What if you are struck and seriously injured by a cyclist who, more than likely, does not have liability insurance on his bicycle? Many people are unaware that when you sue an individual and are successful and obtain a Judgment you simply have a Judgment. Some people believe that if you obtain a Judgment then you automatically get paid. This is not true. If the person does not have auto insurance, for example, in a motor-vehicle collision then you simply have a Judgment that you must enforce against the assets of the individual by garnisheeing wages or seizing property. If the person has few assets or has a low wage you’ll be unsuccessful in collecting on the Judgment. Fortunately, with motor-vehicle collisions, even if a person is uninsured, there is $200,000 available from the Motor Vehicle Accident Claims Fund of Alberta per collision.
However, if you are hit by a cyclist there does not exist in Alberta an insurance scheme of licensing, registering and insuring cyclists. Thus, if you are hit and injured by a cyclist, and that cyclist was negligent, you will be able to sue that cyclist and get a Judgment, but then you will have a major problem of collecting on that Judgment if that person does not have assets.
This will be even more of an issue if you are seriously injured or even killed by a cyclist as happened to a Chinese tourist recently hit by a cyclist in Stanley Park in Vancouver. This is an example of an insurance system in need of change. If that same Chinese tourist was killed by a motor vehicle there would be insurance available for the funeral and death benefits of the deceased’s surviving family. What is ironic about the lack of bicycle insurance today is that automobile third-party liability insurance for moving vehicles began with the bicycle.
However, due to the increasing use of bicycling, which is laudable for environmental concerns and for general health and removing congestion from our highways, it can be tragic when such a cyclist injures somebody and there’s no insurance available. In some cases cyclists do have insurance available under a homeowners’ insurance policy, but those cyclists without homeowners’ insurance ride uninsured. We say some cases a homeowners’ insurance will cover as homeowners’ insurance, unlike automobile insurance, is not a standardized policy legislated by the province. Rather a homeowners’ policy is very much a creature of contract and is subject to the particular provisions you find in that particular homeowners’ insurance contract. Thus, one document you should read very carefully is your homeowners’ insurance policy and determine what is not covered and find out what could be covered by another homeowners’ insurance policy. In other words, don’t buy the cheapest homeowners’ insurance policy you can find as you will undoubtedly be receiving one with the least benefits.
It should also be noted that the Alberta Bicycle Association through Holman Insurance Brokers Ltd. has worked closely with Cycling Canada to provide a National Insurance program for members in good standing with Cycling Canada and/or it’s Provincial / Territorial affliates (excluding BC and Quebec). This insurance will cover members with a general insurance policy including Third Party Liability insurance, which is the part of the policy that will defend you and pay any claims to anyone you injure or kill while riding your bicycle.
Returning to the issue of insurance for ALL cyclists, several jurisdictions in North America have tried registering and licensing cyclists but none have been successful. The difficulty is that the cost of registration and licensing exceeds the benefits generated from it. The cost of administering a licensing, registration and insurance scheme in Alberta for cyclists may be outweighed by the revenue generated from an administrative and/or political point of view. This, of course, does not look at what we have articulated above which is the significant downside of no benefits available to innocent victims struck by a cyclist. With the rise of cycling and the encouragement by the Province for people to cycle to work and by the City of Red Deer in particular providing many off-road cycling trails and also providing on-road cycling trails, all of which is commendable, if the City of Red Deer and Province of Alberta are truly committed to advancing cycling, then ALL cyclists and their victims should be protected by having insurance available should they injure or, as in the Stanley Park example above, actually kill somebody while riding a bicycle.
Brent L. Handel, Q.C.