What do I do if a motorist wrecks my bike? And what is the value of my property loss?
Updated: Mar 23
Most cyclists love their bike. That’s because finding just the right bike takes time and effort. Even after you buy the perfect bike, many riders incur all kinds of extra costs equipping themselves and their bikes for regular use. The cost of accessories like water bottles, paniers, lights, fenders and clothing quickly add up.
So when a motorist through an act of negligence causes a cyclist injury and property damage, most cyclists are angry and expect full compensation. The truth is, however, that the process of obtaining adequate compensation for properly loss can be arduous.
The law with respect to property loss caused by a motorist begins with s. 193(1) of the Highway Traffic Act. S. 193 is known as the “reverse onus”. In short, it states that when a crash involving a motor vehicle occurs, the motorist bears the onus of proving that it was not their fault. If they cannot discharge the burden of proof they are fully responsible to cover any and all costs caused by the crash.
Though the “reverse onus” is helpful to cyclists, in many instances the insurance company on behalf of the motorist argues that the cyclist is partly responsible for the losses and as such should only pay part of the property loss. In these cases, cyclists often end up fighting the motorist’s insurance company for full compensation – which can take significant time and can cause intense stress. In many cases the cyclist can deal with this situation on their own, however, when injury is involved in addition to property loss we highly recommend that you seek out legal counsel – there is simply too much at stake.
What is my bike worth?
Even when it is clear that the motorist is at fault for a bike crash, recovering the full value of property loss may be complicated. Insurance companies often attempt to apply “depreciation” to the value of bikes. In the world of ‘automobiles’ depreciation is accepted and as such no self-respecting insurance company would pay MSRP to replace a used vehicle. But bicycles are not like motorized vehicles. They do not depreciate at nearly the same pace. In fact, over the last few years many bikes have actually increased in value – even after use.
The law states that the “innocent victim of a [collision] has a right to be put in the same position that they would have been had the [collision] not occurred”. Given this settled principle of common law, it is clear that if a bike is destroyed the cyclist is entitled to whatever compensation it would take to replace the bike – no matter how much it has been used.
To avoid difficult and endless negotiations with an insurance company, we advise cyclists who have suffered a property loss to immediately take some basic steps:
Take photos of your damaged bike and equipment.
Bring the bicycle and all of the damaged equipment to a reputable bike shop.
Ask for an opinion as to a) whether the bike can be repaired and safely ridden again; and b) if the bike is unsafe to ride what is its market value to replace.
Request a quotation for the cost of repair or full replacement of the bike and all of the equipment in writing and submit it to the insurance company in support of your claim. If you have your purchase receipt(s), send those as well.
Keep all of the damaged equipment (do not dispose of anything) until the claim is fully paid out.
What if I am involved in a crash that is my fault or mostly my fault?
An interesting aspect of Ontario law is the Statutory Accident Benefit Regulations (SABS) and how they come into play if a cyclist is involved in a crash with a motorist. The SABS are known as “No Fault” benefits. What that means is that they cover all reasonable expenses incurred by an insured person.
It is well known that the SABS cover medical expenses and provide some funds towards loss of income, but few know that s. 24 of the SABS states that the insurer shall pay all reasonable expenses in repairing or replacing all clothing that was lost or damaged as a result of the collision. It is our opinion that this should include gloves, cycling shoes and other wearable cycling gear.
Even though you would have a difficult time demanding payment for your bike if you are at fault for a crash, at least some coverage would be in place through your motor vehicle insurance or the driver's (depending who's applies).
One Final Point
Every day we speak to cyclists who have experienced loss and damage caused by motorists. Though no cyclist is happy after a crash, there is some consolation in knowing that with a strategic approach much of the property loss can be recovered through either the at fault driver’s insurance and/or the SABS. With this said, please remember property is just property and any physical object can be replaced. What cannot be replaced as easily is a rider’s health. For that reason, we implore every cyclist out there to take every precaution to avoid crashes. Should the unthinkable occur, we are always here to help in whatever way that we can.