Thinking the Unthinkable – part 2

Continuing on from the last offering, let’s look at the practicalities of being involved in a crash with another vehicle or, God forbid, more than one. If the consequences are serious, chances are you will be in no fit state to take much notice of what is going on, far less to collect relevant information and evidence at the scene, but if you are able to function, there are some things you must try to do before the police/ambulance arrive. If you can’t, see if someone will do it for you. These rules apply to any motorcycle accident, whether it involves injury or just bent metal.

  • Make a note of name and address of the driver of any other vehicle involved
  • Make a note of the registration numbers
  • Make a note of the names and addresses of any witnesses
  • If you can, take some photographs of the scene, showing the vehicles, any marks left on the road, and any applicable road signs or road paint markings. (In an ideal world, we would all carry a disposable camera, notepad and pen in our leathers or topbox, but what the hell- besides, it seems that there have been doubting glances cast upon such items by sceptical judges in some cases. Nonetheless, it won’t hurt if you can do it.)

You will see I have assumed that you might be the one injured, which is a fair assumption in a bike/car contest. However, if you are unlucky enough to injure someone else, remember that it is a criminal offence to leave the scene of an accident in which injury has been caused, without exchanging full details with the other party or parties. If in doubt, insist the police are called, or call them yourself, and stay put until they arrive.

After the dust has settled, there will be various things to be done, and it will depend on the extent of any damage to you and your bike which ones you prioritise. As soon as you can, report the incident to your own insurers and fill in a claim form- either paper or online. If you believe the accident was not your fault, or was only partly your fault, then make that clear to your own insurers. If your policy is fully comp, they will deal with the damaged bike, either paying for repair, or writing it off and paying you the current market value (less any value for spares/salvage).

You may find that your policy offers you a hire bike whilst yours is being fixed, or until the insurers pay out on a write-off. Nearly always, the costs of that bike are covered by the insurers, but check carefully before signing anything. In particular, you need to be sure that if your insurers can’t get back the cost of the hire from the person responsible for the accident, they won’t come knocking at your door for the money. If in doubt, ask. Most credit hire bikes and cars are kosher these days, but some hire companies still charge outrageously high prices, not all of which may be legally recoverable. You don’t want to be faced with the shortfall.

If your cover is TPFT or TP only, you still have to report the accident to your insurers, but they will have no interest in any damage to your machine or kit. You will have to claim for that yourself from the person(s) responsible for the accident. If you suffered no injury and the cost of repair or the written-off value of the bike and anything else lost or damaged is less than £5,000, it will rank as a “small claim” which means your solicitor won’t get paid, even if he wins the claim for you. That means no solicitor will touch a small claim, because solicitors are not charity cases. Even if the value is higher, many solicitors will still not touch such a claim, because the costs allowed in them are not very high.

In the TPFT situation, you are unlikely to find a hire company that will give you a credit deal for a hire machine, so you will have to pay up front. If you decide to hire something, because you need transport for work, etc, then make sure the amount being charged for hire is reasonable, otherwise you may not be able to recover all of it from the other party, leaving you out of pocket. Make enquiries locally about rates and pick something comparable with your damaged machine. You can’t smack up a 125cc commuter and expect the other driver’s insurers to pay for you to hire a Hayabusa for 4 weeks.

If you were injured, your own insurers will NOT deal with any claim for injury compensation, not even on the goldest of gold standard policies. It is up to you to claim such compensation from the person(s) responsible for the accident.

The law has changed fairly recently to bring in a streamlined process for traffic injury claims which have an overall likely value of £10,000 or less (this limit is probably going to be upped very soon, perhaps to as much as £25,000). In brief, the process is all standardised, electronically handled as much as possible, and provides a very fast route to compensation in most moderate cases. DO NOT expect old-style letters and chats with your solicitor along the way- the system is designed to ruthlessly weed these out, to save costs.

Cases of injury involving higher potential values are still dealt with individually. Either way, you need to take advice from an motorcycle injury solicitor about making a claim. If you don’t ask, you don’t get.

The golden rule in any accident situation is to take as much evidence as you can, then take advice upon it as soon as you can from a solicitor who knows what he is doing, ie. someone who specialises in motorcycle accident and injury claims. This is not the kind of law that can be practiced in one’s spare time, so avoid a firm which does not have a specialist department.

Finally, the old chestnut- never admit blame to anyone at the scene of an accident. Even saying sorry can be interpreted as an admission. Try to keep calm and not get into an argument there and then.

Thinking the Unthinkable – part 2