Bikers are much more likely to have accidents than drivers-and the consequences are worse when they do. Most of the accidents that involve third parties (in other words, another vehicle) are not the biker’s fault, so you will probably win your claim for injuries and compensation. But the other driver’s insurers won’t pay up without a fight. You need to get yourself in shape if you want to win your claim-and that starts even before you’ve had the accident. This might all sound paranoid, but if you want your money…
What To Take With You?
Sooner or later you will probably be involved in an accident, and the chances are it won’t be your fault. But you need to get the evidence to prove it, and if you carry a few things with you whenever you’re riding (under the seat for example is ideal), you won’t lose your chance. At least take a piece of paper and a pen or pencil, so that you can get the name and address of the driver and any witnesses.
An advanced training course will teach you to ride within the limits of the road, the bike and your own. If you use that knowledge, the chances of you being involved in an accident are reduced, and you are more likely to win any subsequent claim for an accident.
What To Do When It Happens?
- Get out of the way of traffic but don’t get up off the ground until you have checked that you can move your fingers and toes, you aren’t bleeding, and you can see properly. If you have any doubts at all get someone to call an ambulance and keep your helmet on. It’s very easy to damage your spinal cord in a crash and taking your helmet off could make it a lot worse. You will probably be suffering from shock after even a small accident, especially if you have been hurt. This will make you shaky and over-excited so try to keep warm and calm. Don’t let anyone rush you into anything-wait for the police to sort it out, that’s what they are for.
- If you have been hurt or the road is blocked, call the police (ask the controller to send a traffic policeman if possible-they have more experience and training in dealing with accident scenes). If not, you will need to arrange for you and your bike to get home so call your recovery service.
- Turn the engine off, but don’t move it yet unless it’s causing an obstruction.
- Take as many photos as you can of the crash scene. Make sure you have included photos of any skids, debris, and damage to the bike.
- Get the details of the driver and any witnesses. Get the details of the driver’s vehicle too, including the registration number. Do a quick sketch of the scene if you don’t have a camera on your phone-it’s amazing how soon you will forget essential details without this.
- When the police arrive they will do a rough sketch of the site, and they will also take details from you, the driver and any witnesses as well as brief statements. They can arrange for your bike to be moved by whichever recovery service the police use in the area, but it will be moved to the operative’s pound and you will have to pay their fees before it is released to you. If you can, have your own recovery service move it (they may be able to deliver it to your bike shop for repair).
- The police may give you and the other driver a breathalyser test, and almost certainly give you a “producer”. This requires you to produce your paper driver’s licence, MOT certificate and insurance policy at a police station nominated by you within a week-so pick one that’s convenient for you.
If you’ve had an accident that wasn’t your fault, now is the time to start thinking about getting compensation for it. There are a few things you need to do straightaway to make sure you get what you deserve.
Get a Medical
If you were injured in the accident you need to be able to prove it, so get yourself to your GP as soon as you can (If you have suffered anything more serious than a minor injury you have probably been taken to hospital already, so you don’t need to). You will be able to use the GP’s notes later to prove what injuries you sustained and how severe they were.
Get the Evidence
You need to be able to prove what financial damage the accident caused you-so keep all the receipts for prescriptions, recovery charges, and bus fares. If your clothing was damaged don’t throw it away-the driver’s insurers will probably want to see it. If you can, ask the shop where you bought any damaged clothing from to write down what it cost at the time of purchase. If you buy new kit, keep the receipts. If your bike was damaged ask your bike shop to give you a quote for the repairs, and if it’s a write-off, a valuation.
Write down what happened as soon as you can, with a sketch map and the photos you took to help you. Describe the conditions-the weather, what the light was like, and the condition of the road (especially if it was damp or icy), and what happened before the accident. You also need to say what you were doing before the accident-whether you had your lights on, where you were on the road, and what speed you were doing. Finally, describe what the other driver was doing; his speed and position, whether you saw him look at you before he pulled out, that kind of thing. Remember that you have to prove that the accident was the other driver’s fault; most insurers and Judges don’t ride a bike, so you have to persuade them.
Tell Your Insurer
Your insurance policy requires you to report the accident to your insurer as soon as you can, even if you don’t want to make a claim. If you don’t, this could be “material non-disclosure”. If your insurer finds out later that you have had an accident and didn’t tell it, your insurance could be withdrawn. Phone the insurance company for a claim form (some allow you to claim on the phone).
Should You Make a Claim on Your Insurance?
If you have fully comprehensive insurance, the quickest way of getting your bike back on the road is to make a claim. You will not have to pay anything apart from the deductible and this will only affect your no-claims bonus if your insurer doesn’t get its money back from the driver’s, but they don’t usually give up without a fight. In particular be careful if your insurer tries to persuade you to accept an offer to accept some of the blame (also called contributory negligence). The third party’s insurer will often try this, accusing you of either speeding or filtering. This is where your problems might start, and you should think about getting some help from a solicitor.
If you do make a claim, your insurer will send a loss adjuster to look at your bike; he will decide whether it can be repaired economically, or whether it’s a write-off. The decision is up to the insurer, although if you disagree you might be able to get some help from the bike shop. If the insurer decides it is a write-off, you will be asked whether you accept the amount offered (again, the bike shop might be able to help if you disagree). If the bike is on finance this amount will almost certainly be less than the amount outstanding on the loan, although it is possible to insure against this shortfall.
As soon as you accept the offer the bike becomes the property of the insurer, who will normally sell it to a scrap merchant very quickly. If you want to buy the bike, tell your insurer before you accept the deal.
What Do I Need a Solicitor For?
A solicitor will be able to advise you on whether you are likely to win your case, and if you have suffered any injuries how much your damages are likely to be. They may well take on your case on a “no win no fee” basis too, which most solicitors offer. Often your insurer will have an arrangement with a firm of solicitors already, and they will contact you as soon as you have reported your accident. This is all very well, but what if you are in Penzance and they are in Leeds? You don’t have to use the solicitors your insurer suggests; you might be better off going to a local firm, so that you can meet your solicitor in person. However, not many solicitors ride bikes either, and the law relating to bike accidents is quite complicated. There are firms that specialise in biker claims, who advertise in the back of the various magazines.
Look for a solicitor that specialises in personal injury, and preferably one who is a member of the Law Society Personal Injury Panel such as Fay Williams. Be very careful about dealing claims management companies; some offer what appear to be very attractive deals, for instance a free bike while yours is being repaired. But you might not get the cost of this back, so might end up paying for some or all the cost of it.
What About The Cost of Bringing a Claim?
A damages claim for serious injuries can be very expensive; not only costs of your solicitor but also the costs of employing specialist medical experts and barristers. Most specialist personal injury firms offer a “no win no fee” service, you pay nothing apart from a small insurance premium. Ask your solicitor how this kind of scheme works.
Doing It Yourself
If you haven’t suffered any personal injury, and your other losses are less than £10,000, you won’t usually be offered a “no win no fee” scheme. This is because claims of less than £10,000 (unless they are personal injury claims in which case the limit is £1,000) are “small claims”. Even if you win your solicitors won’t be able to recover their costs from the driver. But the costs of repairing your bike and replacing your damaged clothes can be several thousands of pounds. It is possible to bring a claim yourself, and it will only cost you a small amount for the Court fee. For further details see our article on the Court system. The Court website at http://www.hmcourts-service.gov.uk/ contains links to the forms that you need and also some guidance on the procedure.
Who Wrote This?
My name is David Vaughan-Birch and I am a partner here at Cleggs. I ride a BMW 1150 GS, and do about 25,000 miles a year on it. I started riding in 1998, and I’ve been to Ireland, France, Spain, Italy and Morocco. Before you get any smart ideas about beards I used to have a Kawasaki ZX 6R before I broke it. I wrote this page from my experiences in dealing with many biker accident claims, including my own after I was hit by a jack-knifing trailer (say what you like about Beemers, they do crash well). Most of the stuff I talk about here I have used myself for my own claim, so I know what I’m talking about! This page isn’t meant to get you to use Cleggs if you have had an off (although we will look after you if you do), but to make sure you get what you deserve after some moron has tried to kill you. If you’re a biker with a problem of any kind, I’m always happy to have a chat about it. Give me a ring or email me. Mind how you go…