Bus bent my bike; am I stuck with the damage?
November 30, 2009 9:18 AM   Subscribe

Locked my bike to a post, and a bus sideswiped my bike. Am I stuck with the damage?

I stupidly locked my bike to a garbage can near a bus stop. A bus driver trying to squeeze past a left-turning car clipped my bike and pretzeled my wheel.

The damage is probably about $300 (unless the frame is bent in which case it's $1500). I don't have insurance. I do have photos of the scene of the collision, and two witnesses. I've made a report to the Toronto Transit Commission, and in three weeks I'll know what their claims department thinks of it.

Has anyone else tried to claim property damage from a Canadian transit system? What should I expect? If their claims department says no, what should I do?

Any not-legal-advice would be much appreciated
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (12 answers total)
If someone parked a car in a thing that looked like a parking space but wasn't really and a bus sideswiped them, would the Canadian transit system be expected to pay for that?

If yes, then yes. If no, then no.

In either case, that's a shame! Sounds like you had a rather nice bike. I hope the frame isn't bent!
posted by aniola at 9:26 AM on November 30, 2009

common sense says that, unless your bike was IN THE ROAD (you didn't say), they should be responsible for the damage. I don't think the car-bike analogy works.
posted by HuronBob at 9:30 AM on November 30, 2009

I'm pretty sure the moving vehicle is always at fault. Drivers are supposed to look where they're going.

If the TTC doesn't cough up, maybe you can go to Small Claims Court?
posted by musofire at 9:31 AM on November 30, 2009

You might ask to have this thread anonymized, as you've pretty much conceded you were at at least partly at fault ("I stupidly locked my bike...").

IANYL, and I don't practice law in Canada. You might ask around to find out whether 1) the bus is operated by the municipality/province etc. and 2) whether it can claim sovereign immunity. I don't practice tort law, but in the U.S. most governmental authorities can claim sovereign immunity for their actions (someone can put more gloss on this better than I). There are limits to the immunity (that seem to arise in police high speed chase scenarios), but if you've parked your bike in the path of traffic and a bus swipes it, I'd be surprised if you'd win (in the US, anyway).
posted by Admiral Haddock at 9:44 AM on November 30, 2009

Can't help you with any legal status, but if your frame is steel, then you can most likely bend it back to shape. I work with a framebuilder, and should no tubes be crimped or bulged, frame alignment isn't that difficult to do, and should cost much, much lower than $1500. Bummer about your wheel.
posted by stachemaster at 9:46 AM on November 30, 2009

IANAL, but, re: Admiral Haddock's suggestions, 1) the TTC operated by the municipality but 2) no, I don't there's not anything like sovereign immunity in play here IMHO.

Was you bike on the sidewalk? If so, I don't think it matters if it was locked to a proper post-and-ring as opposed to a garbage can. If the bus ran up over the curb and crunched your bike, I think the TTC should be liable. The question would be proof. If they won't cough up partial payment, Small Claims Court would be the the thing to do.
posted by onshi at 9:52 AM on November 30, 2009

Thanks for the clarification, onshi.

OP, I'd still get this anonymized if I were you. I don't think "stupid to walk down that dark alley" is a helpful gloss on your post. A quick bit of googling suggests that Ontario has a comparative negligence statute that would reduce your potential recovery if you sue by the percentage amount that your own negligence contributed to the damage. I.e., if a court/jury concludes you and the driver were each 50% responsible for the damage, you would get only half of your $1800 ($300+1500). But you didn't do anything stupidly, right? You carefully locked up your bike, like any reasonable person would do. And because you were not at fault at all, you deserve the full $1800. Right?

Not legal advice, IANYL, IANYCanuck.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 10:23 AM on November 30, 2009

If someone parked a car in a thing that looked like a parking space but wasn't really and a bus sideswiped them, would the Canadian transit system be expected to pay for that?

I'm pretty sure that there is no legal definition of a bike "parking space" in any jurisdiction, let alone Toronto.

I would think that if that bus clipped a person standing there, bent a pole or damaged the garbage can and there were witnesses to it that called the driver on it and photos were taken, they would be held responsible.

The gut reaction of you being responsible for damage to your bicycle while parked (I assume) ON THE SIDEWALK is a bit ridiculous. And "stupid to walk down that alley" is victim blaming, so it kind of fits...
posted by urbanlenny at 10:45 AM on November 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

The only question that really matters is: was the bike on the road? I.e. was the garbage can you locked the bike to in the road, or did you lock the bike in such a way that it was protruding off pedestrian space and into the road? If not, then the TTC is definitely responsible.

Now I don't know the specifics about the TTC, but Translink in Vancouver definitely isn't immune from responsibility for at-fault damage. In the public's mind, the confusion might arise out of the fact that Translink vehicles aren't covered by traditional retail auto-insurance. They are self-insured, i.e. they have a budget to cover any settlements they have to pay.

You should definitely pursue this, and threaten to take them to small claims court. Quite likely if you appear serious about it, then they will settle upfront to avoid the legal costs, especially since $300 for a bicycle wheel is peanuts to them.
posted by randomstriker at 12:32 PM on November 30, 2009

Oh and I'm not a lawyer, just very experienced with fighting to get my wrecked bikes paid for. Unfortunately.
posted by randomstriker at 12:34 PM on November 30, 2009

Is it possible that when you locked it up it was standing up nicely entirely on the footpath, but sometime later it got bumped/wind hit it/shifted slightly and it began to overhang the road?

This sometimes happens to my bike, espescially when loking it to a single metal thin-ish sign post.

If so, no longer entirely the bus drivers fault.

If you are confident it was hit while entirely on the footpath, I'm sure with the right mount of polite arguing the bus company will have to provide some compensation.
posted by trialex at 4:07 PM on November 30, 2009

Comparative negligence may reduce your award somewhat, but there is no way that a driver who hits a stationary object does not share some of the fault, parked illegally or no. You just have to decide if it's worth your time to go after them for some (possibly small) compensation or not.
posted by ctmf at 5:19 PM on November 30, 2009

« Older Flying out of the other Birmingham   |   Jung for the Fool? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.