Friday, August 9, 2013

A Guide To Receiving Fair Compensation For Your Damaged Bicycle

Sometimes your bike gets jacked up in a crash.  If the damage is the fault of a motorist there are some things you should know about getting compensated for your loss.

A cyclist may be compensated from an at fault driver for damage to his or her property, under Illinois law. That includes damage to the bike, helmet, clothes and anything else damaged or destroyed in the collision. The law provides specific means for calculating that compensation.  In many bike crash cases, the jury is instructed to determine the value of lost or damaged property by figuring:
the lesser of (1) the reasonable expense of necessary repairs to the property or (2) the difference between the fair market value of the property immediately before the occurrence and its fair market value immediately after the occurrence.  I.P.I. 30.11 (emphasis added).
If the damage can be fixed, great.  You should be compensated for the necessary repairs.  A detailed receipt or repair estimate from a good bike shop will generally do the trick.  If the case must go to trial, your attorney may need to bring the mechanic in to testify to the damage, and the necessary repairs.  However, you may only receive the cost of those repairs if that cost is less than the difference between the fair market value of the bike before and after the damage was done.  For example, while passing through an intersection a driver coming the other way turns left into you.  The impact knocks your front wheel out of true and bends your left crank arm.  You purchased the bike new one month prior for $2,500.  The fair market value of the bike before the crash is assessed at $2,300.  Its value after the crash is assessed at $1,500. (More about how that is calculated later).  The difference in the fair market value before and after the crash is $800.  On the other hand, your bike shop can re-true your front wheel and replace the bent crank arm for $400.  The repair cost, being the lesser amount, is what you are entitled to under the law for your damaged bike.

What if the bike is a total lost and cannot be repaired?  In that circumstance it will be necessary to determine if the bike has any salvage value.  If so, you should be compensated for "the difference between its fair market value immediately before the occurrence and its fair market value immediately after the occurrence." I.P.I. 30.14.  If the bike has no salvage value, then compensation comes down simply to its fair market value just before the crash.  I.P.I. 30.15

Where the bicycle, or other property at issue, is close to new, determining what its fair market value was before the crash is relatively simple.  Bicycles, when reasonably well kept, do not depreciate all that quickly. (Another way in which bikes are better than cars).  It will be helpful to dig up your purchase receipt, or have the shop you purchased the bike from provide a new copy, to show to the driver's insurer, or jury.  On the other hand, the older the bike is, and the more unique it is, the more challenging it can be to determine the bike's fair market value.  Often, an experienced bicycle mechanic, or other bike industry professional, will need to be consulted.  In our experience, mechanics at Chicago's better bike shops are excellent at helping out with this.  If the bicycle involved is one that can easily be found in the resale market, the common resale price can be used to help place a fair market value on the bike.  The bicycle expert's knowledge and experience in this regard will be important.

Recently, for example, we resolved a client's property damage claim with the aid of a mechanic from Boulevard Bikes, one of the city's better shops.  The steel frame of the bike involved was bent beyond repair.  It was a 30 year old brand of bike not made any more.  At first glance the frame seemed to have insignificant value.  However, despite the bike's no name branding, our expert pointed out that it had significant value.  He helped us demonstrate numerous aspects of the frame which suggested it was of high quality with significant value.  The steel frame's tubing was butted and assembled with ornate lugs.  It also had a flat crown fork and horizontal rear drops with integrated chain tensioners. Pointing out these technical aspects helped us demonstrate that the bike was well made and, therefore, valuable, increasing our client's recovery.

Here are some tips to help you, or your lawyer, get maximum value for your damaged bicycle:

  • Save your receipt after buying your bike.
  • Get the driver's contact and insurance information at the crash scene.
  • After a crash, make sure your bike, no matter how badly damaged, is not discarded.
  • When you are able, take the bike to a good shop and ask for a detailed repair estimate or bill.
  • Take photos, or ask the bike shop to take photos, of your bike's damage.
  • Consider contacting an attorney with experience handling bicycle cases.

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