Hit and Runs: A Cyclist Safety Guide
A common misunderstanding among cyclists is what you can do in a hit and run scenario. What if the driver does not stop, speeds off or simply does not know he hit you?
Hit and runs are a sad and ever present reality for people who ride bikes all across Ontario. If tragedy strikes in the form of a hit and run and you are injured as a result of the crash, you can still be covered for health care costs, time-off work, pain and suffering damages and more.
Hit and run scenarios weight heavily on my mind as they are terrifyingly common.
A client of mine suffered serious injuries after a car blew through a red light, crashed into him, and sped off into the night.
Last year, I followed the heartbreaking story of Tristan Roby, a teenager who was tragically hit while riding his bike in London, Ontario on July 21, 2019. Tristan was severely injured but the driver fled the scene.
On a personal level, I can empathize with his mother’s struggle and pain. As a lawyer and bike safety advocate, sadly Tristan is yet another appalling example of the need for drastic changes to both infrastructure and car culture.
Cyclists have not been safe from hit and run crashes in 2020 either.
Hit and runs are a nightmare scenario to most cyclists. In the case of my client and that of Tristan, the driver is gone. As is often the case in hit and runs, there is no evidence of who hit them. The cowardly driver’s insurer cannot be identified and made to pay for the vast medical care costs and personal injury damages that will result from these devastating crashes.
THE MOTOR VEHICLE ACCIDENT CLAIMS FUND COVERS YOU
Thankfully, in Ontario we have a provincially funded Motor Vehicle Accident Claims Fund (“MVACF”). The MVACF is the payer of last resort. A saving grace for hit and run victims.
The MVACF kicks in when a driver is driving without insurance or flees the scene and cannot be identified. Injured cyclists (and pedestrians) in these cases can apply to the MVACF for immediate Accident Benefits coverage, such as health care costs, lost wages, in home care, etc., and up to $200,000 in compensation for personal injury claims.
To access the MVACF you must:
1) report the crash to police; and
2) seek medical attention.
I think it is vital cyclists know about the MVACF, but knowing about the MVACF is only one part of how to prepare yourself for a hit and run.
If the unthinkable happens and you are involved in a typical car on bike crash read my blog for instructions on what to do.
If the unbelievable happens and the driver flees the scene, follow these steps:
1. Get safe and get as much information as possible.
If you are able to get off the road do so, do not chase the fleeing vehicle and further put yourself at risk.
If anyone was injured during the crash, call 911.
2. Quickly, ask anyone who may have witnessed the crash to get information about the driver and car(s) involved. Do not forget to get that witness’s contact information in case the police or an insurer needs to follow up.
3. If possible, gather the following in order of priority:
Licence plate number of the vehicle that hit you;
The vehicle's make, model and colour;
Description of the driver;
Direction the vehicle was headed;
Location, time and cause of the crash;
Photos of the damage to your bike, helmet or clothing, especially if the car’s paint is visible where the impact took place, debris on the scene, skid marks, etc.;
Photos of the crash scene; and
Description of any damage to the vehicle that hit you.
Just to recap, the first thing you should do is try to get the fleeing car’s license plate number.
If there are any other people around, ask them if they saw the license plate or any other distinguishing characteristics of the vehicle or driver that might help.
Take down witness names and phone numbers regardless of whether they caught the license plate or not.
Check the surrounding area for video cameras. Many buildings and parking lots have security cameras. If you happened to be cycling past one the cameras could have caught something. Some major cross walks also have red light cameras that might also help you.
4. Report the collision to the police immediately but absolutely within 24 hours.
Your report will help the police apprehend the guilty party. Give them all the information you have gathered, as well as the names and numbers of any witnesses.
If you do not report the crash to the police it will be very hard to get the MVACF to accept your application.
5. If you have auto insurance you must report the crash to your insurer prior to applying to the MVACF.
Most insurance companies require that any hit-and-run damage be reported to the police within 24 hours for the claim to be considered a hit-and-run.The MVACF or your insurance company will require that you submit the police report before they start handling your claim as a hit and run car.
Insurance companies are very cautious when it comes to hit and run cases due to the amount of alleged fraudulent reports they receive in a year.
CHARGE THE DRIVER TO THE FULLEST EXTENT OF THE LAW
Anytime someone leaves the scene of a collision, it is a severe offence. That hit and run driver could and should face intense consequences if they are caught. Being able to provide the police with pertinent details will increase the chances of the hit and run driver being apprehended.
By fleeing, the driver is implying that they do not feel any remorse or sympathy for their actions. It is up to all of us to ensure that dangerous and reckless drivers, who care little for people on bikes, face harsh penalties. Penalties for dangerous driving causing injury -hit and runs- must be increased but for now they are:
Under the Highway Traffic Act
A fine not less than four hundred (400) dollars and not more than two thousand.(2000.00) dollars.
Imprisonment for a term of not more than six months, or to both.
Seven (7) demerit points.
Mandatory thirty day licence suspensions for novice drivers.
Possible licence suspension for up to two (2) years.
Dramatic increase in insurance rates.
Under the Criminal Code of Canada
Jail up to five years for serious offences/incidents
Licence suspension prohibition for one (1) to three (3) years
Criminal Record for Life
Possible fine, possible probations, restitution or other conditions
RIDE SAFE AND CONTACT ME IF YOU NEED HELP
I cannot stress enough the importance of seeking medical attention and contacting the police in a hit and run scenario. Also, seek legal advice as soon as you are able, to ensure you have help navigating the complex insurance regime you will have to apply to.
As always, I am happy to provide free legal advice to all cyclists and other injured people in cases of hit and runs.
Ride safe friends.