What does the law say about cycling accidents?

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Richard Faulks is the Managing Director of Snedden, Hall and Gallop. 

One of the most important days of my life was when I learned to ride a bicycle” – Michael Palin

Unfortunately, accidents do happen and occasionally bike riders suffer serious injuries. If this does occur, it is important to understand what legal remedies might be available.

Bike-riding Commuters

Some ACT residents are lucky enough to cycle to and from work. If you are one of them and suffer an injury on your commute, you may be eligible for coverage by workers’ compensation -whether or not anyone else was involved in the accident.

Workers’ compensation usually covers lost income and reasonable treatment expenses. Make sure you consult a doctor to obtain the relevant medical evidence, and let your employer know as soon as possible.

If your employment is covered by the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act (Comcare), an injury suffered during your ride to work is not covered by workers’ compensation. This includes all government employees, as well as many large national companies.

The ACT government has recently decided to leave the Comcare scheme and is proposing a new scheme for employees, the details of which are not yet clear.

Injuries caused by motor vehicles

 If a bike rider is injured due to the actions of the driver of a motor vehicle, the injured person could claim damages from the Compulsory Third Party (CTP) insurer of that vehicle.

A successful claim under the CTP scheme will depend upon showing that the driver of the motor vehicle was negligent, or at fault.

The compensation under this scheme is much broader than workers’ compensation and extends to payment for pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, and full recovery of any economic loss, as well as compensation for any assistance provided to the injured person by way of domestic care.

Strict time limits apply to these types of claims, so it is best to obtain legal advice as early as possible. You should also record all relevant information about the accident. Accident Notes cards available to Pedal Power ACT members indicate the information required, and are available through Pedal Power ACT upon request.

Injuries caused by other bike riders or third parties (not motor vehicles)

Occasionally cycling accidents can occur that involve another bike rider. It should be noted that many people have home and contents insurance that protects household members for acts of negligence, including actions outside the home.

Similarly, land owners, or government bodies that negligently create dangers which lead to people who ride bikes being injured may be liable to pay compensation for any injuries or losses.

Claims under superannuation policies

Many people have insurance or superannuation policies covering injuries that require time off work, even on a temporary basis. These policies can be useful if an injury occurs in circumstances where no other person or body is involved, and there is no workers’ compensation.

Cycling events

If you suffer an injury while participating in an official cycling event, you may be covered under the insurance held by event organisers. Policies will differ, but it is certainly worth making enquiries if an incident occurs. Often you could be eligible for compensation even if the injury does not result from the negligence of the event organisers or other participants.

Special insurance benefits to Pedal Power ACT members

Don’t forget that Pedal Power ACT members have the additional protection of Pedal Power ACT insurance cover. This insurance covers all Pedal Power ACT members 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The insurance held by Pedal Power includes a public liability component which would protect Pedal Power members if they caused injury to another and the insurance company would then indemnify the person for any liability they might have to pay compensation or damages. There is an excess payable under the policy of $750.00, but that is significantly less than the financial exposure that may occur for an individual if they are negligent.

Pedal Power ACT insurance also provides for the payment of a special benefit if an accident leads to death or permanent disability. Further, the policy will allow for the payment of non-Medicare medical expenses up to a maximum of $7,500.00 for each injury and the recovery of some lost income.

Be prepared

If the joy of riding your bike is interrupted by unforeseen events and injury occurs, it is comforting to know that you are covered financially.

If you are involved in an accident, remember:

  • record all relevant details of the incident
  • carry Accident Notes cards (available from Pedal Power ACT)
  • photograph of the scene
  • seek legal advice as early as possible

The aim is to get the necessary help and treatment as soon as possible and to be back on your bike without delay.

After all, as John F Kennedy said: “Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of a bike ride.”


This is an excerpt from the Feb/Mar 2017 edition of Canberra Cyclist. 

Pedal Power ACT members receive a copy of the magazine every two months as part of their membership. 


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