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You’ve had a cycling accident - what next?

19,000 cyclists are injured in UK reported road accidents annually. Many don’t claim compensation. What should you do if you have a cycling accident? Should you be wearing a helmet? How would you go about making a claim? Why claim at all? Legal expert Julie Harris gives the lowdown.

It’s been recognised for centuries in Scots Law that if you’re injured and it was someone else’s fault, then the “wrong doer” should put you back in the position you would have been in had you not been injured. This applies to cyclists as much as anyone else.

What should you do if you have a cycling accident?

There are two main categories of accident:

1. Collision with a vehicle. If involved in this type of accident, you should:

  • Report the incident to the police. Even if, for example, the driver accepts fault or your injury seems very minor.
  • Get the drivers’ full name, address and insurance details.
  • Obtain the contact details for any witnesses to the accident.

2. An accident caused by the road surface. In this scenario, you should:

  • Report the incident to the person responsible for the road surface, i.e. usually a Local Authority.
  • Take photographs of the defect which caused your accident.
  • Obtain witness details.

In either scenario, seek prompt medical treatment of your injuries and advise the doctor/nurse of the circumstances of the accident.

Next: Consult a solicitor with a track record in dealing with cycling accidents.

Should you be wearing a cycle helmet?

A controversial issue! Obviously a helmet won’t prevent the accident, but the lack of a helmet might contribute to your injuries. It’s for the insurance company you’re claiming against to prove that the lack of a helmet contributed to your injuries. That’s a medical issue and would be asked by the insurance company of a medical specialist.

We appreciate that there’s a body of cyclists who believe helmets are a negative thing. From a legal perspective, however, the advice would be to wear a helmet.

How would you go about making a claim?

The solicitor will write a letter of claim to the responsible party, with the intention that the responsible party passes it to the insurance company. Once your solicitor hears from the insurer, your solicitor will ask for your case to be dealt with in terms of the Scottish protocol. This provides a time line for the case. For example, the insurance company will initially have three months to investigate the claim.

The aim is to get to the point where the insurance company agrees to settle the case. At that point your solicitor will gather the information to value the claim. This will involve obtaining, for example:

  • A medical report.
  • Details from your employer about any earnings you might have lost.
  • Vouching for your damaged bike, clothing etc.

Once this information is recovered, your solicitor will guide you on what your case is worth and advise you on whether to accept or reject any settlement proposals which are made.

If the insurance company’s proposals are too low or they won’t agree to settle your claim at all, your solicitor will speak to you about raising a Court action against the responsible party. These days, of those cases raised in Court, only about 2% end up at a full Court hearing.

Why claim at all?

Aside from doing it to get your own life back on track and recover earnings you may have lost, it also helps other cyclists. We have first hand experience of seeing the Council come along to fix a pot-hole after a claim has been pursued in connection with that defect. The defect has been drawn to their attention in a formal way. There is less chance someone else will have an accident there.

The insurance industry has great lobbying power. If cycling claims are “hurting them” financially, that’s likely to result in their lobbying for safer infrastructure for cyclists.

To sum up

There’s no doubt that cycling is a healthy, positive, life-enhancing pursuit. Like most things in life, however, it brings with it risks. The risks don’t mean don’t do it, but if something adverse does happen to you and it is not your fault, it matters to you and the cycling fraternity in general that you don’t just accept it. Take action and seek advice.

For more information and advice, please get in touch:

Julie Harris
0131 225 2121

Or use our online claim form.

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Personal injury claims

APIL Senior Litigator

Allan McDougall Solicitors in Edinburgh