Uninsured Bicycle/Car Accident... What to do?

40 posts in this topic

Hello-

 

This post is concerning what happened to my wife in early October 2010 in Laim, Munich. We (Americans) and living and working in Munich for the past 2 1/2 years do not own a car and get everywhere in Munich on the Public Transit or bikes. We also have never thought of getting some kind of insurance for riding bike since we don't own a car and are used to the Auto drivers always having to pay Liability insurance for uninsured others, including bicyclists if they are not insured...at least in the States that's how it was.

 

She was excitedly returning home from work on the last Friday of Oktoberfest to get dressed and go with visiting friends and, like normal, took the U-Bahn home and then a short 3 minute Bike ride back home. She was riding on the bike path and then, in order to turn left onto our street up ahead, merged over into the road on the correct side for about 100 meters. Immediately as she was about to merge over into the street from the path, a car was about to pass, so she waited for the car as it passed by, and looked back quickly to the left to make sure no more cars were coming, when she turned back right, as she is now entering onto the street, the car that just passed her had suddenly stopped in front of her and she hit the back right side of the stopped car and flew off her bike onto the fender area and maybe damaged a bit of the trunk.

 

(It seems the lady had stopped the car because it was a skinny street with cars on both sides so she was allowing oncoming cars to get through first.)

 

The lady got out of the car, apologized for not seeing my wife at all at which point my wife apologized for it likely being mostly her fault. My wife had a few bruises, but no big problems and did not need to see a doctor for injuries later on. The driver then called the police who came out and filed a police report. The police made the driver and my wife exchange information, mostly just addresses and phone numbers. When my wife asked what to do next about the car, the police said just wait until you receive something from the driver's insurance company, and that's all the information they gave her. She picked up her bike, which was not damaged at all and totally rideable and rode it 2 more minutes home.

 

We have still never received anything from the lady's (driver's) insurance company. She tried to call, but we weren't there to get it and left a message just saying that my wife owes her lots of money for the damages, but nothing about her insurance. She asked about my wife's insurance, which she doesn't have, just health insurance, but no personal insurance.

 

On Nov. 29th, 2010 we received a letter from the lady's lawyer saying we owe over €1,600 for damages to the vehicle from a repair shop and also over €300 in lawyer fees for the letter, but still nothing about insurance at all like the police said we would.

 

At this point we weren't sure what to do, and we suddenly had to move flats still in Munich, so total chaotic time, and now we received another letter saying we owe backcharges for not paying the lawyer and that we now have a Strafanzeige and they will take more action.

 

We don't know German, especially technical and legal German very well and would like some advice if possible.

 

First of all, who could we talk to about this?

 

Is there any kind of liability insurance for uninsured bicyclists that is paid in a car insurance?

 

The charges seem pretty ridiculously high to me, and I don't understand why we didn't receive anything from the driver's insurance company like was said, but instead we now need to pay high lawyer fees!!?

 

We just want to get this settled now and could use some help if possible. If all seems right and it's her fault then I guess we pay it, right?

 

Thanks alot!

 

Levi

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

Is there any kind of liability insurance for uninsured bicyclists that is paid in a car insurance?

I think Haftpflichtversicherung usually covers people on bikes. It's like a personal liability insurance that basically covers all your fuck ups with other people's property. If you don't have it, you should get it. It's fairly cheap.

 

Sorry to hear you are in such a pickle. Can't really help you there.

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There is no such thing as liability insurance in the car insurance.

 

You may post the letter you have received for better understanding ,but in any case I would recommend to contact a lawyer yourself, one with "Schwerpunkt Verkehrsrecht".It's obscure, you need professionel help.

 

The other thing: get a Haftpflichtversicherung,Third party liability insurance. It's cheap and in your case here they would have all done for you.

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Ok - very briefly there is insurance for bikes, it's called Haftpflicht and everyone should have it - it's general liability insurance. But this won't help you now.

 

How long have you been sitting on this letter from the lawyer? Golden rule Number One is: NEVER IGNORE LETTERS DEMANDING MONEY IN GERMANY. I have typed this in a dozen times to this site alone. Again, apologies as this is too late for you.

 

Now, to your case - you will need a lawyer, this will cost you money but nothing like what you are facing. Do this immediately - I will PM you a recommendation. Gather all paperwork, make sure you write down your recollection of the facts, as accurately as you can, and gather witness statements if you can.

 

When a bike is involved in an accident with a car and there is an injury, no matter how minor, the police must be called and details must be swapped but this is primarily for the injured cyclist to recover medical costs from the driver's insurance. It is almost unheard of that the cyclist is at fault for everything and the driver is taking a huge risk hounding you like this. Cyclists and pedestrians are protected by the law and car drivers are obliged to go to any length to prevent accidents and even more so injury. If your wife was hurt then the car driver failed her clearly defined duty.

 

You must understand a part of the German mental state - the car is all important and damaging it is, in many of the natives' eyes, a heinous crime. Another sad fact is the Germans are very litigious and about the most stupid, petty things (a girl once threatened to sue me because my suitcase, broken on the plane, got caught in her trousers as she tried to push past me on the U-bahn, but I digress).

 

If you and your lawyer aggressively contest this case you will certainly cut your losses but by delaying you have made it more difficult. Good luck,

9

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Many Germans (some say all) have liability insurance (haftpflicht). This is the insurance that would pay if you accidentally damage other peoples property. It is not even expensive to have. I do not know if a car insurance would pay anything if an uninsured cyclist damaged your car. I don't think mine would.

 

When the woman phoned you, you could have phoned her back. You could have asked to talk to her insurance. You could have talked to the police. You could have talked to a lawyer. But when you did not phone her back, she went to a lawyer so the costs went up. When you ignored the lawyer, it turned into a strafanzeige. I think you have to face it that this is not going away. Either pay or get your own lawyer.

6

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I was in collision some while ago and had the insurance (fine in cash terms but still stressful in many ways of course). What I learned was exactly what LeonG says - you have to grit your teeth and take it through the process because if you don't:

 

(1) it is probably not going to go away

(2) ignoring it sends out markers and signals to the other parties

(3) doing things "by the book" makes you bullet-proof (no stick to beat you with)

(4) not doing stuff can "compound the felony" and / or increase your costs.

 

Also, if you get any "why did you not answer" etc, you can state your reason (you did not know the process) and then take the consequence of your ituation on the chin and move on. It's important to remember there will be an end to it.

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think he's asking whether the car owner's insurance would pay for the damage somehow, not what kind of policies are available for cyclists. The answer to that is no. Uninsured motorist (or cyclist in this case) coverage would only come into play if the other party is unable to pay. And even if the insurance were to pay, they would still try to get the money back from you.

 

If your girlfriend rear-ended the car, chances are she's at fault, and if she's at fault, she'll have to pay for the damage. Not much you can do about that. However, there might be some wiggle room concerning the extent of the damage (did you receive an estimate or an actual repair bill?) and the lawyer fees, because from where I'm sitting, it seems like the lady didn't need to hire a lawyer to mail you the bills. She probably should have tried to contact you first. Initially anyway. Then again, if you ignored the letters and didn't pay, hiring a lawyer might be justifiable now.

 

Normally if a driver has full coverage, he would inform his insurance, the insurance company would pay for the damage and get the money back from you. That's probably what the police were referring to. If a driver only has liability coverage, he'll need to handle the paperwork himself, which is probably why you didn't hear from her insurance.

1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

HellesAngel, that is an excellent post and the points you make are all exactly on the money. LeonG summed up the situation very precisely. Frustratingly, for most TTers who are longer term expats these are the kind of troubles that we've seen occur repeatedly to newcomers in spite of warnings being given whenever possible about these type of risks.

 

Sorry to read of your troubles Levi, you have my empathy. TBH though I can't really feel too sorry for you as, in view of the delay your inactivity has caused, you have allowed a managable bandaid issue to fester into a minor financial amputation case.

 

It's a shame you or your wife hadn't seen the Bike ran in to stationary car topic from last April in which a very similar case in Bonn was discussed. I'd still recommend you, and any other newcomers who intend to cycle in Germany, to read it as there are a few points which may be worth taking note of when dealing with your legal problem. The member involved had, by good fortune posted in TT as soon as it occurred and, taking on board advice from members, his quick action in negotiating with his litigious adversary saved him around €1100* compared to the original demanded damages.

 

Good luck anyway and please let us know how things develop as that may save some future TTer from learning the hard way.

 

2B

 

EDIT: *I just reread that thread. In fact the member negotiated a €2200 reduction from the initial demand for damages.

1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

What did you really expect to happen? Maybe coming straight from the lawyer was a bit harsh, but it's possible that it's her insurance behind this, trying recoup the cost of fixing her car.

 

In any case, I imagine if you run into a car in the US, you also have to pay for the damage you caused.

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

we don't own a car and are used to the Auto drivers always having to pay Liability insurance for uninsured others, including bicyclists if they are not insured...at least in the States that's how it was.

 

I don't get that. Do you mean in the States if you have an insurance and you cause an accident your insurance will pay but if you don't have insurance somebody else will have to pay?

2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

I don't get that. Do you mean in the States if you have an insurance and you cause an accident your insurance will pay but if you don't have insurance somebody else will have to pay?

 

Well, I can´t speak for the States, no idea...might even depend on the individual State. Obviously, here auto liabiity insurance is obligatory. In the case of private liability ( not obligatory ) insurance, if someone harms you ( eg a cyclist ) or your property and that person doesn´t have the means to compensate you, your liability insurance ( private Haftpflicht ) will - once all the necessary checks have been made - pay as long as your insurance contains the Forderungsausfall clause...most older contracts ( 5 years or more ) don´t necessarily have this in them so it´s worth checking yours if it´s an older one.

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You can get a lawyer and fight it but from your description you will most probably lose. Pay and learn.

2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

As for the amount - we got barely scraped on our back bumper by a guy attempting to park. The estimate for repair was over €1,400.

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

As I read this case it isn't a typical liability claim where a cyclist runs into a parked car and damages it. The driver, who has admitted to not seeing the cyclist, stopped in the cyclist's path and caused the cyclist to hit the car. It seems in the situation the cyclist had every reasonable expectation that the car would continue moving and not block her path.

 

Thus liability for the damage is far from certain and there would, in my very limited experience of these things, be a half decent claim from the cyclist against the car driver's insurance for damage to bike & clothes, lost income due to time off work as a result of her bruising, and 'schmerzensgeld' which is essentially feel-good money for being injured. The car driver's insurance would almost certainly pay out a modest sum in this case just to cut its losses, knowing full well the courts are generally sympathetic to injured cyclists. This would then leave the car driver with a shot no-claims bonus and not feeling so get-my-rechtsshutsversicherung-lawyer-to-bully-you smug.

 

An example - someone I know was knocked off their bike. It was pissing with rain and they were in a bike path but on the wrong side of the road, wearing no helmet. She was knocked clean off her bike by a car turning right across her path and had a head wound, serious enough to get a few stitches but not really bad. She was taken to hospital in an ambulance as a precaution. The car driver's insurance paid all her lawyer's & medical expenses, repairs/replacements to bike and clothes, but the Schmerzensgeld was reduced by 40% IIRC as she was deemed to be partly responsible for being on the wrong side of the road and not wearing a helmet. All in all she got just over 1000 euro.

 

It's a shame that the OP wasn't aware of all this when this sorry episode started and ignored on the car driver's calls, and didn't indicate their intention to make their own claim for damages. This is a right that all cyclists involved in collisions with cars have and you should always reserve it. Similarly you should never apologise & accept any responsibility at the scene of an accident - gather witnesses and let the truth come out through your combined factual recollection of the events. What truly happened may be very different from what you saw as other things you did not see may have influenced events. This is a tricky thing to do - remain calm, polite and balanaced, but still guarded in a tense, emotional situation.

 

For anyone else reading this alarm bells MUST start ringing as soon as the car driver or their insurance contacts you demanding money. I'll say it again - never ignore a demand for money in Germany, always either pay it or contest it. And you MUST have Haftpflicht insurance. I know one friend who would now be a personal bankrupt as a result of a very minor traffic accident she has been left responsible for causing. The 'injured' party just happened to be a shameless sponger who is still milking this accident for an annual two week trip to a 'Kur'.

3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The injured person should also always go to a doctor to get official confirmation of any injuries. Later when the ball is rolling, you have to sign a release to let the police have the doctor's report.

 

Even if you think it's not that bad. Get it recorded.

1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

...

She asked about my wife's insurance, which she doesn't have, just health insurance, but no personal insurance. ...

 

because everyone in Germany, I mean everyone except it seems some expats, have Haftpflicht insurance. How on Earth does one get to move to Germany and not know about this insurance? It was everywhere i went, told to me by every German I knew when I got here. I thought it was ridiculous, but just the peace of mind knowing that I have it is worth the price. it is so cheap too!

 

levi even joined in 2008! how did you not know? gosh, sorry *shakes head*.

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

As I read this case it isn't a typical liability claim where a cyclist runs into a parked car and damages it. The driver, who has admitted to not seeing the cyclist, stopped in the cyclist's path and caused the cyclist to hit the car. It seems in the situation the cyclist had every reasonable expectation that the car would continue moving and not block her path.

From the OP's post, it reads to me like the cyclist went from a standing start into the side of a stopped car. You can only do that if you do not watch where you're biking.

1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

When am I ever allowed to expect the car in front of me to proceed and not suddenly stop in my path? To me it sounds like a typical rear-end collision.

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

So, first of all thanks for all the amazingly helpful comments, especially HellesAngel for the help and lawyer suggestions. It is a sucky situation, definitely made worse from our side of it, being oblivious to the laws here and not understanding exactly how to proceed and waiting too long. I have not yet been able to contact the lady driver and possibly discuss an easier settlement and we're totally prepared to pay what is due as I'm realizing the good things, like my wife is healthy and has no injuries from the accident and €2000 is only money. It may be that we just pay and then look into this Haftpflichtversicherung to assure this doesn't happen again.

 

By the way, I'm definitely not ignorant about it, I have never heard of this personal care insurance or ever thought about getting it until this accident occurred. I never needed such a thing in the States as we always had a car with insurance that covers the vehicle and any outside influence that would harm the car of the people inside. Unfortunately not very often riding a bike there, which I've never heard of someone in my life thinking of insuring themselves for biking and personal injury from walking or something where I was from!!

 

When I had car insurance in the States it always must pay for uninsured coverage of others. It's not much, but insurance for cars is not required in most states and this makes sure you don't get screwed if you are not insured (stupid). (I think it's ridiculous when someone doesn't have car insurance and they are driving, cause an accident and still the other person's insurance must cover.)

 

But, when it comes to someone accidently hitting you or causing damage without a vehicle i.e. a bike or a random accident from another person, for sure your, the owners car insurance, covers these things. I personally had it happen to me. Almost no matter what the damage is, that's what the insurance is there for, to cover your car. That's why it was a surprise to us here, and we were waiting for the insurance company to send us some information as the police said they would. That's the exact thing I would have heard from them in the States. If one has insurance it's covered there.

 

Holsteiner said, "I don't get that. Do you mean in the States if you have an insurance and you cause an accident your insurance will pay but if you don't have insurance somebody else will have to pay?"- That's exactly what I meant. I think it is stupid for an auto driver, but for biker and other actions, that's what an insurance company is there for, to cover the damage on the car, whether it was their fault or not. I know this from personal experience! But obviously it's not the same in Germany and it will likely cost us. I think insurance companies make too much money anyway and should cover your vehicle.

 

And to the other posts, she definitely was not at a standing start. She was riding her bike on the correct side the road on the path at first, the right side. Because you have to turn left onto our street from the road, you must switch from the bike path, and ride the bike on the right side of the road for about 100m and make a left hand turn through traffic on the small road. My wife was riding on the path, proceeded to move left off of the bike path onto the road at a crossing and continue in the same direction. As she was moving left she looked back for a car coming from behind her and saw there was one immmediately right there, passing with no cars in front of them. She continued riding, let the car pass by and then proceeded to enter from the bike path maybe a meter left onto the road, behind the one car that just passed. When the car passed she looked back once more to quickly check there were no more cars and when she looked back forward realized the car had stopped just passed the intersection and hit the car with her bike, without enough time to stop. She definitely thought the car would continue driving forward, because until she turned back, she saw no car in front of the other one, there is no stop sign or lights in the area and saw no signs of braking before that. That's how she hit the car so quickly.

 

I'll let you know what happens. Likely it's too late, but thanks for all the suggestions!!

 

By the way, can you recommend a good company for this personal insurance?!

 

-Levi

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!


Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.


Sign In Now