally liable for damages resulting from the operation of
their vehicles (leaving aside instances in which the driver is driving
at the behest of an employer). One purchases car insurance in order to
offset one's potential liability, i.e., because I will be personally
liable for the $50,000 price tag of the new BMW which I total due to my
negligence, and I don't have $50,000 lying around, I purchase car
insurance to pay for any damage I cause. The insurer, in turn,
calculates the risk it incurs by covering me, and charges me accordingly
(or, if I'm a bad enough risk, refuses to insure me in the first place).
If I'm involved in a car accident which causes damage exceeding the
amount of my insurance coverage, guess what: the plaintiff will come
after my assets in an effort to cover the balance.
I think what you're driving at is an instance in which a driver's act
takes him or her outside of the realm of his/her insurance coverage. I
know virtually nothing about that area of the law, but it's my blithe
understanding that intentional torts -- think of the driver who swerves
in order to purposely hit a pedestrian -- will cause an insurer to
decline coverage for an accident. Anyone who practices insurance
defense (or coverage) should chime in here.
If there is a ray of sunshine here, it's that insurers tend to be
stingy, and investigate loss claims aggressively in order to avoid
covering losses. In the case of the driver who intentionally attempts
to endanger you in the course of your commute from Medford, it may well
be that her/his insurer will decline to cover the damages from any
All of which is a long way of saying, don't be so sure that drivers face
no real, at-home financial penalty for endangering cyclists. It may be
the case that drivers don't understand the possible consequences of
their actions -- from thinking that we bikers think it's "funny" when
someone swerves at us, to misunderstanding the peril in which they place
their assets when they pull shit like that -- but that doesn't mean that
there are no consequences. Maybe that's a larger metaphor for commuting
by car anyhow.
Basil Sharpe wrote:
> The fix as I see it is to make the driver who hits someone personally
> liable. If it's determined the guy was reckless, then some
> consequences should apply. If the guy owns a house or has any assets,
> the insurance company doesn't have to get stuck with the bill. If he
> has nothing, a percentage should be taken out of his paycheck for a very
> long time to cover damages. In this case the insurance would cover some
> as well. He also would loose his license either forever or a long time.
> Now a driver might think before he speeds on a city street near
> pedestrians and cyclists.
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