If your bicycle is damaged by a negligent driver, you’ll probably want to make a claim against the driver or his or her insurance company for the cost of repairs or a replacement bike. First and foremost, if you are injured, it is a good idea to speak to an attorney before contacting the insurance company. But if you are sure you are not injured, it’s probably fine to handle your claim for property damage yourself.
If the bicycle can be repaired for less than its market value, whatever you pay for repairs is your claim for property damage. If your bicycle is totaled, you are generally entitled to recover the bike’s reasonable market value. The reasonable market value of a bicycle can be established through testimony of an experienced bicycle salesman/ mechanic who has knowledge of local market prices for comparable bicycles.
Take pictures that show the whole bicycle from the drivetrain side. You’ll want to take close-up pictures of any specific areas that are damaged. You should get one or more damage estimates from different bike shops – often there is no charge for this service. Sometimes the shop will point out damage that you didn’t notice initially. Take more photos of additional damage.
Insurance companies use the purchase price as a place to start depreciation calculations to determine the current market value of the bicycle. Having a receipt sometimes makes it harder for a defendant to haggle over the bicycle’s value.
Once you have compiled all the relevant documentation, you’ll need to call the insurance company and open a claim. Find out to whom you should send the materials relevant to your property damage claim. Keep the claim number handy. You should refer to that claim number every time you call the insurance company. Before you have any repairs performed you may want to offer to make the bicycle available for the insurance company to inspect.
Once you have all the relevant documents collected, you should send them to the insurance adjuster. It is reasonable to expect a response within 60 days. If not, you may need to follow up with them. If they flat-out refuse to give you an answer, you may contact the department of insurance for your state to determine if there are grounds to file a complaint for vexatious refusal to acknowledge your claim.
If the insurance company ignores you, tries to lowball you or denies your claim, or if the driver is uninsured and refuses to pay out of pocket, you can file a lawsuit. This is your final trump card. Most jurisdictions have “small claims” courts designed specifically for people with cases that might not warrant hiring a lawyer. 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.
Jim Freeman is a personal injury lawyer in Chicago, IL. His practice concentrates mainly on advocating on behalf of the “vulnerable users” of roadways, such as bicyclists and pedestrians. For further information you can visit Jim's website at: lawyerjimfreeman.com