If you’re a cyclist, being involved in an accident is scary, especially if it’s between your bike and a car. Fortunately, it doesn’t happen often. But if you end up a bicycle-car collision, it’s important to know what you should do immediately after a crash in order to protect your rights and your ability to recover damages for injuries and your property.
Follow these steps when possible after a bike accident to give yourself the best chance of resolving the situation with insurance companies, or in a lawsuit.
Wait for the police
The absolute worst thing you can do regarding a bike-auto accident is to leave the scene before the police arrive. This can cause several problems, including:
- You may be injured without realizing it — many cyclists aren’t aware they’ve been hurt until several hours after the crash, and some injuries that seem minor may develop into permanent problems
- Your side of the story won’t be included in the police report
- You may not be able to identify the at-fault driver at a later date
While you’re waiting for the police, don’t try to negotiate with the driver or settle the accident right there. Often, drivers involved in bicycle-car accidents will apologize and accept blame on the scene, but later deny they were at fault. Some drivers even claim they weren’t present at the accident when the cyclist has left the scene before police arrive.
Give your version of events to police
At the scene of any accident, the police are required to document everything in writing. Pay attention to the accident report, particularly if the police issue a ticket to the driver. This can be helpful in settling a case with an insurance company or court.
Sometimes police will only take a statement from the motorist and won’t ask the cyclist any questions. If you haven’t been questioned at the scene, tell the police that you’d like to include your side for the accident report and be sure to report all of your injuries, even if they seem minor at the time.
If the police refuse to take your statement, you can have the accident report amended at a later date, usually by working with an experienced personal injury attorney.
Gather as much information as possible
Many people involved in an accident believe that the police report will document all of the relevant information, but this is not always the case. If you can, get the motorist’s name, address, contact information, driver’s license and vehicle license number.
You should also try to collect names and contact information from anyone who may have witnessed the accident. If you’ve been injured, ask a bystander to help you collect this information.
In these cases, it may be useful to take pictures (using your camera phone) of the scene and any evidence such as license and insurance card as well as any physical injuries, damage to your bike and/or the intersection or road where the accident occurred.
Preserve the evidence
Physical evidence can be important in a bicycle-car accident, so leave your bike and any other damaged property alone after the accident. Don’t try to fix anything or inspect anything. Also, don’t wash the clothing you were wearing, and don’t give your bike, helmet, or any other damaged equipment to anyone except your attorney. You should also take pictures of the bike and other equipment.
Document your injuries
Immediately seek medical attention after a bike-auto accident, even if you’ve only sustained minor injuries. The medical records will serve as proof that you were injured, as well as document the extent of your injuries. You should also document your injuries and the events of the accident yourself, to the best of your abilities. Write down what happened as soon as possible, and include descriptions and photos of your injuries.
Work with a professional
Whether you plan to take your case to an insurance company or file a lawsuit against the motorist, it’s important to consult an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible. There are many complex legal issues surrounding bike accidents, and a knowledgeable lawyer can help you decide how to proceed. Do not try to contact insurance companies until you’ve spoken with a lawyer.
In some cases, you may be eligible for more compensation than you would get from an insurance company. So, it is always a good idea to speak with an attorney about your circumstances before settling a claim.