THE LEGAL SPIN

By Thomas Henson

Cycling Advocate and Senior Partner at HensonFuerst Attorneys 

As an attorney (feel free to tell your favorite lawyer joke…I’ve heard them all), I concentrate in catastrophic personal injury cases. That includes bicycle wrecks. Of all the legal issues I deal with, these seem to affect me most deeply, not only because the injuries tend to be severe, but also because I’m an avid cyclist.

I have been a serious recreational rider for more than 25 years. I have passion for the sport at all levels. In the spring, I start out training for the NC Tour de Cure, a 2-day 200-mile fundraising ride to benefit the American Diabetes Association, and I don’t stop until first snow. As a rider and an attorney, I’m personally vested in maximizing the safety of all cyclists, through education and training. I also want to make sure that any injured cyclist is well–informed as to the legal aspects of the situation …and that all cyclists know what happens “behind the scenes” after an accident. That will be the focus of this new column—keeping you safe and legally protected.

Property Damage

In the simplest, most fortunate wreck scenario, imagine colliding with a car and you are fine. Not a scratch on you. But your like-new Felt B10 Triathlon Bike with Dura-Ace components and an upgraded Zipp 808 Firecrest Carbon Tubular V3 wheelset is all bent up and ruined. Will you be able to get reimbursement for your damaged bike? The answer depends, in part, on your advanced preparation.

Property damages in bike wrecks are handled similarly to vehicle damage claims after a car-on-car accident. The at-fault driver—or, more likely, his or her insurance company—will be required to fix or replace the damaged vehicle, or bike. With cars, there are numerous resources used by insurance companies and attorneys that peg the value of a car regardless of its age, make, or model. With a bike, it is usually left up to the cyclist to prove the value.

There is a Bicycle Blue Book (www.bicyclebluebook.com) that does a decent job of pricing out used bikes, but only at the most basic level. That may not be good enough for most serious cyclists. Building the “perfect” bike is all about sequential improvements. You start with a frame, add an expensive wheelset, maybe upgrade the handlebars and tires, switch out the stem, get a new seatpost clamp, and so on. Then, eventually, you’ll probably look at bike computers with GPS…and perhaps one that can also measure RPMs, terrain elevation, and heart rate. It all adds to the value of your bike in a way that is difficult, if not impossible, for an average insurance representative to calculate.

To recover the true value of your bike, I recommend:

  • Take photos of your bike after every improvement, with close-ups of the expensive add-on components.
  • Create a financial folder specifically for the bike, including receipts, owners manuals, and small packaging (flattened boxes or plastic wrappings).
  • If you haven’t saved all that information, check to see if your favorite bike shop keeps electronic records of your purchases. If so, request a copy.
  • Keep another folder of your personal cycling gear: clothing, helmet, sunglasses, mirror, watch, cell phone, and other items you use while cycling. Even if you get fair value for your bike, you may also need to replace your $240 Oakley Prizm glasses.

If your bike is damaged in an accident and you have all these preparation pieces in place, you’ll be in a great position to prove to any insurance representative what your bike looked like, how much the various parts cost, and why you should be entitled to full value for your bike.

Ride safe, and I’ll see you on the road!

Do you have a legal question about cycling that you would like to see answered in this newsletter? If so, please email them to ThomasHenson@lawmed.com.