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Crashed your motorcycle? What happens next?

BikeSocial Road Tester. As one half of Front End Chatter, Britain’s longest-running biking podcast, Simon H admits in same way some people have a face for radio, he has a voice for writing.



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We’ve all fallen off a motorbike; if not recently, it’s happened before, and it could again. Not something we like to think about, for obvious reasons – but the best way to know what to do afterwards is to plan for it. And that, my friends, is why we are gathered here today.


Do I need to call the police after a motorcycle accident or crash?

Not necessarily. If it’s just you on your backside, uninjured, at the side of the road with your mates laughing at you, the police don’t need to be called.

Similarly, if you’ve had a collision with another vehicle, if no-one is injured, the road isn’t blocked and no-one is suspected of causing an offence, the police don’t need to be called. But if an ambulance is required, police will also attend the scene.

There are different phone numbers for calling the police: for example, if someone involved in the accident has left the scene without giving details, if you are having trouble getting details or if an animal or property is involved, the police should be informed by calling 101 (the police number that doesn’t require an emergency response).

But you should call 999 if someone is in danger, is seriously injured, if the road is blocked or if you think an offence has been committed (i.e. you suspect someone has been drinking or caused the accident by driving dangerously).


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What details do I exchange after a motorcycle accident or crash?

If another vehicle or damage to property is involved, you should exchange names, vehicle reg numbers, contact details (phone, address and email) and names of insurers. If the police attend, make a note of the incident reference number. Also take contact details of witnesses.

Mobile phones are very useful: record conversations, shoot video where possible, and take photos of the vehicles, surroundings, road conditions – anything that records the scene and might help as evidence. If you can’t use a phone or it’s broken, ask a friend or witness to help. The more evidence you gather, the better.

Never admit liability (or even say ‘sorry’), don’t make accusations, and don’t get into an argument. Many times, drivers are so shocked by being involved with a motorcycle, they will automatically apologise. It sounds harsh in the moment, but it’s worth getting that recorded if you can.


Can I ride my motorbike after an accident or crash?

It depends, there are four things to think about:

  • is your kit fit to ride in?

  • are you fit to ride?

  • is your bike legally and safely rideable?

  • is your bike still insured?



Should I replace my crash helmet after an accident or crash?

Because helmets are a critical part of rider safety and it’s not always possible to tell if they’re internally damaged, advice on wearing them after a crash is usually – and rightly – pretty much a no-no. It’s not worth the risk.

If your helmet hits anything with any force – the ground, the bike, a tree – assume it’s unsafe to use again. The EPS (expanded polystyrene) lining – the bit that absorbs and spreads the impact – is one-use only and may be compromised; if it is (and it’s not always possible to easily see damage) it won’t do the same job twice. Which means next time it’s your skull and brain that does the absorbing instead.

The helmet’s outer shell, which absorbs some of the impact, may also be damaged – this is normally obvious with a scuff, scrape or even cracking. If the helmet looks visibly damaged, it’s unsafe to use.

Common sense says there will be times in a minor spill when a helmet doesn’t touch the ground at all, or is very lightly scraped in a less-critical area such as the edge of the chin bar or on a vent. It’s hard to keep track of what happens in a crash, but if you’re completely certain your helmet hasn’t hit anything and there’s no damage to the body of the helmet, then it may be safe to use. The responsibility – and the risk – lies with you. Worth remembering it's illegal to wear a crash helmet that doesn’t conform to safety standards and if you’re stopped by police and have a splintered helmet, no visor and the chin bar hanging off, you won’t be riding any further.

There’s no legal requirement in the UK to wear any other protective clothing on a bike, so it’s legal to ride in shredded jeans and holed gloves. Although if you damaged them like that falling off, it might not be the smartest move.



Should I ride after a motorcycle accident or crash?

Immediately after a crash, a surge of adrenaline (and pride) may temporarily block mild pain and discomfort – so don’t leap up and ride off immediately. Find somewhere safe to sit down and give your body time to tell you which bits hurt and by how much.

It should be obvious if you’re in a fit state to carry on riding – if you can’t walk or haven’t got a full range of movement in shoulders, arms, wrists, fingers and neck, it’s not safe to ride because you won’t have full control. If you’re in pain, you won’t be able to fully concentrate.

Concussion is harder to self-diagnose, but the condition of your helmet is a good guide – if you’re concussed, your lid will be damaged. Give yourself time to assess how you feel, and never ride if you feel dizzy, nauseous or your vision is compromised after a crash.



Is my motorbike safe to ride after an accident or crash?

The main issue with a crashed bike is damage interfering with control. You’ll need to check:

  • free steering (ie straight wheels and forks, nothing physically preventing the bars moving full lock-to-lock)

  • handlebars and foot pegs are properly attached

  • full control and performance of both brakes (levers attached, full pressure, no damage to brake lines)

  • working headlights, rear lights and brake lights

  • a working clutch

  • a working speedo (lots of people forget this)

  • a self-closing throttle (not jammed with dirt etc)

  • free spinning wheels (nothing jamming or rubbing against the tyres)

  • no fluid loss (petrol, coolant, oil, brake fluid – check radiator, oil cooler and petrol tank for damage) and none on the tyres

  • correctly inflated tyres and no damage to wheel spokes or rims

You should also be aware that the condition of a crashed bike could change as you ride it – you need to make sure brake lever strength isn’t compromised (give the lever a couple of full pressure squeezes) because you don’t want it snapping the first time you use it. Similarly, check the handlebars aren’t cracked or weakened – having a clip-on come off while you’re riding is no fun.

In terms of cosmetics, watch out for broken fairing potentially coming loose and jamming bars or in the forks and limiting steering. Make sure panels are fully secured, the seat is attached, and any luggage or accessories aren’t likely to fly open or fall off. Leaving a trail of parts behind you, Whacky Racers-style, isn’t cool for other road users.

Not every rider is an expert in crash damage assessment, so the golden rule is: if you’re in doubt, don’t ride it.



Is it legal to ride a crashed bike?

It depends on the severity of the damage – and the legal responsibility to assess its condition lies in the first instance with the rider. In the eyes of the law, the bike has to be roadworthy and not in a dangerous condition. The specific wording in the 1988 Road Traffic Act is:
“A person is guilty of an offence if he uses a motor vehicle on a road when the condition of the motor vehicle is such that the use of the motor vehicle involves a danger of injury to any person.” [abbreviated]

This allows a wide interpretation and calls into use the ‘reasonable person’ test – what a reasonable member of the public would deem dangerous. Most police would interpret this as the bike being capable of passing an MoT and complying with Construction and Use regulations. However, they aren’t about to conduct a full MoT at the roadside and wouldn’t expect you to either – they’ll be looking for obvious signs of a lack of roadworthiness. At a bare minimum, the brakes have to work, steering must be unimpaired, it must have front and rear lights including brake lights, and a visible reg plate.

In addition, if the police notice broken bodywork, bits hanging off, anything likely to detach itself while riding, they’ll want it to be secure – so make use of cable ties, bungees or gaffa tape if you happen to have them or are in walking distance of a garage.

Another police consideration on whether to stop you riding the bike will be because they’re the ones who have to explain their actions if they let a crashed bike continue to be ridden with just a warning, and it then goes on to have another accident. So if they think it looks dangerous, regardless of what you think, they’ll stop you riding.

But ultimately, the first decision to ride a crashed bike is yours. Knowingly riding a bike in a dangerous condition could leave you open to a charge of dangerous driving. A bike with just a scraped fairing is roadworthy; a bike with bent forks, bust brake levers and restricted steering is not.


Is my bike still insured to ride away from the roadside after an accident or crash?

In an immediate post-crash roadside scenario in which no third parties are involved, no property is damaged and the emergency services have not been called – and if you judge your bike would reasonably be described as in roadworthy condition (and thus legal to ride home – see the conditions described above), the next question will be:

Am I still insured while I’m riding home, or carrying on with my journey?

It’s important to be precise about the meaning of the question – this is specifically about whether you’re insured to ride onwards with the legal minimum of insurance cover – Third Party – rather than any intention (or not) you have of making a claim on the damage your bike may have incurred in the crash. Making a claim (for example if you have a comprehensive policy) is a personal choice – you’re not obliged to if you don’t want to – so whether you do or not (balancing the likely cost of repair against losing a no claims bonus and/or subsequent premium increase) is up to you.

So – will a crashed but roadworthy bike maintain the minimum level of insurance cover to ride on the road?

The good news is, if you are insured with Bennetts, then unequivocally yes; you will be insured. And, generally speaking, in the majority of cases this will likely be true for most insurance brokers and underwriters: if the bike is roadworthy (ie safe to ride, see above) then it will be insured. If the bike isn’t roadworthy, it will be illegal to ride and won’t be insured.

However, different brokers and insurers have different policy wording and procedures – and although it’s uncommon, it’s not unknown for a policy to contain an exception clause limiting your cover in respect to any further damage to your bike following an accident. If your policy contains this kind of exception to your cover, then a second accident involving a third party immediately following a first accident could potentially be problematic.

The key takeaway here is (as always) that much depends on the fine detail in your policy – which is why it’s important to actually read the paperwork, impenetrable as it may be.

For the purposes of making a claim or having a claim made against you, insurance companies will expect you to contact them in the event of an accident ‘as soon as reasonably possible’. That could reasonably be said to be as soon as you get home rather than while you’re pulling grass from your fairing at the roadside – you might not have a phone with you, it might be broken, there might be no reception, or you might not have your insurance details with you.



If my bike isn’t roadworthy after an accident or crash, how do I get it recovered?

With thanks to SOS Motorcycle Recovery, specialist nationwide motorcycle recovery with 74 vehicles covering the whole of Great Britain. They’re on 01476 584840

Sat at the roadside, uninjured and without having had to call the emergency services, but with an unroadworthy bike – you need to get it (and you) recovered. You have a few options, depending on the type of your insurance cover (another reason why you should read your policy, and make sure you have contact details stored on your phone).

Your first option – and this is the one many riders use if their crash is relatively local – is to phone a friend, or a friend of a friend with a van, and get them to help. Or, if you aren’t covered, or you don’t have your insurance details on you, or you just want your bike collected and taken home or to a garage – then most large towns will have local 24/7 vehicle recovery services (find the nearest one on Google). Call the recovery service, give them your location and any other relevant details. It’s important for them to know if the bike is wheel-able – if it isn’t, it could cause issues when the van arrives (or risk it being winched up a trailer on its side!). Costs obviously vary depending on where you are, and where you need the bike transporting to – it’s the distance and the time, on top of the call-out charge. If you’ve had to go to hospital or are unable to be with the bike when it’s recovered, unattended bikes can still be collected – but you’ll have to arrange leaving the keys where the recovery driver can find them (most will tell you it’s best not to leave them with the police because they’ll have to then go and find the officer who’s got them). Response times vary according to your location, but can be anything from half an hour to several hours.

However, if you have comprehensive insurance, then you will almost always have roadside recovery incorporated in your policy – call the number supplied in your documents (which is why you need to read it and keep the number in your phone; for Bennetts, it’s 0330 018 9166) and your insurer will either take your details and call their preferred recovery service, or possibly give you a phone number to arrange yourself.

If you have a Bennetts comprehensive policy, the call handler is trained to check you are okay, check you are safe, will then go through a short process of identifying your policy – and then will contact and organise the recovery service for you, taking the trouble off your hands. You then will be updated by call or text on the recovery time.

If, however, you have Third Party or TPF&T cover and you contact your insurer, the call handler will identify the type of cover you have and take details of the accident. During the call, an assessment will be made of whose fault the incident is – if the accident is your fault and no other vehicle was involved (and thus, because of your level of cover, you won’t be able to make a claim), the call handler is likely to at least assist you with the phone number of a recovery service. The cost will be yours, and there may be cheaper alternatives, but you will have a number to call.

If there is a question of blame – for instance, there is a third party involved and the accident was clearly not your fault – then despite having a lower level of cover, depending on the policy the call handler could either organise recovery, or organise recovery for a fee (which you aren’t obliged to use; you can find someone cheaper yourself). This will all be made clear to you on the phone.

Big thank you to Simon Roberts, Senior Commercial Manager at Bennetts, for his help with this feature.



How I got my bike recovered – your stories

“Here’s my Aprilia 125 just two months after I bought it! I was riding home from work and came around a lovely sweeping right hander to find a lovely woman who decided she wanted to pull out in front of me (whilst looking me in the eyes) and then emergency brake in the middle of the road once she realised what she was doing. 

“I hit her at 40mph and head butted the A pillar. I was flipped onto my back and onto her windscreen, and slid down her bonnet to land on my feet. I walked away and sat on the kerb with only severe brushing to my groin and stomach, and a broken scaphoid. I was very lucky; my gear saved my life.

“My mate turned up in his Transit, and a passer-by and a paramedic helped load the bike into his van. Safe to say it was a write-off as I'd sheared the petrol tank bolts off with my special area! The driver was shaken up and admitted it was her fault, but I was trying to calm her down and explain accidents happen and that I was okay. A bike can be replaced!”

Ben Kennell



“It was around 1996 and I had recently treated myself to a ‘one careful owner’, ten month-old Urban Tiger FireBlade. I went to visit my grandfather on the south coast to show off my recent purchase, but heading home towards Reading I managed to hit a patch of ‘inexperience’ and found myself four feet deep in a ditch, still sitting on the bike. After wrestling myself and the stricken Blade out of said ditch I sat for a while contemplating my lucky escape and wondering how much damage I’d done to the bike. After gathering my thoughts I called the AA (I was a member) and they duly transported me and the all but written-off bike back home. Happy days.”

Jez Weaver



“Crash story 1: Fazer 600, went into the side of a taxi in Camden (his fault, he admitted it, not important). Forks bent back so far the wheel was nearly touching the radiator. Snapped indicator. Rode it 35 miles home, steering was very twitchy, shall we say. Perfectly fine in a straight line though!

“Crash story 2: CB500 borrowed from a mate. Riding up a bus lane, BMW decided to turn right across me without looking. Blamed me as he had his indicator on. My gear lever bent in and was trapped. Held the clutch in, and pushed it into the next street where there was a car workshop. They stuck a crowbar in it and bent the shifter back. Rode it home. That bike went on to be ploughed into the back of a truck, then raced in the Thundersport series. 

“Crash story 3: VFR750. Bottom of the A1 at the Apex Corner roundabout, car cut in front of me on the slip road, I went into the back of it. Bent the forks, man-bits went into the tank at about 40mph. Bike was probably okay, I wasn't. Called a friend who put me in touch with another friend who had a van. They picked me up and drove me home. 

“Crash story 4: Tracer 900. Lost the front in a country lane, bike went up the bank and barrel-rolled (have you ever seen road rash on the top of a top box?). Givi crash bars saved the engine and frame but the headlight brace was bent around, couldn't point the bars straight. A nice person stopped and I was only a couple miles from work. I borrowed their wheel-nut spanner to bend the frame out of the way, put the parts in the top box and carried on my commute. Rode it home fine at the end of the day, there were a lot of other things needed fixing though.”

Mian Cowell



“Last year I had a bit of moment on my Street Triple, when I went off the road into a ditch. My non-Bennetts insurance had an impressive name, and included breakdown recovery (but not accident recovery – there’s a difference, as it turns out). Calling them from the roadside, the insurance company very efficiently organised recovery of the bike, which was unrideable. I was in too much pain to ride even if the bike had been fit.

“I was told the bike would go to a local garage before onward passage to the claims management company 4th Dimension. When I asked about recovery of me, I was told my policy didn’t cover this. The best they could do was take me to the nearest train station, or up to a maximum of ten miles. I was about 60 miles from home, covered in mud with all my bike gear, struggling to walk and with serious back pain. I knew I wasn’t properly broken and in need of an ambulance, but I was in no fit state to make my own way home via several trains.

“I managed to source a lift from a good mate who’d just finished work, but the lack of support for me as the rider came as a real surprise. I wasn’t prepared for it, and assumed I’d be taken home with the bike by the recovery company. I also wasn’t prepared for the admin nightmare that followed. Thankfully I wasn’t badly injured – I’m not sure how I could have managed to navigate all the separate claims myself if I’d been stuck in hospital. I naively assumed my insurance company would deal with all that on my behalf, but apparently not this particular one. I spent ages on numerous emails and phone calls over several weeks, completing many different forms, to personally liaise with the following four separate companies.

“So lots of lessons learned; the main one being not to crash in the first place, but also to have a plan for what to do in the event of an accident given you may well be left stranded at the roadside when your bike is recovered!”

Stephen Rawson