Utah Law Helps Cyclists Get Full Value For Damaged Bikes

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By Russ Hymas and Ken Christensen — The 2013 legislative session was referred to by some as the “Year of the Bike” on Capitol Hill. That year, the Utah legislature passed six bicycle related bills – including Utah Code 41-6a-706, listing bicyclists as vulnerable users and removing the “or other safe distance” language from the 3-foot rule; 41-6a-705.5, making it legal for cyclists to pass cars on the right while traveling on the shoulder of the road; and 41-6a-305, allowing cyclists to pass through a red traffic signal after waiting 90 seconds and determining that the traffic control signal did not detect the cyclist’s presence.

Since 2013, very few bicycle laws have been presented to the legislature. However, during the 2017 legislative session, our office drafted and asked Representative Karen Kwan to sponsor legislation (HB170) that helps cyclists receive fair compensation for their damaged bike as quickly as possible. Both legislative bodies passed the bill, which was recently signed by Governor Herbert. 78A-8-102 now allows a cyclist injured in an accident to resolve the claim for damage to their bicycle (and other personal property items) in small claims court, without limiting their ability to make a claim for bodily injury against the same defendant in a separate legal action.

A few years ago, the legislature had passed a law creating a pathway for injured persons to resolve their property damage claims in small claims court without affecting their ability to later pursue an injury claim. However, the original law didn’t have cyclists in mind, and limited that right to claims of property damage to a motor vehicle only – meaning that in cases of an auto vs. bicycle collision, the cyclist would be forced to bring all their claims at one time. This meant that the repair or replacement of a damaged bike was often put on hold for months, sometimes years, while the cyclist recovered from his/her injuries.

We drafted HB170 to fix that problem and give cyclists the same rights that other motorists enjoyed. And thanks to Rep. Kwan’s efforts and support, the law has now been changed to allow any property damage (including bicycle damage) from a motor vehicle accident to be brought in small claims, without affecting a future bodily injury claim for the same incident. The bill also raised the small claims court limit from $10,000 to $11,000.

This change in law was important because most insurance adjustors do not understand the value of road bikes, including their wheels and componentry. As a result, they routinely make settlement offers so low that they leave the injured cyclist bewildered and frustrated. A client of ours was recently given a settlement offer for their damaged bike that was 30-40% of his bike’s actual value. The adjustor’s reasoning? He had found a “comparable bike” on Ebay – it wasn’t carbon fiber and had Shimano Tiagra components instead of the Dura Ace that was on our client’s bike!

In the past, when insurance companies refused to increase their offers, cyclists couldn’t get money for their bikes until their injury claims settled months or years down the road. Many cyclists would just give up and take the low settlement offer for their bike so they didn’t have to wait so long. Now, as of May 1, 2017, cyclists can present their property damage claims (bikes and accessories) to small claims court and force the insurance companies to pay fair value for the property damage associated with the motor vehicle accident.

If you have any suggestions for legislation, or see a need for changes to our Utah cycling laws, please reach out to us on Facebook or on our website at UtahBicycleLawyers.com.

 

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