How do I get compensated for my bike after a crash?
A GUIDE TO UNDERSTANDING BIKE DAMAGE CLAIMS IN NEW YORK
Our firm gets several calls or e-mails each week from New York cyclists
involved in a crash, where their bikes were damaged or totaled. They call
for advice on whether they need to hire a lawyer to pursue a property
damage claim when a negligent driver causes damage to their bike. If the
cyclist was injured in the crash, then our firm can and will help. It
is our normal practice that while representing cyclists in their personal
injury claim, we will gladly and aggressively pursue the claim for damage
to their bike as well. This is a service that we provide free of charge
when handling the underlying personal injury lawsuit.
If the cyclist was thankfully not injured in the crash, but wants to pursue
a property damage claim, they most likely do not and will not need the
assistance of a lawyer.
Handling the property damage claim should be relatively simple. By law,
you are entitled to be compensated for the cost of repairs. If the bike
was totaled and cannot be repaired, you are entitled to be compensated
for the replacement value of your bike. Do not let the insurance company
tell you that you should settle for a "depreciated" value of
your bike. There is no such thing as a "Kelly Blue Book" for
bikes. It is our position that if a bike is no longer manufactured, and
the closest or similar model costs more, the company is responsible to
pay the increased replacement cost. They normally don't agree, but
this remains our position, and we suggest you do the same. It's not
your fault that your perfectly good bike is now trashed. Why should you
have to pay more to replace it? Also, BEFORE you have any repairs performed,
offer to make the bike available for the insurance company to inspect
If you were involved in a crash, we always suggest speaking to lawyer FIRST.
Most lawyers, like our firm, offer free consultations. We also suggest
contacting a lawyer before speaking to an insurance company. The statements
you make to an insurance company are usually recorded. The adjuster may
act warm and friendly, but remember that they are not your ally. The innocent
statement you make may be detrimental to your claim later on.
Here our suggestions in how to handle property damage claim:
- Get the Police Report. This will give you all the contact information you
need, and hopefully the driver's insurance information as well. If
there is a witness on the report, contact the witness and ask that he
or she provide you with a statement.
Locate the driver's insurance company using the police report. A link
to looking up insurance companies in New York is here:
- Take pictures of your bike. The pictures should show the whole bicycle,
as well as the individual parts that were damaged. We also suggest taking
photos of serial numbers or other identifying labels or inscriptions.
- Get one or more estimates for the repairs. If the bike is totaled, try
to obtain your original purchase receipt. Most bike shops are very helpful
in this task, as they hope you will return to their shop to make your
new purchase. If you can't get the original receipt, some insurance
companies will accept a credit card bill. Internet searches are also helpful
in obtaining the original and replacement costs of the Bike.
- Document other damages that you will claim. Did you make improvements to
the bike such as bags, water bottle cages, bike computers? Was your clothing
or were other items damaged in the crash? If so, you are entitled to be
reimbursed for these items as well.
Once you have compiled all your evidence, you'll need to call the insurance
company and file a claim. Do this as soon as you can. You should be provided
with a claim number. Use this to identify your claim when calling and
writing. After you send them the documentation, give them some time. Insurance
companies are notoriously slow. Give them a call and ask if they received
everything, and if they require anything else. Expect a call back within
2-3 weeks. They will usually tell you that they are completing their investigation
and need more time. If you don't hear from them, call again to follow-up
on the claim.
If the insurance company continues to ignore you, tries to lowball you,
or flat out denies your claim, you can file a "Small Claims"
lawsuit. If you are suing a NYC yellow taxi cab, plan on being ignored
and move forward with the Small Claims suit right away. Each county in
New York has a small claims court. In New York State, Small Claims Courts
can hear disputes up to the amount of $5,000.00.
Links to the Small Claims Courts in New York City are here:
Small Claims Court is 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. When
filing your Small Claims case, remember to sue both the
driver and the owner
of the vehicle, as in New York State, the owner is almost always responsible
for the driver's actions. The owner is the one who holds the insurance
policy for the car. You and the Judge will want a representative of the
insurance company present in Court to be able to settle your claim.
The defense of Comparative Negligence in New York
Be prepared. The insurance company or the Small Claims Judge may tell you
that they will not pay the full claim and will reduce the payment buy
what they consider to be your "comparative negligence" in contributing
to the crash. New York State is a "comparative negligence" State.
A simple description of how comparative negligence works is the following:
2 cars have an intersection collision and one of the drivers were injured.
That driver sues the other. At trial, a jury finds them equally responsible
for the crash. If the jury awards $100,000.00 to the injured driver, that
verdict is then reduced by 50% for that driver's comparative negligence
in contributing to the crash, and the judgment entered for the driver
is now only $50,000.00.
There are all types of scenarios that may create comparative negligence,
so do not be surprised if this defense is raised and the full value of
your claim is not paid.
These are some simple guidelines provided by NewYorkBikeLawyers.com, Flanzig
and Flanzig, LLP. Nothing on this page should be construed as legal advice,
nor does the use of this page create and attorney client relationship.
The advice on this page offers a general overview of property damage claims
in New York, however each case is specific, and the guidelines may not
be applicable to your particular claim. As always, we suggest contacting
an attorney with any legal claim before taking action on your own.