Whether cycling for leisure or to commute, millions of Australians ride a bike each week. Growing in popularity since the early 2000’s, cycling has increasingly taken hold in Australian culture. Fueled perhaps by the success of Australian sports heroes such as Cadel Evans or a surge in fuel prices, the number of cyclists has risen dramatically in the past decade, moving from 13% of the population in 2005 (2.1 million people) to 19% in 2015 (3.7 million). In particular, cyclist numbers increase during Spring and Summer, as pleasant weather coincides with summer breaks and vacationing tourists taking a ‘cycling holiday.’
Unfortunately, the increase in cycling has also translated to an increase in cycling accidents. In fact, the Australian Institute of Health & Welfare reported an increase of 7.5% p.a. in life-threatening cases involving cyclists from 2001 to 2010. Similarly, driver aggression and inattention towards cyclists has increased as well, with incidents of cyclist-vehicle door opening crashes (‘dooring’) escalating in at least one Australian state by 125% from 2000 to 2010.
With almost two million more cyclists on the road, safety has become a critical concern, inspiring many Australian cities to redesign roadways and adjust laws to accommodate the growing number of cyclists. If you or someone you know is one of the millions of people participating in cycling, it is important to be prepared and know what resources are available in the event of a cycling related injury.
What is a ‘Cycling Accident?’
A broad number of situations are covered under the umbrella of ‘cycling accident,’ including: accidents involving bicycles and vehicles resulting in injury, injuries caused by ‘dooring,’ injuries caused by unsafe or poorly maintained infrastructure, courier accidents, and any other accident involving a bicycle which results in injury on a roadway or a public place.
Where to Begin?
If you find yourself injured in a cycling accident, first obtain as many details of the event as possible: exchange information with the at-fault party and any witnesses, take note of the vehicle (make, model, and plate number), take photographs of the vehicle, your bike, your injuries, and the scene of the accident, take special note of factors such as weather, traffic, time, and date.
Contact the Authorities
If you are injured in the accident, contact the police because an official police report is often necessary in order to file a cycling accident claim. It is best to contact the police immediately and have them attend the scene of the accident but if you choose to wait, keep in mind that there are limits to how late you can file a report. If you do not report the accident within the allotted time period, you may still be able to report it after completing additional paperwork. However, this is not a guarantee so the sooner you contact the police the better.
If you are involved in a cycling accident you should always contact a lawyer. Even if the at-fault driver cannot be identified, you may be entitled to compensation under Compulsory Third Party (CPT) insurance. CPT covers accidents on public roads, compensating for personal injuries, and on road accident compensation claims, including those involving bicycles.
It is important to contact a lawyer immediately because cycling accident claims have very strict time limits, usually requiring that you give notice within 9 months and commence a claim in court within 3 years from the date of injury. In cases where the identity of the at-fault driver is unknown, you are required to give notice within 3 months though if there is a reasonable reason for delay, you can push the time limit up to nine months after the accident. The sooner you get your claim started, the better.
If you are injured, seek medical attention soon, if not immediately, after the accident. By seeking medical advice/attention right away you can get treatment for current injuries, identify injuries you overlooked, prevent further injury, and demonstrate medical evidence that your damages resulted from the accident.
It is also important to ascertain what other damages may have been caused by the accident. Get an assessment of your bike, any bike equipment, and accessories (like a GoPro). Obtain documentation of how much the damage cost you to fix or replace.
What are the Chances of Success?
A criminal claim for a cycling accident may not result in compensation, but civil claims have a much higher chance for success because of the different burdens of proof in criminal and civil cases. Criminal cases require proof of negligence beyond a reasonable doubt, but civil cases have a lower threshold and focus on the likelihood that negligence took place. The simple fact that an accident happened implies negligence and other factors (such as cellphone use) can affect the overall balance implicating a driver’s negligence.
A successful claim will result in compensation. The amount of the compensation will reflect the amount of your damages and the circumstances of your claim. In general, the amount you are compensated is meant to restore you to where you would have been had the accident not occurred.
Though cycling is popular, viable, and efficient, roadways in Australia remain a dangerous place. However, there is help available. If you find yourself injured in a cycling accident, don’t hesitate to contact a lawyer and exercise your legal rights. Most importantly, stay safe!