Bicycle Accident Statistics
According to figures released by the Department of Transport in their First National Cycle Policy Framework, the percentage of Irish citizens using their bicycle for commuting has declined from 7% in 1986 to just 2% in 2006. The First National Cycle Policy aims to raise that figure to 10% by 2020 as part of the Government’s commitment to the Smarter Travel program, which has the ultimate goal of achieving a sustainable transport system in Ireland.
However, in early 2010, the Road Safety Authority produced a report analysing road traffic accidents involving bicycles between 1998 and 2008. One of the key statistics revealed in the report was that although the general level of road traffic accidents involving all vehicles is declining, the percentage involving bicycles has increased – particularly within the past five years. Until these figures are reversed, it is feared that the First National Cycling Policy will fall a long way short of its target.
Cyclists are the most vulnerable road users, and it is acknowledged by the RSA that many accidents between bicycles and other vehicles are caused by the drivers of motor vehicles failing to pay due care and attention to the environment around them. With the RSA statistics showing that the majority of serious accidents involving cyclists occur in the 35 years of age and over bracket, in would appear that the high incidence of accidents and injury cannot be attributed to the younger generation – who may not yet have developed a mature road sense.
If you are a cyclist who has been injured in a road traffic accident due to the negligence of another road user, you may be entitled to make a bicycle accident compensation claim (*) against the negligent road user. This article aims to provide a general overview of the procedures to follow when claiming compensation for a bicycle accident. However, as the consequences of two bicycle accidents are rarely the same, it is always in your best interests to seek professional legal advice relevant to your personal circumstances before taking any course of legal action.
What to do when involved in a Bicycle Accident
If you are a cyclist who has been involved in a road traffic accident with another vehicle, your first concern should be for your health. In the battle between man and machine, it will usually be the cyclist who comes off worse and, depending on the level of your injuries, you should either have somebody call you an ambulance, or take yourself to the accident and emergency department of your local hospital to have your injuries treated.
If it is feasible and if it does not cause a risk of further injury, get the contact details of the other driver – independently making a note of their vehicle registration plate – and any witnesses who may have seen the incident. If you have a mobile telephone with a camera facility, take several pictures of the accident scene or, if the level of your injuries is so severe that this is not immediately practical, return to the location once your injuries have received medical attention.
In the event of a serious accident, the Gardai will have been called and attended the scene. They will compile their own report of the accident, with statements taken from the parties involved and any witnesses who may have seen the incident. Their report will be entered into a Road Traffic Accident Report Book and you, or your legal representative, will be able to acquire a copy of it if necessary to support your bicycle accident compensation claim.
Even in the event that you consider your injuries to be minor, you should still visit your local hospital for a precautionary examination after a bicycle accident. As well as ensuring you have not sustained an injury that may develop into a long term health issue, your attendance at a medical facility will be recorded on your medical records and may later used to support your application for an assessment by the Injuries Board.
Consulting a Solicitor after a Bicycle Accident
One of the most important reasons to consult with a solicitor is that you will be making a bicycle accident compensation claim via the Injuries Board against the negligent party´s insurance company. As insurance companies have legal departments to contest claims against its policyholders, it is in your best interests to have somebody on your side with a thorough knowledge of the law and the procedures involved – thus ensuring you claim is assessed fairly.
There are many other benefits to using the services of a legal professional as your claim progresses. Below we have included only a selection of scenarios and, as mentioned above, each individual has their own personal circumstances. Therefore, it is always in your best interests to seek professional legal advice relevant to your unique situation before proceeding with a bicycle accident compensation claim.
Claiming Compensation after a Bicycle Accident
The Injuries Board Ireland
The initial procedure for claiming compensation after a bicycle accident is the completion of the Injuries Board Ireland application for assessment. This can be done online or via the regular mail, and your application has to be supported by your relevant medical records, the Gardai report (if applicable) and any receipts applicable to medical expenses or travel costs incurred whilst getting medical treatment. If you are intending to claim for loss of earnings due to your injuries, you will also need to supply paperwork to quantify your claim.
The application form itself is not particularly complex and should take no more than thirty minutes to complete if you have all the information to hand. However, no guidelines are issued with the application form to help people with its completion, and this often leads to mistakes being made or integral parts of the claim being omitted altogether. At a time when you may still be suffering from the injuries sustained in your bicycle accident, it will be beneficial for you to have a assistance from a solicitor to help you complete the form or submit the form on your behalf.
There are a number of circumstances under which the Injuries Board Ireland will decline to process your claim for compensation. Most commonly, these surround cases where you may have been partly responsible for your own injuries (known as “contributory negligence”), where the negligent party denies responsibility completely or where there are a number of parties jointly responsible for the accident. In these instances, the Injuries Board Ireland will issue you with an “Authorisation”, allowing you to seek litigation in the courts.
Litigation in the Courts
As well as the instances mentioned above, it may also be necessary to seek litigation in the courts should the Injuries Board Ireland make an assessment of your claim which is either unacceptable to you or the negligent party’s insurance company. In this event, they will again issue you with an “Authorisation” to pursue your case through the courts.
Although the term litigation conjures up images of major court room scenes, most compensation claims for injuries sustained in a bicycle accident will be resolved in a district or circuit court, or settled by negotiation without the need for litigation at all. However, you do need to be aware of unsolicited approaches by insurance companies or “third party capture”.
Third Party Capture
It is becoming more commonplace that insurance companies representing negligent drivers will approach victims of their policyholder´s negligence with an offer of early settlement. The approach is often made before the Injuries Board Ireland has made its assessment of your claim, and often proposes a lesser amount of compensation than you may be entitled to in return for a quick settlement.
Inasmuch as it may be tempting to accept an instant payment at a time when your injuries may be preventing you from earning, a fairer settlement may be achievable by negotiation – although this is not something you should attempt alone. The insurance company will save money by not having to defend your claim in court and over a third of all personal injury (*) claims are settled in this manner.
Bicycle Accidents involving Children
Fortunately, there are not so many fatalities and serious accidents involving children – but they still occur. If your child has been injured in bicycle accident for which they were not entirely to blame, they are also entitled to claim against the negligent party. However, as they are under the age of eighteen, their claim has to be made on their behalf by a parent or guardian acting as a “next friend”.
Applications to the Injuries Board Ireland for assessments of bicycle accident compensation cannot be made online when made on behalf of a child and have to be submitted through the post. Due to the processes involved in being approved as a “next friend” and having the settlement of the claim approved in court, you will need a solicitor to represent you at some stage – we recommend the sooner the better. A solicitor will be able to give you advice on the processes you need to follow relevant to your child´s personal circumstances.
In conclusion, the potential pitfalls of trying to manage your own bicycle accident compensation claim are almost as numerous as the potholes you will find in the roads of Ireland. It is usually in your best interests to seek legal advice at the first practical opportunity after you have received professional medical treatment for your injuries.