Australians love cycling – for commuting to work, for exercise, and for enjoying casual rides with family and friends. It’s a fun, environmentally friendly way to stay fit and active.
But cyclists face risks. They’re among the most vulnerable group of road users – with injuries and road fatalities far too high.
If you or someone you love is injured in a cycling accident, it’s important you understand the benefits and compensation available to help you recover quickly.
In this article we look at some of the challenges faced by injured cyclists and why getting expert, independent legal advice is so important.
Cycling is on the rise, but sadly, so are cycling accidents
Millions of Australians ride bikes. In 2017, around 3.74 million Australians rode a bike during a typical week – about 15 percent of the nation.
And while so many of us cycle, many road users are either not aware of—or not respecting cyclists on the road.
Despite governments actively campaign for cyclist safety and road sharing, cycling injuries are rising.
According to Australian Government data, cyclists make up about 3 per cent of all road fatalities and 15 per cent of all road hospitalisations.
Here in Slater and Gordon’s Motor Vehicle Accident team in Victoria, I’ve seen accidents involving all kinds of vehicles—cars, trucks, trains, motorbikes, trams and buses.
But cyclists are among the most vulnerable of all road users.
Around 20 to 30 percent of the injured people I act for are cyclists. They come from all walks of life and backgrounds, and the circumstances of their cycling accidents are all unique.
Why are cyclists so vulnerable?
Cyclists are relatively unprotected, and an error triggering a minor incident for the vehicle driver could have major consequence for a cyclist.
The most common types of cycling accidents we see are hit-and-runs, car-dooring, collision with a parked vehicle, and accidents due to poor road conditions like pot holes.
What are the compensation and benefits available for cycling injuries?
Cycling accidents fall within motor vehicle accident or public liability insurance schemes in Australia.
Compensation is generally paid by an insurance company or the government agency that manages these types of claims in your state.
The schemes all work a little differently in each state and territory, so it’s important to find out about the one that applies to you.
In Victoria the scheme is run by the Transport Accident Commission (TAC), a government-owned insurance agency. Under the TAC scheme, injured Victorians can access compensation and benefits to cover costs and support for:
- Lost income
- Medical expenses
- Vocational training
- Assistance returning to work
- Cost of home and vehicle modifications
- Household help
- Gardening services.
Depending on your injury, you may also be entitled to claim lump sum damages for pain and suffering and loss of earnings if you can show that the accident was caused by the negligence or fault of another party.
What are the challenges involved with making a cycling injury claim?
In the aftermath of a cycling accident, it can be overwhelming and stressful dealing with a legal system that’s complex, vague, ever-changing and confusing to those who’ve never dealt with it before.
It sadly can mean injured cyclists miss out on getting the right medical care and compensation they need and deserve.
The legal system is ever-changing and it’s difficult to stay up to date
There are often important state and territory legislation changes that can affect cyclists who’ve been injured – and are vital to know about.
For example, most people don’t know that in 2018 the Victorian Government changed its legislation to include benefits for cyclists injured in collisions with stationary vehicles. So, if you were involved in a cycling accident in Victoria on or after 9 July 2014 it’s important to seek urgent legal advice. You could now be eligible for TAC benefits and compensation.
You may also not realise that in a hit-and-run collision where the cyclist was unable to identify the vehicle involved, the cyclist may still be entitled to benefits from the TAC.
It’s a complex and unclear system
No two accidents and no two journeys to recovery are the same. So, it’s very challenging to know what claim you should apply for based on your injury and the challenges you may face with your recovery.
For example, in Victoria, the TAC will pay initial medical expenses and even sometimes wage claims relatively quickly.
But, the TAC has no obligation to tell you about your rights to further entitlements should you need them.
We’ve had clients who’ve known they’ve been entitled to some benefits, but haven’t known about the additional benefits they’re entitled to because they weren’t given the full picture.
That’s why it’s critical to get independent legal advice with lawyers experienced in cycling injury claims as soon as possible after a cycling accident.
You’ll get information and advice to help with making the right claim for your full range of compensation and benefits you’re entitled to – now and in the future on your road to recovery.
Strict time limits apply
Unfortunately, time limits apply for making a claim – so it’s important to act quickly. For example, in Victoria, you’ll need to phone the TAC on 1300 654 329 within 12 months of your injury to report the accident and lodge a general claim.
We know this is difficult for clients, especially if they’re recovering from a serious injury. That’s where getting expert legal support can help to make the process simpler and more straightforward.
Different cases involve different legal schemes – like public liability versus motor vehicle scheme
If your accident was caused by pot holes or other poor road conditions, you’ll need expert help for your public liability claim.
Unlike bicycle accidents that involve a motor vehicle, these injuries are covered by the public liability insurance of the other party, which may be the relevant local council.
To be successful in a public liability claim, you must prove that your injury was another party’s fault.
In these complex cases it really pays to have an experienced lawyer by your side to help you understand and get your full entitlements.
Steps to take if you’ve had a cycling accident
See a doctor. If you are not taken straight to hospital from the scene, go to a doctor and report all your injuries. Make sure you get the right treatment and care.
Contact the Police (if they have not attended the scene), and report all the details. Make sure the Police note down the details of the vehicle, if known.
Contact the insurance company or government agency that manages the compensation scheme in your state or territory, like the TAC in Victoria, to start the claim process within 12 months. Advise the agency of all vehicle details and the Police reference number.
As soon as possible, contact a motor vehicle accident lawyer and get advice on your full entitlements.
How our team will support you
When my team and I help an injured cyclist with their motor vehicle accident or public liability claim, we want to hear their story—from the beginning to end—so we can tailor our advice to their circumstances.
We’ve helped many clients who’ve been injured in cycling accidents get access to the maximum benefits they’re entitled to at law, as soon as possible.
We’re here to listen, advocate relentlessly on your behalf, and help you feel supported each step of the way.
Slater and Gordon is proud to provide our clients with access to leading, affordable legal services, including our 'No Win, No Fee’ offer, as well as free social work services upon referral if needed.
If you have a question, want some more information or would just like to speak to someone, make an enquiry now and our team will be in touch with you as soon as possible. You can make an enquiry online or phone us 1800 555 777.
(1) Austroads. 2017. National Cycling Participation Survey. Available at: https://austroads.com.au/publi...