Biking is becoming an “all weather” pastime in Alberta. Many people have adopted winter biking on their “fat bikes,” as a way to maintain their health while commuting to work in urban settings, or recreationally, enjoying the pathways groomed for winter bikers. There is also a correlation between an increase in biking generally and the restrictions imposed during the pandemic. More cyclists on the roads all year round means more cycling injuries.
Cyclists who continue to bike during winter and early spring face additional challenges. Slippery roads, low visibility with shorter days, and the snow and ice on the roads can force drivers and cyclists to share a narrower space in the winter months.
The City of Edmonton website notes that during 2020 there were 115 collisions reported involving cyclists. Thankfully, those stats do not include any fatalities however, 95 cyclists were injured and 10% of those injuries were serious. In almost 2/3rds of those cases the cyclist was cycling properly and had the right-of-way while the remainder involved situations where a biker was partly to blame for the accident.
Collisions involving cyclists often result in injuries that can have long-term impacts on both bikers and their families. If you are injured in a bike accident, there are a number of sources of compensation that may be available to you, and you have rights. While some compensation options are available to you on a “no-fault” basis, your actions leading up to the accident can affect who is “at fault” and this can impact the amount of compensation you may be entitled to receive in a lawsuit against a negligent driver. Simply put, if you are partly at fault (sometimes called being contributorily negligent), it can reduce compensation payable in a lawsuit against the driver’s insurance company.
Why Having a Personal Injury Lawyer is Helpful
Different types of compensation are available to you depending on the facts in your case. There are also important deadlines that you must meet to make sure you can access that compensation. If you aren’t familiar with the process and the rules you can end up being prevented from claiming the full compensation that may be available to you. This is where legal advice and representation can be valuable.
Further, it’s not easy to decipher which laws and benefits calculations might apply to you. An experienced personal injury lawyer can quickly assess your situation, determine your options, explain them to you in plain language, and take steps to insure all the paperwork is complete and submitted on time to preserve your rights. A seasoned injury lawyer can also represent you in any dealings with insurance companies and their lawyers so that you don’t have to worry about any legal process pitfalls or trying to figure whether a settlement offer is a fair deal.
Below we review some things you need to know if you are injured in a collision with a car, truck, or other motor vehicle, while riding your bike. If you’ve got questions, we’re here to help. You can book a free consultation HERE.
The Same Laws and Rules for Motorists Apply to Bikers (all Year Round)
Bicycles are vehicles under the definition of “vehicle” in Alberta legislation. Therefore, cyclists should assume that the rules of the road applicable to motorists also apply to them; including obeying speed limits, road signs, and traffic signals, using proper turning signals, avoiding careless or dangerous cycling, and distracted riding (e.g., riding with headphones or while using a smartphone).
Likewise, the general law regarding negligence for drivers also applies to bikers, and cyclists must take care not to injure others or act in ways that are negligent, like ignoring the rules of the road or standard safe biking practices.
Other laws relevant to biking set out required safety equipment, where cyclists can ride, and rules regarding how they can ride. Specific statutory requirements and regulations governing biking are set out in the Alberta Traffic Safety Act, RSA 2000, c. T-6, the Vehicle Equipment Regulation Alta. Reg. 122/2009, the Use of Highway and Rules of the Road Regulation Alta. Reg. 304/2022, and municipal bylaws governing traffic safety and the use of parks and pathways.
For example, since 2001, bikers and their passengers, who are under the age of 18, must wear helmets approved by a designated safety organization. Helmets must fit properly, have a chin strap, a smooth outer shell, and be capable of absorbing impact. Further, in most municipalities, cyclists must not ride on the sidewalks.
If you live in Edmonton, the city has provided answers to Frequently Asked Questions about biking and the responsibilities of cyclists all year around HERE.
For winter riders you can find additional useful resources HERE.
Why does this matter? If you do not follow the rules of the road or fail to observe standard safety cycling protocols, these are factors that can be taken into account to decide if you are partly to blame for your own injuries.
Compensation for Cyclists Injured by Motorists
If you are injured in a collision with another vehicle, there are a number of sources of compensation for your injuries.
Section B (Accident) Benefits
If you are injured while biking you can make a claim for accident benefits under Section B of Alberta’s Standard Automobile Policy. Some people think that because they weren’t injured in a car, that they aren’t entitled to Section B benefits – this is not the case. Also, even if you are partly or totally at fault for the accident, you can still claim Section B benefits. This is why they are sometimes called “no-fault” benefits.
Important Deadlines and Time Limits on Accident Benefits
The rules and regulations that govern Section B Benefits are set out in Section B- Alberta Standard Automobile Owner’s Policy S.P.F. No. 1.
This document is not easy to read or understand if you are not familiar with how to read regulations. It also incorporates other sections of the Insurance Act and regulations including the Minor Injury Regulation (MIR) and the Diagnostic and Treatment Protocols Regulation (DTPR). The facts of your situation will determine whether these regulations apply.
For more information on Alberta’s Minor Injury Regulation read our post Minor Injury Regulation Update – The Cap Inflationary Adjustment for 2022
To claim Section B Benefits you must provide Notice and Proof of Claim to the chief agency or head office of the relevant Insurer in Alberta, in the prescribed form, within 30 days of the date of the accident, or if giving notice within 30 days is not reasonable, as soon as practical after that (Special Provisions, Definitions, and Exclusions of Section B, s. 3, S.P.F. No. 1). The prescribed claim form is a form prescribed by the Minister (of Finance of Alberta) under s. 803 of the Insurance Act of Alberta and must include details of your injuries and the accident that are within your personal knowledge.
Section B – Reasonable Medical Expenses
Section B benefits are intended to cover all reasonable expenses incurred as a result of your injuries that arise within 2 years from the date of the accident. In other words, only the expenses that arise during this two-year window are covered. Generally speaking, covered expenses are defined under Section B – Accident Benefits, Subsection 1 – Medical Payments, 1(b)iii of S.P.F. No. 1 as:
“all reasonable expenses incurred within 2 years from the date of the accident as a result of those injuries for necessary medical, surgical, chiropractic, dental, hospital, psychological, physical therapy, occupational therapy, massage therapy, acupuncture, professional nursing and ambulance services and, in addition, for other services and supplies, including any medically necessary equipment, home modifications or vehicle modifications, that are, in the opinion of the insured person’s attending physician and in the opinion of the Insurer’s medical advisor, essential for the treatment or rehabilitation of the injured person.”
In addition to the 2-year window noted above, expenses are only covered up to a maximum of $50,000.
Section B – Total Disability Benefits
If you were employed at the time of the accident and your injuries prevent you from returning to work during the 60-day period after your accident, you may be eligible to apply for a weekly benefit under Section B, Subsection 2, Part II of S.P.F. No. 1. However, you must remain continuously unable to perform any and every duty of your job within that 60-day period. Further, this benefit does not kick in until 7 days after you become disabled and is limited to 104 weeks of benefits.
The amount of the weekly benefit is calculated according to the formula set out in Section B, Subsection 2, Part II of S.P.F. No. 1.
There are also provisions for a lesser weekly benefit of $200 per week if you are over 18, not working at the time you were injured, and you are completely incapacitated. These benefits are intended to cover the cost of household duties that you cannot perform while incapacitated and is limited to 104 weeks.
Other Potential Statutory Sources of Compensation
All vehicle owners in Alberta are required to have valid liability insurance. There are a few who do not, and they usually don’t have the money to pay for the personal injuries or death that they have caused. Sometimes the at-fault driver flees the scene of the accident, and the injured victim doesn’t know who to sue.
The Motor Vehicle Accident Claims Program (MVAC) was created in 1947 by the establishment of the Motor Vehicle Accident Claims Act. The goal of the program is to protect the victims injured by uninsured or unknown drivers by ensuring they have a place where they can sue and receive payment for their personal injuries. Due to the uninsured or unknown nature of the at-fault drivers, these victims would often not be able to claim any damages for their injuries otherwise.
MVAC’s maximum combined payment for all victims of an accident is $200,000. If there is more than one claimant to an accident, and the total value of all claims exceeds $200,000, then each claimant will receive a proportional share of the $200,000 maximum.
Lawsuits Against Negligent or Partly Negligent Drivers
In addition to Section B benefits, you may also be entitled to start a lawsuit against the motorist who hit you for additional damages. This is where liability (fault) becomes an important consideration. If you are found to be partly liable or partly at fault for the accident that injured you, it will reduce the amount of damages payable by the motorist’s insurance company.
For example, if you are found to be 25% at fault for the accident causing your injuries any damages awarded will be reduced by 25%. There are a variety of factors courts will consider. Review some of the typical factors affecting contributory negligence on the part of cyclists in bike accidents.
Important Deadlines if you are Suing a Negligent Driver
Alberta is one of the Canadian provinces where you can still sue a negligent driver for damages including pain and suffering and other financial losses caused by your injuries including things like lost wages, lost opportunities, and the cost of future care. As with Section B benefits, there are deadlines (also called limitation periods) that must be met. If you are going to sue a negligent driver you must generally file your lawsuit within 2 years from the date it occurred. Exceptions apply if the injured person is a child (under 18) at the time of the accident. In the case of injured children, generally they have until the day before their 20th birthday to start a lawsuit. However, there are some exceptions.
IMPORTANT: The suspension of the limitation period for children to sue a negligent driver DOES NOT apply to claims against insurance companies for failing to pay Section B Accident Benefits. In these cases, the 2-year deadline still applies. So, claims for accident benefits must be pursued within 2 years of the accident or 2 years from the date a benefit is last paid, whichever is greater.
For additional information on injuries to children you may want to review our post What Happens when a child is injured in a vehicle driven by a family member.
How CAM LLP can Help
At CAM LLP, our experienced injury lawyers frequently help cyclists injured in road accidents. We know the laws that apply, what compensation is available, and what must be established to prove your claim. We’ve been helping injured Albertans get fair compensation for injuries since 1962. We are highly skilled at representing plaintiffs against insurance companies and their lawyers both at the negotiating table and at trial.
Put our experience to work for you. Contact us for a free consultation.