On the face of it, there can be little doubt that the cycling industry has done some stellar work over the last few years. Intricate drive systems with powerful batteries are boosting sales of higher-priced e-bikes. Lots of progress has also been made in ergonomic design, safer braking, brighter lights and the transport of children and cargo.
In a related and welcome development, a new and well-heeled type of clientele is streaming into bike shops, meaning all the pricey bicycles and e-bikes actually get ridden. On the flip side, all these factors also lead to higher caseloads for insurance companies and courts.
More expensive bicycles – increased volume of claims to settle
In Germany alone, there were around 84,000 incidents involving cyclists and cars in the year 2021, according to the Federal Statistical Office. The vast majority of these crashes had car drivers as the responsible party, which means the driver’s insurance has to pay for the damage. But how exactly is the insurer supposed to settle the claim? Can the bicycle or e-bike be expected to be repaired, or should it be filed as a total loss?
While bike dealers often issue quotes for repair jobs in such cases, there are many reasons why they cannot (and should not) provide expert opinions on the questions raised. Sometimes the insurance company cannot bring itself to trust the quote provided by the bike dealer. Thus begins, more often than not, a veritable odyssey for cyclists looking to have their damage compensated.
Some insurers try to solve this by partnering with fast-turnaround appraisers, but in our experience these often quote figures that are far too low to truly compensate for the damage incurred.
If no agreement with the insurance company is reached, going to court is the only avenue left for the claimant. Reaching a final verdict and finally settling the claim can easily take one or two years.
Accidents due to material failure? – A chicken-or-egg dilemma
While it is rare, some cases involve the cyclist are involved in serious crashes without influence from any other road user. Bike dealers and the police taking down the accident usually explain the cause as rider error, and broken handlebars are simply seen as a consequence of the crash itself.
But is this really what happened? Did the component have the strength required for its proper use? Were the components used on the bike actually compatible with each other? Were they installed correctly? Did they allow for sufficiently stable riding? Not only do the competent parties frequently fail to examine these important questions with the required know-how, they often do not ask them in the first place.
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