The Toronto Injury Lawyer Blog is going away from catchy titles and trying something new. Our headlines will go straight to the point. The goal of this is not to confuse our readership with fake news or click bait headlines designed to confuse with misinformation. We feel this is very important in given the present state of current affairs dealing with a global pandemic along with racial tensions across North America.
The title of this Toronto Injury Lawyer Blog Post is Bike Accidents, so we are going to focus on Bike Accidents.
What to know about Bike Accidents
Bikes are treated as vehicles under the Highway Traffic Act. Bicycles are defined as “a tricycle, a unicycle and a power-assisted bicycle but does not include a motor assisted bicycle“.
A vehicle is defined as: “a motor vehicle, trailer, traction engine, farm tractor, road-building machine, bicycle and any vehicle drawn, propelled or driven by any kind of power, including muscular power, but does not include a motorized snow vehicle or a street car; (“véhicule”)”
Knowing that a bicycle is considered a vehicle under the Highway Traffic Act, many of the same rules of the road for cars also apply to bicycles.
As a result, police can issue tickets to cyclists for failing to observe the rules of the road, the same as they can do for cars.
One thing we see in many jurisdictions OUTSIDE OF TORONTO, is that the police are sometimes overzealous in ticketing cyclists when they are involved in accidents with cars. It’s not uncommon for our lawyers to see police issuing tickets to cyclists for riding their bikes on sidewalks, failing to yield or other infractions instead of ticketing the motorist.
In some cases, the police take statements only from the DRIVER and NOT from the injured cyclist. The injured cyclist may to seriously injured, and unable to deliver a statement in a timely manner to the police on account of their injuries. The result is that the police only get the statement from the motorist, their passengers and witnesses; if any. The police sometimes FAIL TO GET THE STATEMENT FROM THE INJURED CYCLIST resulting in only hearing one side of the story. This isn’t fair, nor is it right. But it happens all too frequently. Most often we see this sort of behaviour from the police outside of Toronto.
It’s hard to accept getting injured in a bike accident with a car; and also having the stress of dealing with a ticket which you need to fight. This takes a lot of time, energy, money and it simply adds insult to injury. Not to mention if the cyclist is found guilty of the charges, while the motorist is not charged at all; this makes pursuing a civil personal injury case for compensation more difficult. The insurer will only pay if they deem their insured driver to be at fault. If the cyclist is convicted of breaking the law under the Highway Traffic Act, chances are the insurer may take a zero liability position despite the cyclist suffering serious and permanent injuries. It will then come down to a battle of engineering experts to determine who is at fault along with the testimony from the investigating officer.
When there is competing testimony from experts, sometimes the testimony of experts has the effect of cancelling each other out. The testimony from the Plaintiff and the Defendant also cancel each other out as well. The only parties without any skin in the game so to say are the independent witnesses along with the testimony of police officers. Police Officers are generally well accepted witnesses in personal injury trials. If the police officer issued a ticket, then his testimony will likely be in favour of the motorist and against the cyclist whom he issued the tickets against. This is not a good look at trial for the injured cyclist. But; it’s also not a good look for the police officer who issued the ticket against the cyclist to have issued the ticket without hearing his/her side of the story. The insurance company will rely on the Highway Traffic Act conviction against the cyclist as prima facie proof of the cyclist’s negligence. The charge cannot be used as evidence in the personal injury case. But the conviction can. This is why it’s so important for the injured cyclist NOT to get convicted. Otherwise, advancing the personal injury claim and establishing liability in the case can prove to be very tricky.
Reporting the Bike Accident
After you have been involved in a bike accident, it’s very important for you to report the claim to your car insurance company. If you didn’t have car insurance at the time of the bike accident, then you must report the claim to the other driver’s car insurance company. If you were a licensed driver, and lived with someone who had car insurance with whom you were listed as a driver, or you were a dependent of that person, you should report to the bike accident to their insurer as well. You must do this even though this vehicle was not involved in the car accident. It may sound backwards and unfair, but that’s the way the law works.
We appreciate that it would only seem right that the at fault car insurer should pay for the accident benefit claim. But Ontario’s no fault system of accident benefits does NOT work this way. The first party insurer regardless of fault is always your own car insurer. After that, there’s a complicated set of priority rules which don’t make sense to the general public at all. Most clients we meet are scared to report claims out of fear of the insurance premiums for their friends or family members increasing on account of their own accident for which the policy holder was not at fault and not even present at the time of the accident. Premiums generally don’t rise in these scenarios unless the policy holder was not forthoming in answering questions about the number of licensed drivers who reside in the same household as him or her.