Does Minnesota No-Fault Car Insurance Apply to Motorcycles?

If you own a motorcycle in Minnesota, here's what you need to know about no-fault and liability insurance.

If you ride a motorcycle in Minnesota, you may have heard about the state's no-fault car insurance rules. While motorcycle riders are required to carry certain types and amounts of insurance coverage (which we'll summarize later in this article), the short answer is that motorcycle accidents are not typically covered under Minnesota's no-fault car insurance system. Read on for the details.

A Motorcycle Is Not a "Motor Vehicle" for Purposes of Minnesota's No-Fault Car Insurance Laws

The Minnesota No-Fault Automobile Insurance Act defines a motor vehicle as "any vehicle, other than a motorcycle or other vehicle with fewer than four wheels" which must be registered and "is designed to be self-propelled by an engine or motor for use primarily upon public roads, highways or streets in the transportation of persons or property," and so on. (Minnesota Statutes section 65B.43 Subd. 2.)

This same law also defines a motorcycle as "a self-propelled vehicle designed to travel on fewer than four wheels which has an engine rated at greater than five horsepower…but does not include an electric-assisted bicycle." (Minnesota Statutes section 65B.43 Subd. 13.)

Why are these definitions important? In the "Basic Economic Loss Benefits" section of the Minnesota No-Fault Automobile Insurance Act (which can be found at Minnesota Statutes section 65B.44), Minnesota lawmakers have specified that the no-fault or "personal injury protection" (PIP) benefits mandated by the no-fault laws apply only to injuries and other losses "arising out of the maintenance or use of a motor vehicle." And since a motorcycle is, by definition, not considered a "motor vehicle" under the terms of the Act, the dictates and benefits of Minnesota's no-fault car insurance system do not apply to motorcycle owners (the same goes for snowmobile owners, by the way).

But the same kinds of benefits that Minnesota's no-fault car insurance gives to insured drivers and others covered by a car insurance policy -- specifically, personal injury protection (PIP) coverage -- are available as an add-on to any motorcycle insurance policy (more in the next section).

Liability Insurance is Required for Motorcycles in Minnesota

Under Minnesota Statutes section 65B.48, every owner of a motorcycle that is registered or operated in the state must "provide and maintain security for the payment of tort liabilities arising out of the maintenance or use of the motorcycle" -- proof of the ability to pay the financial losses of others who may be injured in an accident caused by the motorcycle owner, in other words.

As the statute mentions, this "security" may be -- and usually is -- achieved by obtaining liability insurance at or above:

  • $30,000 for bodily injury to any one person in any one accident
  • $60,000 for injury to two or more people in any one accident, and
  • $10,000 for injury to or destruction of property (belonging to someone else) in any one accident.

Keep in mind that these minimums all apply to liability insurance, which covers injuries and property damage sustained by other people when you cause an accident. It will not provide coverage for your own medical bills and damaged property for any accident you cause.

When buying a motorcycle insurance policy, you can purchase "personal injury protection" (PIP) coverage, which will provide you with coverage for your medical bills, lost income, and certain other losses (depending on the specifics of the policy and the coverage limits) regardless of who is responsible for the underlying accident.

In fact, insurers in Minnesota are legally required to attach a typewritten notice to any application for motorcycle insurance that does not opt for PIP coverage. This notice must read:

Under Minnesota law, a policy of motorcycle coverage issued in the State of Minnesota must provide liability coverage only, and there is no requirement that the policy provide personal injury protection (PIP) coverage in the case of injury sustained by the insured. No PIP coverage provided by an automobile insurance policy you may have in force will extend to provide coverage in the event of a motorcycle accident.

Motorcycle insurance policies can also include uninsured motorist coverage, coverage for damage to or destruction of the motorcycle, and theft. But remember that these coverages are optional (just as PIP is optional), and will of course add to the overall cost of the policy.

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