A cycling collision with a car, truck, or roadway hazard can result in serious injuries. In the event you’re hurt in a collision, you can file a personal injury claim with the driver’s insurance company. The following tips will help you build a strong bicycle accident claim, and get fair compensation for your damages.
1. Take Action at the Scene
Always call 911 and report the accident, just as you would an auto collision. Ask for an ambulance if you’ve been injured.
Take down the driver’s personal and insurance information. You’ll need his name, address and telephone number. Don’t forget his insurance company’s name, phone number, and the policy number. You’ll need this information to file a bike accident claim with his auto insurer.
Don’t Discuss Fault
Anything you say may be used against you during settlement negotiations. Other than securing contact and insurance information from the driver, reserve your statements for the police officers dispatched to the scene. They will create a police report, which you can later use as evidence.
Ask the police for the service or reference number of the police report. The report should be available a few days after the collision for a nominal fee. It’s easier to get a copy if you already have the service or reference number.
Look for Witnesses
Point out to the officers any witnesses to the bicycle/car accident. The police should take their statements. If you don’t let the officers know who they are, you may lose the opportunity to have their statements included in the police report.
Get Medical Treatment
Accept medical care or transport to the emergency room. Immediately after a collision, your blood and adrenaline will be pumping. Adrenaline suppresses pain, and can even mask serious injuries.
You only have one chance to receive medical care right after a collision, so take it. Don’t be a tough guy (or girl). Let the paramedics and doctors decide how seriously you’re injured.
2. Gather Evidence to Build Your Case
Use a camera or your cell phone to take as many photos of the collision scene as possible. Include any broken parts from the car and your bicycle. Photograph skid marks, street signs, guardrails, or other objects that were damaged during the collision. Also take pictures of your injuries, and any torn or bloodied clothing.
More About Witness Statements
After pointing out any witnesses to the police, try to get their contact information yourself. See if they will write a brief statement at the scene about what they saw, and ask them to sign and date each page. If your injuries prevent you from speaking to witnesses, ask a good Samaritan to help.
Listen for any statements against interest the driver may make right after the collision. Motorists will often apologize for striking a bicyclist, saying things alike, “I’m sorry, I just didn’t see you,” or “It’s my fault.” Those are considered “res gestae” statements, and can be later admitted as evidence.
Check for Hazardous Road Conditions
If you collided with an object in the road, such as broken pavement, note the exact area where you were injured. Look for mile markers, street signs, and other landmarks. If you have a camera or cell phone, take photographs of the scene that include reference points like stores, cross street signs, and other identifiers.
This information will help you determine whether the state, or your local municipality was responsible for the roadway’s maintenance.
Once determined, you can file an injury claim with the responsible division of government; but do it quickly. Some state and county governments require injury claims to be filed in as little as 30 days after the accident.
3. Take Good Notes and Follow-up with Treatment
As soon as possible after the collision, write a detailed account of everything you can remember. Leave nothing out. It’s always better to have too much, rather than too little information. It’s common to forget important information after just a few days, and bicycle accident claims can take months, sometimes even years to settle.
Follow-up with any medical treatment ordered by the emergency room physician. If you didn’t go to the hospital immediately after the accident, see your primary care doctor as soon as possible. Adrenaline often masks the pain of serious injury.
If you wait too long to seek treatment, the at-fault driver’s insurance company may claim your injuries were caused by some other event. The only way to keep that from happening is to seek medical care immediately after the accident.
Don’t Dismiss the Accident
Treat a bicycle accident with the same gravity as a car accident. Too many motorists believe colliding with a bicycle doesn’t really count. The driver may slow down to see what happened, or drive away, blaming the cyclist for being in the road. If a motorist doesn’t stop after injuring a cyclist, it’s a felony hit and run. If this happens, alert the police immediately.
Don’t be distracted by the regret a motorist may express after a collision. Although well-meaning, their sorrow won’t pay your medical bills and other damages. Your initial reaction might be to want to forgive a motorist for hitting you, especially when the apology seems sincere. Don’t do it.
In nine out of ten bicycle accident claims, the driver won’t have to reimburse the injured cyclist out of their own pocket. Personal injury compensation comes from the driver’s insurance company, not from their personal assets.
See an example of a bicycle-car accident demand letter here.
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