When bicyclists get into accidents with cars, it can be a scary situation. If you're the one riding the bike, it's important to keep your wits about you after the crash. Here's what to know at the outset:
It's vital that you wait for police to arrive at the accident scene so that they can take and file a police report—even if you think you're not injured.
Some cyclists don't realize they've been injured until several hours, or even days after the accident. And sometimes seemingly minor injuries later develop into serious and permanent problems. If you leave the accident scene assuming you're not hurt, and later it turns out that's not the case, you may never be able to identify the at-fault driver. Learn more about what happens when accident injuries don't show up right away.
Another advantage of waiting for the police: They may ticket the driver, which may be useful in settling the case with the insurance company.
Many drivers initially apologize and accept blame for a bike-motor vehicle traffic accident, only to later deny their negligence, or even deny they were present at the accident.
Don't engage with the driver, or anyone else involved with the accident, beyond asking for their driver's license and insurance information (more on this later on). Learn more about why it's important to watch what you say at the scene of an accident.
Sometimes, the police officer will take a statement from the motorist and not bother to talk to the cyclist. Do everything you can to get your side of the story into the police report. And by all means, report all of your injuries, no matter how minor. Remember, those minor injuries may later become more serious.
If, despite your efforts, the police refuse to include your statement in the accident report, you can later have the report amended.
If possible, get the name of the automobile driver, as well as his or her address, phone number, driver's license number, vehicle license number, and insurance information.
In addition, try to get names and contact information for everyone who witnessed the accident. Don't assume the police report will include all of this information—it might not. If you're injured and can't get this information yourself, ask a bystander to do it for you.
If you can, make mental notes about the accident: what happened; how it happened; where it occurred; when it occurred; and road, traffic, and weather conditions. Then, as soon as you're able, write all this information down. Learn more about the importance of taking notes after an accident or injury.)
Seek immediate medical attention for your accident-related injuries, even if they're minor. The fact that you sought medical attention will serve as proof that you were injured, and medical records will document the extent of those injuries. Have several photos taken of your injuries as soon as possible after the accident. Start a journal of your physical symptoms and make entries every few days.
Leave your bike and other damaged property in the same state as after the accident—don't attempt to fix anything or have anything inspected. Don't wash your clothing. And don't send your bike, helmet, or any other equipment to anyone other than your attorney. Take photos of your damaged equipment. Learn more about preserving evidence in a personal injury case.)
Many accidents between bikes and cars involve complex legal issues. You may want to consult a personal injury attorney who understands bicycling or has handled bike accident cases. An experienced legal professional can:
Don't communicate with the insurance companies before consulting an attorney. Anything you say to the insurance company could be used against you later. Sometimes a letter from an attorney to the insurance company will resolve issues while avoiding legal pitfalls. In fact, most injury cases are settled without ever going to trial.
If the case warrants it, your attorney can hire a bike accident expert to investigate the accident. That person might obtain skid mark measurements, photograph the scene, speak with additional witnesses, or measure and diagram the accident scene.
Learn more about how an attorney can help with an injury claim. And for detailed information about bike accidents, including how to avoid them, get Bicycling & The Law: Your Rights as a Cyclist, by Bob Mionske (Velo Press).