If you are riding a bike and are in an accident with a motor vehicle, you may be contacted by the driver or the driver’s auto insurance company. (Note that your own auto insurance company will probably not cover the accident since you are riding your bike rather than driving a car, although you may want to check with your insurance agent just in case.) The driver’s auto insurance company may want you to pay money for damage to the driver’s motor vehicle.
If this happens, you can:
- pay the money, or
- refuse to pay the money, such as if you believe you are not at fault for the accident.
If you believe that you and the driver are jointly at fault (such as 50-50), then you may argue that you are only 50% liable for the damages claimed.
You may also request documentation (such as a bill from a body shop) to prove the amount that the insurance company is asking for.
The driver’s insurance company may also ask you for a “recorded statement.” You are not under any obligation to provide this to them, and you do not need to give them such a statement. Be advised that an insurance company may use such a recorded statement against you.
If you believe you are not at fault, you should outline the reasons in a letter to the insurance company. Some evidence that you are not at fault could include:
- your recollection of the accident,
- statements by witnesses about the accident,
- facts in your favor from the police report, or
- the physical evidence.
If you receive a collections notice related to the accident, do not ignore it. If you choose not to pay, follow the instructions for disputing the collections account without delay. The instructions should be included with any collections notice you receive.
If you choose not to pay, the insurance company may drop the issue and go away. However, they may also persist in contacting you and requesting the money. If that happens, and you still don’t pay, they may file a claim against you in Small Claims Court.
You do not need to hire a lawyer for Small Claims Court and, in fact, no one can have a lawyer represent them in Small Claims Court. (However, it may make sense for you to hire a lawyer to help you prepare your case.) Instead, you and the other side will each directly present your story and evidence to a judge. Then the judge will decide who is right. If you lose, you may be ordered to pay money to the driver’s insurance company. However if you were not at fault for the accident and you win in Small Claims Court, then you will not have to pay money to the auto insurance company.
It is also possible (though very unlikely) that the auto insurance company will sue you in civil court. If that happens, you should immediately consult with a civil defense attorney.