Many cyclists injured in accidents don't realise they could be entitled to compensation, writes Adelaide injury lawyer Barney Gask.
IMPORTANT: Major changes to South Australia's compensation scheme start from 1 July, 2013. For people injured in accidents from 1 July onwards, entitlements change significantly. Click here to find out how.
When we talk about injury compensation, we often forget about bicycle accidents. Collisions between cyclists and motor vehicles are common, except there’s much less protection for a person on a bike, so there’s always an increased chance of pain and injury. Many aren’t aware that cyclists have the same entitlements to compensation as drivers of motor vehicles on the road.
There doesn’t even necessarily need to be a collision to enable an injured cyclist to have a claim. There are often cases where a rider has been forced to take evasive action due to the negligent actions of a motor vehicle driver and still ended up with injuries. For example, a turning car might cut off a cyclist, or drive in a bike lane, or perform another dangerous manoeuvre on the road which forces the rider off their bike or into a collision with something else. These are common situations.
After the accident, it is critical to gather as much information as possible, and report it straight away. Get to the hospital, see a doctor or physiotherapist if necessary to ensure that there is record of the injuries and that another vehicle was involved. Some riders get into trouble because they don’t do anything about it immediately. As time passes, memories fade and it can become difficult to convince the insurer of any entitlement.
In most of these cases, the cyclist would be entitled to claim for damages if it can be proven that the driver of the motor vehicle was at fault. If the vehicle can be identified and is registered, then the insurer is Allianz. Occasionally there is the situation where the driver of a vehicle doesn’t realise that the rider has fallen, drives off, and identification is impossible. That doesn’t rule out a compensation claim, as the payer becomes the Nominal Defendant.
Of course, the rider must have sustained injuries. The strict wording of the legislation says that normal enjoyment of life must be significantly impaired for more than seven days. Generally, if a cyclist is injured and seeks treatment there should be entitlements to compensation.
Separate to a cyclist’s injuries is damage to property. These days people are riding bikes worth up to $20,000, along with other expensive items such as iPod’s, GPS systems, sunglasses, helmets, sunglasses and clothing which is likely to sustain at least some damage in an accident. Many don’t realise they can be compensated for damage or the loss of these items.
If there is no agreed value of the bike, the cyclist will be compensated for the value of the bike at the time of the accident, and if that can’t be established it can be the replacement cost. It’s the same story for any other property damaged in the accident. The rider will need to get quotes from the relevant stores to find out the value of the items that need to be replaced.
Do as much as you can to be visible and take all necessary precautions such as displaying lights, wearing fluorescent clothing and protective gear. This offsets any claim by the insurer that the driver couldn’t see you and ensures that the full amount of damages is paid.
It can be difficult negotiating with insurers, but that’s the benefit of seeing a lawyer, who takes care of that for you. At the very least, it’s worth contacting a Tindall Gask Bentley lawyer for a chat about your situation, without any cost or obligation. We can ensure that you’re on the right track.
Author: Barney Gask
Barney Gask is a Partner at Tindall Gask Bentley Lawyers, the largest injury law firm in South Australia. Contact (08) 8212 1077 to arrange an free initial interview and find out if you have a claim.
Click here for more information about cycling injury compensation.
Photos supplied by Mark Lands