If you’ve been hit by a car while riding your bike, you can file an insurance claim for compensation. Here’s how to build a strong bicycle accident claim.
Over 45,000 bicyclists are injured or killed each year by collisions with motor vehicles.¹
A cycling collision with a car, truck, or roadway hazard can result in serious injuries. Your bike gets wrecked, and your physical recovery could take months. What are your options?
You always want to ride your bike safely and avoid hazards. But when you’ve been injured in a bicycle accident caused by someone else, you deserve compensation for your property damage, personal injuries, pain and suffering.
Following these steps will help you build a strong bike accident claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company.
Step 1. Gather Evidence at the Scene
Always call 911 after an accident with a motor vehicle. Tell the dispatcher you were hit by a car while riding a bike, if you’re injured, the location of the accident, and if the car that hit you fled the scene.
Get the At-fault Driver’s Information
If you can, ask the at-fault driver for their:
- Full name and contact information
- Auto insurance company and policy number
- Driver’s license or permit
You’ll also need vehicle information:
- Make, model, and year
- Vehicle Identification Number (VIN)
- License plate number
Watch What You Say
Don’t be distracted by apologies from the at-fault driver. Your initial reaction might be to forgive a motorist for hitting you, especially when the apology seems sincere. Or worse yet, you may say something like, “I should have been more careful.” Don’t do it.
Comments like, “It’s okay” or “I’m all right” are what lawyers and insurance companies call admissions against interest. The at-fault driver’s insurance company will use those remarks against you to deny or limit your claim.
Anything you say may be used against you during settlement negotiations. Other than asking for 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.
Here’s how to Determine Fault After a Bicycle-Car Accident.
Write it All Down
At the same time, pay close attention to admissions of fault by the driver who hit you.
Make detailed notes for yourself as soon as possible after the crash, while it’s fresh in your mind. Include everything the other driver or passengers said. Admissions made by the driver can help establish fault for the accident.
Leave nothing out. It’s always better to have too much, rather than too little information. It’s common to forget critical details after just a few days, and bicycle accident claims can take months, sometimes even years to settle.
Look for Witnesses
Point out to the officers any witnesses to the bicycle-car accident. 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.
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. Ask them to sign and date each page.
If your injuries prevent you from speaking to witnesses, ask a good Samaritan to help.
Check for Hazardous Road Conditions
If you crashed your bike because of obstacles or damage in the roadway, such as broken pavement or potholes, 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.
Location information will help you determine whether the state or your local municipality was responsible for the roadway’s maintenance.
Once you’ve identified the roadway jurisdiction, you can file an injury claim with the responsible division of government. Do it quickly. Some state and county governments require injury claims to be filed in as little as 30 days after the accident.
Use a camera or your cell phone to take as many pictures and videos of the accident scene as possible.
Include any broken parts from the car and your bicycle. Photograph skid marks, street signs, guardrails, or other objects damaged during the collision. Also take pictures of your injuries, and any torn or bloodied clothing.
Don’t make your injuries worse by trying to collect evidence after the crash. Worsening your injuries is not good for you and can backfire on your claim. If you’re badly hurt, ask someone else to take pictures of the scene.
Step 2: Get Treatment and Document Injuries
Most personal injury settlement offers are based on the claimant’s medical bills. Getting prompt medical treatment and documenting your injuries is essential to building a strong bike accident claim.
Never refuse medical care at the scene. Immediately after a collision, your blood and adrenaline will be pumping. Adrenaline suppresses pain and can even mask serious injuries.
This isn’t the time to be stoic. Tell the paramedics about every symptom, no matter how mild. Don’t make excuses for your symptoms by blaming age or conditioning. If the paramedics want to take you to the hospital, go with them.
Follow-up with 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, preferably the same day. If your personal physician isn’t available, go to the hospital emergency room or an urgent care center.
Refusing or delaying treatment after an accident will seriously undermine your claim, even if you end up flat on your back later. The insurance company will jump at the chance to deny your claim by arguing your injuries are unrelated to the accident.
Continue to take pictures of your injuries throughout your recovery. Bruises and swelling often develop over several days. Road rashes scab and weep.
If you’re in the hospital, ask someone to take a picture of you in the hospital bed. Injury photos can help convince a jury of your pain and suffering if your case ends up in court.
Step 3. Protect the Value of Your Claim
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 on 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.
In nine out of ten bike accident claims, the driver won’t have to reimburse the injured cyclist out of their own pocket. Personal injury compensation comes from the at-fault driver’s insurance company, not from their personal assets.
Organized Paperwork Helps Your Claim
Ask the responding officer for the police report reference number. The report should be available a few days after the collision for a nominal fee.
For an injury claim, you’ll need copies of your medical bills and records, and receipts for any out-of-pocket expenses like crutches, medications, and bandages. Track your mileage when you go to treatment or therapy appointments, as you can submit those records, too.
Well-organized supporting documentation of your injury expenses will boost the value of your claim.
Dealing with the Insurance Company
Being hit by a car while riding your bike is traumatic, even if you walk away from the crash. If your damages are limited to soft-tissue injuries like scrapes, bruises, sprains, or minor cuts, you can probably settle your claim for a fair amount of compensation without the help of an attorney.
Soft-tissue injury claims are often straightforward. They settle for the combined cost of your medical and therapy bills, out-of-pocket expenses, lost wages, and a limited amount for pain and suffering.
Hard injury claims are a different story. Bike riders often suffer hard injuries from car accidents, like head trauma, spinal cord injuries, permanent scarring, bone fractures, or internal injuries. Hard injury claims are complicated and expensive.
Don’t believe the insurance adjuster who says you won’t need an attorney for your hard injury claim, or that you’re barred from receiving compensation because you weren’t wearing a bike helmet. The adjuster is looking out for the company profit margin, not what’s fair for you.
The truth is, insurance adjusters are well-known for making lower settlement offers to injured claimants who don’t have an attorney. They know that once they’ve made their “final offer” you probably won’t have the energy or legal savvy to fight them.
There’s just too much to lose by trying to handle the insurance company on your own while struggling with serious injuries. Get the compensation you deserve. Contact a personal injury attorney to learn the full value of your claim.
Video: How to Build a Bike Accident Claim
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