One of the most common questions that lawyers get from bike accident victims is this: How do I cover the costs of bike repairs and medical bills? It’s a complex question because the answer is different in every situation.
The best answer is that the insurance company—either your own insurer or the insurance company for the driver who hit you—should cover those costs. Reaching a settlement with an insurance company can take months, however. If you have to take the driver and the driver’s insurance company to trial, that timeline extends even further. In the meantime, your bills will likely start stacking up.
If you have the money, it is often best to pay bills as they come in and to keep careful records so that you can be reimbursed later. Always keep all related records, including bills, invoices and receipts— even if you think it’s possible that you won’t need them later. Also keeps copies of the police and medical reports, as you will need them as supporting documents when you file for compensation.
You may also be able to pursue compensation through your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance if you were injured while biking for your job. Many bike messengers and delivery people are covered by workers’ comp insurance.
Getting Your Bike Repaired
The at-fault driver’s insurance company should reimburse you for damage to your bike. You are entitled to different forms of compensation, depending on the damage:
- If the damage to your bike is relatively minor and can be repaired for less than the bike was worth before the accident, you can claim the cost of repairs.
- If your bike is damaged in a way that repairs cannot bring it back to its pre-accident value, you may also file a claim for diminution of value. An expert’s help might be needed to prove this to the insurance company.
- If your bike suffered severe damage, you may need to write it off. Your claim will then be equal to the bike’s value before the accident. Beware that the insurance company may try to compensate you only for the bike’s lower, “depreciated” value.
Again, records are always important. The insurance company will probably insist that you provide proof of purchase. You may need to show them your bank statement, credit card bill or the original receipt for the bike.
Getting estimates of the repair cost from several bicycle repair shops is a good idea. Save the estimates to provide to the insurance company. Make sure that they detail the make and model of your bicycle, the extent of the damage and an estimate of your bike’s pre-accident value. Before you get the bike repaired, take pictures of the damage.
Paying for Medical Care
For many people, the biggest bills are the ones that come from medical care. At first, you may face huge bills from an emergency room visit or hospital stay. Later, the bills will be smaller: physical therapy, chiropractor visits and other ongoing care.
Your insurance or the insurance of a negligent driver should cover the cost of all medical care, including past and future medical bills, as well as out-of-pocket expenses like prescriptions. These costs may include emergency room treatment, radiology expenses (X-rays and CT scans), hospital stays, surgery, doctor’s visits and other medical expenses.
You may be tempted to settle with the insurance company so that you can receive compensation for the medical bills that are coming due. Know this: Once you settle, you will not be able to ask for more compensation in the future. If your injuries turn out to be worse than you think, or if you need more care than you planned, you could end up paying for those costs yourself. Worse, you could end up missing out on needed care because you can’t afford it.
The best course of action is often to negotiate with your healthcare providers and pay bills as you can, keeping careful records. Then you can work with an attorney to take legal action against the insurance company. That way you are sure that you get the full amount of compensation needed to cover your care. Many attorneys will also help you manage costs until a settlement or verdict can be reached.
If you have any questions about how to get needed compensation for bike repairs and medical bills, you can always contact a local, cycling-conscious personal injury attorney for advice.
Attorney Daniel J. Brazil of The Law Offices of Daniel J. Brazil is an experienced personal injury attorney with offices located in Uptown. He has a passion for the outdoors, especially cycling and climbing. Learn more about Dan and his practice by following him on Twitter (@LawDanielBrazil and #MplsBikeAttorney).