Property Claims from an Insurance Company After a Bicycle Collision
If you’ve been in a collision with a car while riding your bike, you may be contacted by the driver’s insurance company after the accident for a number of reasons. Many times, it is not in your best interest to work with them directly (without a lawyer) because they are contacting you in order to gather information to make a case against you.
However, if the insurance company contacts you with a request for you to pay property damages incurred during the accident, this is one request that you definitely do need to respond to promptly. If you have been in an accident and received one of these claims, here is a guide for what you should do and what you should expect when responding to a property damage claim from a driver after your bicycle collision.
Do you have to respond to a property damage claim?
In general, yes. However, you do have two options when you respond: you can either choose to pay, or you can dispute the claim.
If, as part of this process, the insurance company asks for you to make a “recorded statement”, you are not obligated to comply. In fact, many times it is not in your best interest to do so, as the insurance company may attempt to use your statement against you later. However, you do need to respond; in general, it is best to respond in a letter so that you can retain a copy for your records and communicate with them in careful writing.
You do not have to respond alone, though. If you have hired an attorney to help you with your side of a bicycle case, they can help you make the best decision about how to respond to property damage claims from the other side as well.
Do you have to pay the property damage claim?
Not necessarily. However, if you believe you were at fault for the damage, you should plan to pay. You can ask the insurance company for proof of the cost they are telling you that you owe for the damage (for example, you can request a copy of the bill from the auto body shop), to ensure you are paying a reasonable amount for the damage that you caused.
If, on the other hand, you feel that the damage occurred because of the driver’s fault, then you can argue that you shouldn’t be expected to cover the payment for the damage. Or if you feel that you and the driver are both partially at fault for the damage, you can also attempt to prove what percentage of the damage each of you was responsible for (often, the split is 50-50 if you were both somewhat at fault).
If you plan to pay
If you agree that you are responsible for the property damage that occurred during your accident, and you are satisfied that the amount owed is fair, then it is in your best interest to pay promptly. Be sure to document your payment and keep a copy of all paperwork for your records, just in case there are any questions later on.
If you plan to dispute the claim
If you decide the argue that you are not at fault, or that you are only partially at fault, for the property damage during your collision, then there are several steps you will need to take to dispute the claim.
Send the insurance company a letter explaining your argument for why you do not owe the claim and why you are not at fault. Outline it as clearly and factually as possible, using evidence whenever you can to back up your points. Effective evidence that you can leverage for this letter includes:
- witness statements at the scene
- points in your favor from the official police report
- your recollection of the evidence
- documentation of any physical evidence
Sometimes, simply responding with your argument and intention not to pay will be enough and the insurance company will drop it. However, don’t count on this happening.
In other situations, they may agree that you are only partially at fault and reduce the amount you owe; if that happens and you are satisfied with your level of responsibility for the damage, then go ahead and pay your portion of the claim.
At other times, the insurance company may not agree with your letter disputing the claim. If that happens, they will continue to contact you and ask again for the payment.
If you still refuse to pay, they may take you to small claims court. You do not need a lawyer for small claims court (in fact, being represented by a lawyer is not allowed in small claims court). You and the other side will each present your evidence to a judge, who will determine who is right.
If the judge finds in your favor, you will not have to pay. If the judge finds for the other side’s favor, then they can order you to pay the claim and you will have to.
One more note: if at any time during this process you receive a collections notice for your payment, do not ignore it. Even if you are in the midst of disputing the claim or plan to dispute the claim, you need to respond to the collections notice or else you will face penalty. Read and follow the instructions for disputing the payment (this will be included on the notice) carefully and without delay.
Can you make a claim for property damages against the driver?
Unfortunately, your auto insurance company is not likely to help you with damages to your bike during your collision because the accident didn’t involve your car. However, it never hurts to contact your insurance agent and check just in case.
Do you need a bicycle collision lawyer in San Francisco or the Bay Area?
If you have been in a bicycle accident and need assistance working with the insurance company to dispute a property damage claim — or to bring a case of your own — please contact Bay Area Bicycle Law today for a free consultation. We are here to help.