What to do if you’re hit by a car?
As cyclists, we’re all very aware of the reality that we will be involved in a bike wreck at some point. We’ve all had close calls with cars, but fortunately, most cycling accidents don’t involve vehicles. However, in the event that you are ever involved in an accident with a car, there are some important things you should make sure to do in the aftermath of the crash. The actions you take could affect how much you receive for your injuries and damage done to your bike, including the outcome of any lawsuits that may result.
While there is no magic formula, there are some key actions you should take.
Always Call 9-1-1
We all know cyclists are some of the toughest athletes around. While you may physically seem fine after the accident, it is vital to report the accident to the police and have an accident report completed, so call 9-1-1 (it’s best to have someone call for you) as soon after the accident as possible, wait for the police to arrive and insist that an accident report be completed, even if you do not think you are injured. Some cyclists do not realize that they have been injured for several hours after the accident and in some cases not until the next day. Sometimes seemingly minor injuries later develop into something more serious and even permanent, and failing to have an accident report completed may mean you never find and identify the at-driver.
After the accident occurs, it is natural for you to speak with the driver of the vehicle. However, do not re-hash your version of what happened or admit any responsibility. Also, do not attempt to negotiate with a driver who does not want to call the police. Some drivers may initially apologize and accept responsibility only to later deny any negligence or even deny that they were involved at all. Always wait for the police, so they can document everything in a report. If you’re uninjured and the officer does not want to complete a report or makes you think a report is not needed, insist it be completed anyway. In cases where the driver is found at fault, the officer may ticket the driver, which can be useful in settlements with the driver’s insurance company. Finally, for anyone who witnessed the accident, try to get them to stay at the scene until the police arrives, so they can give a statement.
Get Your Side of the Story in the Accident Report
Occasionally, the police officer will take a statement from the driver and not the cyclist. Do everything you can to get your side of the story into the accident report. If you are riding with fellow cyclists or if other drivers who witnessed the accident stopped, be sure to have the officer take their statements, as well. Be sure to report all of your injuries, no matter how minor because minor injuries may later become more serious. In the event that the police refuse to include your statement in the accident report, you should later be able to have the report amended.
Be Sure to Get Driver and Witness Contact Information
Always try to get the name of the car driver, as well as his or her address, phone number, driver’s license number, vehicle license number and insurance information. If there are any witnesses to the accident, be sure to get their contact information, too. Never assume that the accident report will include all of this information because this can often get left out. If you are injured and cannot get this information yourself, ask a riding partner or bystander to do it for you.
Document, Document, Document
If you can, make mental notes about the accident: what happened, how it happened, where it happened and when it happened. In addition, take note of the road, traffic and weather conditions. As soon after the accident as possible, write all this information down. If you have a camera, take pictures of the scene, the vehicle, the driver, your bike and any visible injuries.
After the accident, seek medical attention as soon as possible to document your injuries, no matter how minor. Seeking medical attention will serve as proof that you were injured, and medical records will document the extent of those injuries. Take photos of your injuries as soon as possible after the accident, as well as progress pictures to document the length of time it took for healing. Start a journal to write down all of your symptoms and make entries every day or two.
Do not attempt to fix or have your bike fixed after the accident until the insurance company has inspected it. Do not wash your clothing. Do not send your bike, helmet, or any other equipment to anyone other than your attorney, and do not throw away your clothes, helmet or anything else. Take photos of everything that was damaged.
Talk to an Experienced Bicycle Injury Attorney
Accidents between bikes and vehicles can be confusing and can involve complex legal issues. If your injuries are serious enough, the damage to your bike is significant or you are having trouble with the driver’s insurance company, you should always consult a personal injury attorney who has experience with cycling or who handles bike accident cases, as these attorneys can advise you on how to proceed, negotiate with the insurance companies and often times obtain higher settlements than if you attempt to handle the claim yourself, and/or represent you in a lawsuit in the event that a settlement cannot be reached, although most injury cases are settled without ever going to trial. Most bicycle injury attorneys offer free consultations and handle injury cases on a contingency fee basis, so there should be no out-of-pocket expense to you.
Finally, never communicate with the insurance company before consulting an attorney, and never agree to give a written or recorded statement until you have spoken to an attorney. Insurance adjustors may seem nice, but they are not looking out for you. They represent the insurance company, and the adjustor’s job is to settle your claim for as little money as possible, so anything you say to the insurance company may later be used against you.
**This article was written by Kayla M. Applegate with The Applegate Firm, PLLC, a Little Rock bicycle injury attorney and cyclist. Learn more about Kayla at www.TheApplegateFirm.com or contact her at 501.588.0999.