Over the past decade in Australia, cyclist-versus-driver road rage incidents and ‘retribution’ type accidents have become increasingly rife. There appears to be little love lost between time-conscious drivers and eco-friendly cyclists, particularly when confronted with the stresses of peak hour traffic. Attwood Marshall Lawyers Compensation Law Partner and Qld Law Society Accredited Specialist in Personal Injury Law, Jeremy Roche, talks about this hot topic and provides advice to cyclist entitlement to compensation.
Driver-versus-cyclist accidents are becoming increasingly prevalent in Australia. Regrettably, it is now common to see a frustrated driver trying to swerve a cyclist off the road after having to drive slowly behind the cyclist for a period of time. Similarly, angry cyclists often approach drivers at a red light to hurl abuse about not being given enough room to ride.
These road rage spats between drivers and cyclists are occurring too frequently and road accidents often occur as a result. Cyclists are starting to suffer injuries in accidents caused by the intentional or sometimes indifferent attitudes of drivers towards the safety of their cycling counterparts.
Drivers complain about being stuck for long periods behind slow-riding cyclists that often ride 2 or 3 abreast, encroaching out onto the road in front of the driver’s vehicle – thereby slowing drivers down and making them anxious about causing an accident. Cyclists complain about drivers not leaving them enough room, being overly aggressive on the road, and not taking safety of cyclists sufficiently into account.
Regardless of who is right in any given situation, what is often lost in the ether is the fact that cyclists are at a distinct disadvantage, being largely unprotected on a bicycle as compared to a driver enshrined in a large metallic motor vehicle with considerable protection. Naturally, a cyclist would be far more likely to suffer injury in a driver-vs-cyclist accident than the driver of the vehicle and this is reflected in the large number of cyclist injury claims we receive every day.
Despite the rise in these accidents, it is increasingly obvious that the majority of injured cyclists are unaware as to their rights to claim compensation for injuries they suffered in motor vehicle accidents (ie. A CTP claim for personal injury).
Are Cyclists Covered?
If you are injured in a motor vehicle accident that is caused by another, you will usually be entitled to claim compensation for your losses. Drivers, passengers, and pedestrians commonly make compensation claims for injuries sustained in an accident where another driver was at fault. However, cyclists often fail to claim compensation for the injuries they suffered in similar circumstances.
There are various reasons as to why many injured cyclists have forsaken their rights to claim compensation. Firstly, there is limited information disseminated to the general public about the rights of cyclists to claim compensation in the first place. Moreover, injured cyclists often assume that they do not have rights to claim compensation because they are riding a bicycle, as opposed to a driving a motor vehicle. Further, some cyclist accidents are caused by a vehicle running the cyclist off the road (wherein the vehicle continues to drive off) and cyclists do not realise that they are often able to claim compensation for injuries sustained in an attempt to avoid a collision caused by the driver.
However, like all other members of our society, cyclists are entitled to claim compensation for injuries sustained in motor vehicle accidents. In fact, pedestrians and cyclists are generally afforded a higher level of protection under the scheme, as neither pedestrians nor cyclists have the same physical protection that drivers or passengers are afforded inside their sturdy motor vehicle.
The same principles of negligence apply, and cyclists are entitled to claim compensation from the insurance company of the person responsible for the accident. There does not even necessarily have to be a collision
What compensation can cyclists claim?
If a cyclist is injured in a motor vehicle accident caused by another driver, the cyclist will be entitled to lodge a motor vehicle compensation claim (under the Motor Accidents Compensation Act in NSW; or the Motor Accidents Insurance Act in QLD).
If the driver at fault is considered by the insurer to be responsible for the accident, then the insurer will pay the cyclist’s reasonable and necessary medical treatment expenses over the course of the claim.
At settlement of the claim, the cyclist may be able to claim compensation from the insurer for general damages, past and future wage loss, past and future medical expenses, past and future out of pocket expenses, and past and future care and assistance costs. The insurer will usually also have to contribute to the injured person’s legal fees. The compensation for such a claim will generally be paid in a tax-free, ‘full and final’ lump sum settlement. Following that payment, all future costs would then be the responsibility of the claimant to pay from that point forward.
If the cyclist was travelling to or from work at the time of the accident, then the cyclist may also be able to lodge a Workcover Journey Claim. The benefit of lodging such a claim is that WorkCover will pay the cyclist ‘weekly payments’ for wage loss whilst the cyclist is off work due to injury (in the motor vehicle claim, the insurer will back-pay lost wages at the date of settlement, but will not pay wages/weekly payments along the way in the same manner as a WorkCover Journey Claim).
In the tragic case of a fatal accident, the family members of the deceased cyclist may be entitled to a make a ‘dependency’ compensation claim for losses incurred.
How can Attwood Marshall Lawyers help?
If you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident and are unsure as to your rights, please contact Department Manager Kelli Costin on direct line 07 5506 8220, Freecall 1800 621 071 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org for a free initial consultation and discuss our ‘no win no fee’ service. We have a dedicated team of lawyers who specialise in this area of law and practice exclusively in compensation claims.