BIKE DAMAGE CLAIMS
The firm gets several calls or e-mails a week from Arizona and Utah cyclists involved in a crash were their bikes were damaged or even totaled. Usually they call for advice on whether they need to hire a bike accident lawyer just to pursue a property damage claim when a negligent driver causes damage to their bike. We can certainly help with just the property damage claim, but we are happy to save you money and show you how to collect on the property damage claim all by yourself below. BUT – if the cyclist was injured in the bike accident/crash then our firm can and will help! Injuries often require professional help. It is standard procedure for us to pursue a damage claim for our clients while representing cyclists in their personal injury claim as well. This is a service that we simply provide when handling the underlying personal injury lawsuit.
Hopefully there was no injury at all as a result from the bicycle accident or crash. In the case of no personal injury, the cyclist who wants and should pursue a property damage claim will most likely not need the assistance of a lawyer. The claims can be fairly simple when only involving property damage.
You have rights. By law you are entitled to be compensated for the cost of repairs or even replacement of your damaged bicycle. If the crash or accident was significant enough to total your bike (it cannot be adequately and fully repaired) then you are entitled to be compensated for the replacement value of your bike. Be aware of insurance company tricks! Don’t let the insurance company persuade you that you should settle for a “depreciated” value of your bike. There is no standard source for determining bike values and there certainly is no such thing as a “Kelly Blue Book” for bikes. At Bike Accident Attorneys, PLC we always take the position that if a bike is no longer manufactured and the next closest model costs more, then the insurance company is responsible to pay the higher cost of the newer bike. Of course they normally don’t immediately agree to this, but we hold fast to that principle and suggest you should as well. After all, it’s not your fault that your perfectly good bike is now completely trashed. Why on earth should you have to pay more to replace it? IMPORTANT NOTE – before you have any repairs done to your damaged bike you should make the bike available for the insurance company to inspect it themselves. Generally speaking the insurance company will send out an adjuster to inspect the bike and try value it as low as possible. Be prepared to offer some helpful suggestions to the insurance adjuster sent to inspect the bike – chances are they have no clue about bike values as they are used to looking at cars, etc. They will take a ton of pictures. While they are engaged in taking the pictures feel free to point out the damage, the parts that are expensive and what they sell for, etc. It can only help.
Hopefully you were not in a bike accident or crash at all, but if you were, we always suggest speaking to a qualified bike accident attorney FIRST. Most bike accident lawyers and bike accident law firms like our firm offer free consultations. At Bike Accident Attorneys, PLC we offer free consultations 24/7 365 days/year. We have a strict “Any Day, Any Time” policy with a toll free hotline. We are serious about helping you. We know how serious these accidents can be. Our “Any Day, Any Time” Toll Free Hotline is (855) ONE-EZ-CALL (855-633-3922). It should go without saying, but we will say it any ways, you should always contact a bike accident lawyer before speaking to an insurance company. It is common for the insurance companies to record all of their calls and your statements to them will definitely be used against you. If you get the pleasure of meeting with and interacting with anyone from an insurance company (adjuster, agent, etc.) do not allow yourself to be fooled by their warm and friendly act; remember they are not your ally. Their entire job is to pay out as little as possible. Any “innocent statements” you make to them may very well be detrimental to your claim latter on.
A few tips on how to handle your property/bike damage claim:
- Always get the Police Report. The police report will give you all the contact information you need on the driver and any witnesses. Hopefully the driver’s insurance information will also be listed on the report as well. If you’re lucky enough to have a witness listed on the report you should contact him/her and ask that they provide you with a statement. Statements in writing are best.
- Locate the driver’s insurance company. Hopefully you were able to get this information at the scene of the accident. However, you may be able to obtain this information using the police report as indicated above.
- Take a ton of pictures of your bike. Make sure the lighting is good and the pictures are clear and easy to see. We recommend that the pictures show the whole bicycle as well as the individual parts that were damaged. We also suggest taking photos of any serial numbers or other identifying labels or inscriptions. The point here is to make it as easy as possible for the insurance company to agree with you on what you think the bike will cost to replace or repair. Don’t make it hard for them to see or identify the damage and therefore the value.
- Get estimates for the repairs and or replacement bike sales price. Typically its best to get more than one estimate so they can see that you are fairly averaging out the cost. Try to obtain your original purchase receipt if the bike is totaled or try to have the bike shop provide you with a copy of the receipt if you can not find your copy. Most bike shops are very helpful during this whole process as they hope you will return to their shop to buy your new bike or to have the repairs done. If you can’t get the original receipt, some insurance companies will accept a credit card bill, or an invoice from the bike shop you purchased the bike from (if they hold onto those records). In our day and age internet searches are very helpful in obtaining the original and replacement costs of your bike. Be sure to be as accurate and as fair as possible. Print off quotes from several bike shops and sources to show the insurance company a realistic idea of what it will cost you to purchase a new bike or repair your damaged bike.
- Document any and all other damages that you will claim. For example, did you make improvements to the bike such as bags, water bottle cages, bike computers, GPS devices? Too many of our clients forget to add these items in and once the settlement is reached and paid out you can not go back and get more. Here is another often missed area in property damage claims: was your nice custom bike jersey, bibs, tri shorts, etc. or other items damaged in the accident/crash? If so, you have the right to be reimbursed for these items as well.
The timing of your claim is extremely important. Once you have finished gathering all of your evidence (i.e. pictures, estimates, witness statements, etc.) you’ll need to call the insurance company and formally file a claim. Do this as soon as possible! Usually the formal process of filing a claim is simply reporting the information to the insurance company over the phone. During that phone call you should be provided with a claim number. Always use this to identify your claim when communicating with the insurance company, every call or written communication. Rarely will you be required to fill out some sort of form to formerly file an insurance claim, but if you were instructed to do so by the insurance company it is imperative that you obtain their form and perfectly comply with the terms of submitting a claim in order for your bike damage claim to be settled later.
You will be required to send them the documentation or evidence you have gathered. Give them plenty of time to review it. Insurance companies are notoriously and irritatingly slow! We suggest that you consistently follow up with them via the phone and in writing. Every couple of weeks go ahead and call them and ask if they received everything and if they need anything else from you. Don’t expect an immediate response. It is common for them to call back within 2-3 weeks. They will usually tell you that they are still completing their investigation and need a little more time. If you don’t hear from them call again to follow-up on the claim and document your calls. Keep a call log. Write to them and reference your call.
Unfortunately insurance companies are in business because they pay out as little as possible as or pay nothing at all. If you find that the insurance company continues to ignore you, tries to lowball you, or simply denies your claim, you can file a “Small Claims” lawsuit. Small claims courts are generally for smaller cases and are usually handled more efficiently and almost always prohibit attorneys from appearing. Small claims courts are generally more informal and often have relaxed rules surrounding evidence to make it easier for people to seek legal relief without representation by an attorney. Each county in Arizona and Utah has a small claims court. In Arizona Small claims Courts can hear disputes up to the amount of $2,500.00. In Utah Small claims Courts can hear disputes up to the amount of $10,000.00. Obviously this may present a problem if your bike damage claim is larger than this amount. There are many bikes worth much more than $2,500 or even $10,000. If you find that your damage claim exceeds the Small Claims Courts’ limits you may want to contact us to help you file a legitimate claim against the insurance company in a Justice court or Superior State Court.
Here are Links to the Small Claims Courts in Arizona and Utah:
The defense of Comparative Negligence in Arizona
Be prepared. The insurance company or the Small Claims Judge may tell you that they will not pay the full claim and will reduce the payment buy what they consider to be your “comparative negligence” in contributing to the accident/crash. Arizona is a “comparative negligence” state. A simple bike accident example of how comparative negligence works is:
A car hits a cyclist and the cyclist is injured. The cyclist sues the driver of the car. At trial a jury (or judge if you are having a bench trial) finds that the driver of the car is only 50% at fault while the cyclist is also 50% at fault (i.e. cyclist ran a red light, etc.). In this example they are equally responsible for the accident/crash. If the jury/judge awards $500,000 to the injured cyclist, then that verdict will be reduced by 50% because of the comparative negligence/fault of the cyclist in contributing to the accident/crash. That means that instead of getting a half of million dollars like the jury/judge awarded the cyclist will now only get $250,000.
There are many different situations that can create comparative negligence – so don’t be surprised if the insurance company raises this defense and the full value of your claim is not paid.
The defense of Modified Comparative Negligence in Utah
Again, be prepared. Utah is a bit different! OK Utah clients, here is the skinny for you. The insurance company or the Small Claims Judge may tell you that they will not pay the full claim and will reduce the payment buy what they consider to be your “comparative negligence” in contributing to the accident/crash OR depending on the amount that you were negligent as well you may not be able to even bring the claim and you will be entitled to recover nothing! Utah is a “modified comparative negligence” state. The basic twist is that if you are considered to be at fault of 50% or higher then you cannot bring a valid claim and you recover nothing. If the injured cyclist is determined to be 49% or less at fault then the normal rules of comparative negligence kick in. Using the same simple bike accident example above then we find out how modified comparative negligence in Utah works:
A car hits a cyclist and the cyclist is injured. The cyclist sues the driver of the car. At trial a jury (or judge if you are having a bench trial) finds that the driver of the car is only 50% at fault while the cyclist is also 50% at fault (i.e. cyclist ran a red light, etc.). In this example they are equally responsible for the accident/crash. Because the injured cyclist was also 50% at fault in this case then he/she recovers zero and the suit is finished in Utah!
But… if at trial the injured cyclist is found to be 25% (anything less than the 50%) at fault then the award of $500,000 to the injured cyclist is only reduced by 25%. The cyclist would then be able to recover $375,000.
There are many different situations that can create comparative negligence – so don’t be surprised if the insurance company raises this defense and the full value of your claim is not paid. It is wise to counsel with a qualified Bike Accident Attorney regarding issues of comparative fault and modified comparative fault before deciding to bring suit against an insurance company.
You can always call us 24/7 365 days/year because of our “Any Day, Any Time” policy. We are here to help you.(855) ONE-EZ-CALL (855-633-3922).