To suppress something unpleasant is only human – even if we know that this only makes it worse. We do not go to the dentist regularly, although we know that we’ll lose health insurance cover if we don’t. We don’t file our tax return though we know, we’ll be taxed according to compulsory rates if we dont’t. And we drive around in our cars as if there wasn’t an ozone hole. Also we do not want our hobby cycling to be spoiled by sinister accident statistics. "Nothing will happen", we think. But something will happen – more often than we really want.
So let’s be sensible and face the sad truth: More than 70.000 cyclists had a road accident last year, according to the German federal statistical office. Three-thirds collided with a car – the car driver being the one mainly to blame in 61 percent of the cases. In 6.1 percent of these accidents cyclists and pedestrians were involved – the cyclist often (63 percent) being the one mainly to blame for it. The estimated number of unknown cases probably was much higher as cycling accidents often don’t get reported to the police and therefore are not listet in statistics.
Of course, cyclists can help avoiding accidents: also pedestrians benefit from a defensive way of cycling, a cyclist wearing eyecatching, bright-coloured clothing may be better visible to inattentive car drivers. After all, the reason for most accidents is that the cylist is overlooked by the car driver or that the cyclist’s speed is underestimated. But despite all precautionary measures accidents won’t stop happening. What else can be done: mitigate the consequences and avoid endless discussions. Because what you don’t want after having had an accident more or less bad is to discuss for months who is the one to blame and who must pay the damage caused.
Basically, the person injured has the right to be put in the same position as before the accident if he or she is not to blame for it. Because an accident cannot be made unhappened, the one who caused it, i.e. his or her insurance company, has to pay for the damage caused. If both parties are to blame for an accident, the claim is split between the two of them depending on to what extent they are to blame. Any person injured must prove the respective loss. Bike dealers and consultants specializing in bicycles help in case of material damage, doctors in case of harm.
Often, claims are settled in a very unprofessional manner when it comes to cycling accidents. Starting with the documentation of the accident on the scene, the police are not able to judge correctly the damage done to the bike; furthermore, insurance agents often get their bike-related knowledge out of DIY-store brochures.
Therefore, it is worth knowing in advance what to do in case of an accident – even, if we hope that you will never need to apply this knowledge. Read our advice. After doing so, you can forget about statistics and enjoy cycling again.
On the scene:
First aid and documentation
Secure the scene of accident
Call ambulance and police
Help injured persons, provide first aid
Write down particulars of witnesses
In case of bad accidents, do not change anything on the scene, e.g. vehicles, parts, clothing, until the police has arrived
File private application when you were injured
In case of accidents with mainly material damage, do not move things on the scene unless position of vehicles, skid marks a.s.o. have been marked. Take pictures, if possible
Write down plate number of vehicles involved, particulars of their drivers as well as insurance and policy number of the other party involved in the accident
Sketch out the scene of the accident including driving directions, position of vehicles, traffic signs and road marking
Write down road and weather conditions as well as time. Jot down how the accident happened and have it signed by the opponent party.
Go see the doctor, even if you only have minor injuries
Don’t change or repair anything on your bike; take it to a bike dealer
Contact (in writing) the accident opponent and his/her insurance company stating the cost of damage, i.e. having it repaired, and other cost (e.g. bus travel to doctor, bike dealer...). Enlose copies of all receipts
Report the accident to your insurance company, otherwise it can refuse to pay loss adjustment in case of you being partly to blame fo the accident as well
In case of accidents with injuries or considerable material damage, consult a lawyer (expert in traffic law) and a consultant specializing in bicycles if the insurance company and/or the opponent party do not cooperate
If the bike can be repaired, keep damaged parts until the case is settled
The German national bicycle club (ADFC) can provide you with addresses of lawyers specializing in bike accidents, phone: 0049(0)421/346290, www.adfc.de
The German national association of specialist bike consultants can provide you with addresses of consultants specializing in bicycles, phone 0049(0)7141/386026; you also get these addresses from the chamber of commerce, www.ihk.de, field 2675
Central number of car insurers providing you with the address of your accident opponent’s insurance company: 0049(0)180/25026
How does a bike expert help?
Consultants specializing in bicycles help when there are no invoices sufficiently proving the purchase of the parts damaged and/or when the value of the bike is difficult to estimate, because many parts have been exchanged. A specialist bike consultant (bike expert) produces an expert’s report stating the reinstatement- and current market value of the bicycle. The latter is much more difficult to determine with bicycles than with cars, for example. An expert’s report usually accelerates loss adjustment considerably. Damage is listed and repair cost is calculated. If this amount equals or exceeds the value of the bike, the bike expert checks the bicycle’s residual value after the accident. If repairing it is not economical – which most of the time is the case when the frame is damaged – the person injured can claim the full replacement value if he/she gives the bike to someone purchasing goods of residual value. If he/she keeps the bike, the residual value is deducted. A bicycle whose damage cost exceeds its value by one third is only repaired when an adequate replacement cannot be provided.
What insurance covers
Material damage: The insurance company pays for repair or refunds the current market value of the bicycle (you only get the reinstatement value only up to a few weeks after purchase). In order to do so, the insurance company needs either a bike dealer’s cost estimate or an expert’s report – in addition to copies of invoices proving the purchase (these are also necessary when clothing, baggage or heartrate monitor are damaged).
Harm: The best way of finding out if claiming damages for pain and suffering is adequate, is to talk to a lawyer.
Expert: Insurance pays for an expert when the amount claimed exceeds petty damage (about 500 to 700 Euros) or when the damage done to the bike cannot be determined without an expert’s help. This is often the case with carbon frames. They can appear undamaged from the outside, but inside the fibre structure may be cracked and susceptible to breaking. Insurance therefore always has to pay for checking carbon frames. It is advisable to have the taking of costs confirmed in advance.
Lawyer: When you are not to blame for the accident, insurance has to pay for the lawyer. If it is not clear who is to blame, the legal expense insurance usually pays fort he lawyer – provided you have one. Attention: The person injured is subject to the doctrine of avoidable consequences. You must not, for example, choose a lawyer at the other end of the country, just because you think going there was a nice holiday-break paid for by the insurance company. An insurance cannot be forced to pay for travel distances like this.
Loss of use: When you can prove that you indeed need your bike, you are entitled to loss of use payment. The amount payable equals the money you would have to pay for renting a similar bike (up to now, amounts from five to ten Euros per day have been paid). In order to shorten this period, petty damage should be repaired as soon as possible, but not without keeping the damaged parts. Talk to your insurance company in advance.
Loss of earnings: Self-employed are entitled to such payments – your lawyer tells you if you may get this compensation.
Other: If you can submit the respective receipts, insurance pays for travelling by public transport, taxi/cab or in your own car when using it for seeing a doctor or bike dealer. In addition to that, you can always claim a 25-Euro-lump-sum (e.g. for telephone, postage...).
Author: Dirk Zedler