On July 18th, I posted here about the CTA’s lowball offer to compensate me for their damage to my bike when the bus’s bike rack failed, throwing my bike onto the street and under the bus. I have since settled this case with the CTA, so I hereby provide an update as a cautionary tale!
The law: When a bike suffers damage because of a faulty bike rack, the law states that the CTA is liable for the cost of the repairs or the fair market value of the bike, whichever is less. A statement from a knowledgeable bike shop establishes the fair market value, namely what the bike could have sold for before the accident.
The CTA’s process:
- The CTA didn’t even document who I was and what happened to the bike at the scene of the accident, even when their bus was out of service for 2 hours, and while CTA personnel galore attended their out-of-service bus and driver.
- Nor was CTA Claims particularly forthcoming what evidence they wanted. After I filed my claim, CTA Claims initially wasted my time by telling me I needed to get repair estimates from several bike shops. I questioned that expectation on two counts: first, because my bike was not rideable, did they expect me to incur more transit expense to shop the bike around? and second, for what purpose—were they going to tell me which shop to use on the basis of the estimates? CTA Claims then relented on the multiple estimates “requirement”.
- CTA Claims also distinguished itself by conducting all of the above communications by phone, so there are no written records of the foregoing.
- After the repair, I supplied $535 worth of repair costs. The CTA offered me only $150. They based that figure on the low value of a vintage frame and in total disregard of all the damaged/destroyed accessories.
- In making their lowball offer of $150, CTA Claims further distinguished themselves by demanding that I respond within 10 (ten) days of the letter's date, and then mailing the letter so that it was postmarked well into that 10 (ten) day period!
- I appealed that lowball offer because they were offering to pay me for exactly that which did not get damaged. My appeal included a fair market value statement that exceeded the repair costs. Nevertheless, the CTA still ignored the law, and offered me only $300, calling it a “good faith offer”, and justifying it again by defining my bike as the frame only! It’s clear the CTA knows full well what they are doing and offers the minimum necessary to avoid small claims court.
Lessons I Learned
- Don’t become complacent with the CTA bus’s bike racks, as I did. The racks do fail and it isn’t obvious when they’re broken.
- Expect the CTA to be careless, and to disregard the law/ the evidence when it’s expedient to do so. Frame value in bike blue book? Done, case closed, offer bike rider just enough to make small claims court not worthwhile.
Ensure their racks work. While doing so, entertain visions of the bus delay mayhem that would ensue if our bicyclist-selves shared, and acted upon!--the CTA’s definition of a bike, which is limited to the value as found in the bike blue book: “Uh, excuse me driver, but I’d best remove my fenders, seat, seat bag, lights, handlebar wraps, etc., because the CTA doesn’t consider these things inherent in their definition of “bike”, since these items are absent from the bike blue book, and therefore the CTA can wreck them without financial consequences.”