How to navigate insurance, police and legal aspects after a collision
As much as we all love riding on empty country roads on blue sky days, most of the riding we do involves some interaction with other road users in varying weather conditions. We don’t like to think about it, but cycling can be hazardous. In my last column, I covered how accidents can be avoided, but even so, not all collisions are preventable.
Would you know what to do if you (or a riding buddy) get in a collision with a motor vehicle? It’s better to be prepared for the worst so you can get on with enjoying the best.
Here’s what to do in case of a collision:
1. Be insured
This one should obviously happen before you’re involved in a collision. Most national cycling association memberships will include some coverage. For example, Cycling Australia covers its members 24/7 on the bike including accident, public liability and loss of income. Becoming a member of your state or country’s cycling association might be worth the insurance even if you don’t have racing aspirations. Other companies such as Bicycle NSW offer comprehensive insurance that may cover third party property damage, bodily injury and bike damage, but ensure that you understand the rules and limitations on their policies.
If you don’t have insurance already, now’s the time to look into it.
2. Assess physical injury and seek medical attention immediately if needed
Even if you think your injury is minor, it may get worse over a few days or cause long-term problems, so it’s best to see a doctor and get any scans done straight away. Immediate medical attention will also act as evidence if required for your insurance claim.
3. Remain calm and non-confrontational
Collisions are stressful and emotions run high. But remaining calm will make the process a lot smoother. Plus, anything you say or do can be included in the police report so being on your best behaviour is in your own best interest. Remember, the police are there to help you. But do be careful not to either assign or admit fault until the situation is assessed and investigation has been carried out.
4. Collect evidence
In many cases it can be difficult to prove who was at fault, and there may be negligence from both the driver and cyclist. It’s important to get as much evidence at possible to help your case run smoothly. If you are unable to do so yourself, have a witness or riding buddy collect the information.
- Get the vehicle driver’s insurance information, address, phone and license plate number.
- Get the names and phone numbers of all the witnesses at the scene.
- Take photos of the scene and any damage to the bike and yourself. Even capturing the lighting situation, time or the setup of the road/lanes at the intersection will help you remember details for the police report, which you will need for an insurance claim.
- Evidence may also be collected from you. Be cooperative even if it seems obvious to you who is at fault. In a motor vehicle accident, it is standard for both “drivers” to be alcohol and drug tested. Both yourself and the driver could be tested if police or ambulance attend. Third party insurance companies will assign negligence to the rider or driver based on any rules either of you may have broken.
- CCTV or dashcam footage if possible.
5. File a police report
Make a police report as soon as you can, within 48 hours or as soon as you’re released from hospital. You will need this for any third party insurance claim. If you can’t remember a detail, don’t lie! Just be honest.
6. File a claim
Regardless of who was at fault, there may be insurance available to both parties. This will differ based on your location and local government, but in New South Wales, your claim is filed with the driver’s insurance for property damage, and the Motor Accidents Authority for personal injury. An accident notification form can be filled out regardless who was at fault, and a personal injury form should be completed if the driver was completely or partially at fault. You will probably need the drivers’ information and police report number.
7. Have your bike thoroughly inspected by a bike shop
Whether you have your own insurance or are seeking to claim through the driver’s third party insurance, the insurance company will assign a claim number and ask for a quote from your local bike shop. Take your bike to your local shop and ask for a letter evaluating the damages including parts and labour. If the bike is written off, ask the shop to detail the replacement cost. Don’t replace or fix the bike until you receive confirmation that the insurance will cover the costs- the damaged bike may be required as evidence.
Tip: It’s a nice gesture to spend the insurance money for the new bike at the helpful shop!
8. Seek legal help
Motor insurance companies can be scary. They will contact you directly and try to settle the claim quickly. It may be worth meeting with a personal injury solicitor who works on a no win, no fee basis. They will determine if your claim has legal merit, give advice, and if necessary can help you come to a settlement with insurance companies, who are often trying to overinflate your contributory negligence to an accident.
9. Write down all your expenses
Keep track of everything that was damaged for your claim: from helmet, bike, medical bills, and physiotherapy, to pain medication, ruined clothing and transportation to your medical appointments. Also record any loss of wages due to missed work hours.
Hopefully none of you will need this information, but it’s always good to be prepared. Just in case.
Please be advised that this is not legal advice, and we’d love to hear your tips and recommendations as well. Share them with our readers in the comment section below.
Rae-Anne is a cancer researcher and longtime cyclist. Growing up in Canada, Rae-Anne began mountain biking in high school. She relocated to Australia for her PhD in medicine and raced with Sydney Uni Velo and Western Sydney Mountain Bike clubs while pursuing her degree. These days, Rae-Anne’s usual riding and racing also incorporates longer charity rides and team mountain bike events. Experienced with scientific writing, Rae-Anne is excited to do some less technical writing for Ella.