Thousands of cyclists are injured while riding every year. If it happened to you, would you know what your rights and legal options are? The dangers of cycling on Australia’s roads are well documented and the statistics are even more compelling: An average of 38 people are killed while riding their bicycles each year. In 2015-16 more than 12,000 people were hospitalised after crashes while riding, almost 80% of whom were men. The most common injury was a fracture.
Governments at every level are slowly improving infrastructure for cyclists, as well as reviewing and changing driving laws to provide better safety when cyclists and motorists have to share the road. And while motorists are not always at fault, it is often the case that they are1,2. Although there are some maverick cyclists, most riders aim to do the right thing, acutely aware of the potentially deadly consequences of not riding safely.
If you are injured in a cycle accident, do you know your rights and your legal options?
Laws introduced in December 2017 mean that If you have sustained an injury in a car accident then you are entitled to compensation under the NSW Motor Accident Injuries Act 2017. While similar legislation exists in many states, the compensation process and claim amount varies.
Information about the event is critical and you must report the accident to police as soon as possible after the event, if they are not called to the scene. You have 28 days to report the incident, and you will need the following:
• Details of the driver and the vehicle including make, model, colour and registration.
• Time and details of the accident.
• Also seek witnesses if possible and take photos – of the scene, the vehicle, damage to the vehicle and damage to your bike.
In recent years, cyclists who are on the road regularly have invested in cameras, this is not a bad idea. Evidence such as video footage can help to quickly and easily establish fault. But if this is not an option, make sure you have comprehensive notes and keep taking notes over the following days as you remember other details. Often after an accident, because of shock, we don’t always remember everything all at once. These notes will serve you well if the matter ends up proceeding to court.
You will need an incident report number from police and it’s also wise to get the contact information of the police officer you speak to in case you need to speak again.
It goes without saying that you should see your doctor and make sure you and your doctor have a record of any injuries sustained.
If you wish to make a claim for minor personal injury benefits following the car accident, you need to do so within 28 days by notifying the insurer of the vehicle that you consider to be at fault. The CTP Assist hotline on 1300 656 919 can help you to find out the CTP insurer if you don’t know it.
Once you have the details of the CTP insurer, you need to fill-out an Application for Personal Injury Benefits as well as a Certificate of Fitness which can be completed by your general practitioner.
In New South Wales, anyone involved in a motor vehicle accident can make a claim for personal injury benefits for up to six months of weekly payments and medical expenses, even if the accident was your fault (unless you are charged with a serious driving offence as you may not be able to make a claim). After six months, you are only entitled to continue to receive weekly payments of compensation and medical expenses if the insurer decides that: The accident was caused by the fault of another driver (that is the accident was not your fault); and you have more than a “minor injury”.
As mentioned above, this varies across the states and territories.
Taking civil action
If you wish to proceed with a civil claim (that is, sue the driver you believe is at fault) then you need to find a lawyer experienced in personal injury cases, and take advice to help you decide whether or not to proceed the matter further. It’s important to remember that legal battles can sometimes be drawn out for a variety of reasons and so they can be emotionally draining as well as time consuming. There are legal expenses to consider too. Be sure to get professional advice based on your personal circumstances and then decide the best option for you.
In serious accidents, police can lay charges against the driver at fault. Traffic offences generally result in fines and potentially, disqualification from driving, if the infringement is serious enough. However, in some accidents, Police can lay criminal charges, depending on the circumstances. In these situations, police will proceed the matter to court and you will be called to provide evidence. Any details you can provide as evidence may be used.
It’s important to remember that you have options, so should collect as much data as possible at the time of the incident, including eye witnesses, so that you can pursue the matter through the courts if you wish to do so.
Cyclists should also be aware that they can face charges and severe penalties if they are found to be riding dangerously or while drunk, or the cause of an accident.
There are a number of rules in place governing how cyclists should ride. Breaching these rules can come with penalties, including fines and even the possibility of prison sentences in some cases. Many of the road rules for cyclists are the same Australia-wide, but NSW does have an additional stipulation that riders should not ride recklessly, furiously or negligently.
Action towards creating a safe cycling environment in Australia is needed from everyone. And when there is no infrastructure and cyclists need to share the road, it’s wise to consider every vehicle as a potential threat. Keep an eye on the traffic around you, make sure you’re visible, remember that not everyone may remember the road rules like you do.