MOTORCYCLE INSURANCE QUOTE
Protect your bike now, with the coverages you want. ✓   Protection for all bike types ✓   Qualify for money-saving discounts ✓   Coverage based on your needs
Call Us
Get a free quote
Save on your Insurance

Motorcycle Liability Insurance Explained

Added August 5, 2022
Red and black Harley Davidson motorcycle

Insurance companies try to explain what different coverages mean, but not every rider inherently understands motorcycle insurance policies surrounding medical expenses, damage to others’ property, and bodily injury to another party.

What coverage will be best for you is a very personal question.

These scenarios are a little more intense than roadside assistance for a flat tire or even an entire rebuild of your bike following an unforeseen incident.

While most of us only want to pay for the minimum motorcycle insurance coverage, it’s essential to know about the different coverages and their benefits. We’ve said before that your insurance purchasing decisions are about risk tolerance. So, while some are comfortable riding with only the minimum liability limits, others won’t go out on the road without more robust coverage.

When buying motorcycle insurance, liability coverage is probably the least understood and most important coverage option available. Here's what you need to know about it—and why you need it if you're a motorcyclist.

What is Liability Coverage?

In the event of an unplanned incident and a subsequent judgment against you, liability coverage can pay legal defense costs in certain scenarios, and damages awarded to the injured party (as afforded by the policy and its limits).

Additionally, liability insurance provides coverages for medical expenses of individuals involved, other than yourself, in the incident and repair or restitution of any damaged property.

As with all motorcycle insurance coverage, the specific circumstances that would provide you coverage are highly dependent on the specifics of your policy.

And it is worth noting that liability coverage will not provide coverage for your property damage or injuries, it is paid to others who experience loss for which you are liable.

How Much Liability Coverage Should I Get?

Whether or not you need to carry liability coverage depends on the state in which you live. Most states require motorcyclists to have some minimum liability coverage, but even if required by law, these minimums may not be enough to cover your expenses fully.

When determining the amount of liability coverage to purchase, it's important to factor in the value of your assets. This includes everything from your motorcycle to your home and its contents and any future income they may generate or maintenance they may require.

It is recommended to speak with a licensed insurance agent who can help you assess if the liability limits required by your state are sufficient to protect your assets in the event of an insurance claim or lawsuit.

If the limits are not sufficient, the agent should be able to help you customize your policy to provide the needed coverage amount that you can reasonably afford.

How Does Liability Coverage Work and What’s the Cost?

Motorcycle insurance comes into play in a variety of situations. For example, you accidentally bump a neighbor's mailbox while pulling into your driveway, or a passenger in another vehicle is injured during an incident for which you are at-fault.

The costs of these coverages are typically itemized out by your insurer in order to specifically list out the cost by coverage for your policy. 

Your motorcycle insurance policy will likely include these coverages under property damage liability and/or bodily injury liability.

Personal Injury Protection, Bodily Injury Liability, and Umbrella coverages

These types of insurance protections are often thought of as key types of insurance for injuries from vehicular accidents; there are some significant differences between these three. 

Succinctly, Bodily Insurance Liability covers expenses for a third party when you are at fault in an insurance incident but does not provide coverage for your injuries. In contrast, Personal Injury Protection applies to all eligible persons, no matter who is at fault in the incident.

Bodily Injury Liability

Bodily Injury Liability Coverage is a component that is necessary as part of state-mandated coverage for an auto and motorcycle insurance policy in almost every state. It may defray the medical costs of a third party where you are at fault. Sometimes it can be used for legal defense payment if you are sued for excess damages, unless they are punitive or exemplary.

For example, in New York*, all motorcycle riders must carry Bodily Injury Coverage for $25,000 per person and $50,000 per insurance incident. While some might think of going above the minimum as unnecessary, you may want to consider going above and beyond, in this case, to ensure you are covered. 

Personal Injury Protection

Personal Injury Protection (PIP) is a coverage that covers a wide range of expenses for you or other eligible persons after an insurance incident. This can include medical bills for you or your passenger, wages lost from being unable to work, disability, rehab, and funeral expenses. The benefits and coverage amount offered vary from state to state and add an extra layer of financial protection and additional coverage to the rider. 

Like Bodily Injury Liability, there are things that PIP does not cover: cost of repairs (this is filed as a collision claim), motorcycle theft (filed as a comprehensive claim), property damage (this is filed under property damage liability coverage), damages caused by the other party without insurance (this is typically uninsured motorist coverage coverage).

This seems like valuable coverage that shouldn’t be skipped for truly robust insurance, so why are people so unfamiliar with PIP? Well, it’s not that it always adds cost to a basic policy, but it’s because it’s only offered in states that have a “no-fault insurance” law. 

Umbrella Policy Protection

While not offered by all motorcycle insurance companies, an umbrella policy is a secondary layer of liability coverage that can protect your assets if you're found liable for an unplanned incident.

Umbrella policies are typically purchased as a stand-alone policy.

Bottom Line on Motorcycle Liability Coverage

The takeaway from all of this? 

No matter what type of motorcycle you ride, having the right insurance coverage is crucial. Don't skimp on liability coverage! 

It's one of the most important types of coverage you can have. If someone claims injury due to your negligence, this type of policy will pay your legal costs and any (non-punitive and non-exemplary) damage awards. 

If you are concerned that your family will be on the hook because of an insurance incident, we recommend calling our insurance professionals at Harley-Davidson® Insurance Services to discuss the best options available in your state. 

Related Links:

*source: DMV.NY.GOV/insurance