How to build a strong insurance claim when you’ve been hit by a car while riding a bike. File claims with the driver’s insurer or under your own auto policy.
Over 45,000 bicyclists are injured or killed each year by collisions with motor vehicles.¹ Basic bike safety habits only take a rider so far. What happens when a cyclist is injured by a motor vehicle?
A bicycle collision with a car, truck, or roadway hazard can result in serious injuries. Physical recovery could take months. You have a right to expect the at-fault motorist to pay for your personal injuries, pain and suffering, and property damage.
Most bicycling accident claims are paid by the at-fault driver’s auto insurance company. In some situations, your own auto insurance (or family member’s auto policy) will cover your injury claim.
Steps for a Successful Bike Accident Claim:
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.
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 information, rather than too little. 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 and sign a brief statement at the scene about what they saw.
Take photographs and video
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.
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
Stick to the medical treatment plan 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 a bicycle crash 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
The appearance of your injuries will change throughout your recovery. Bruises and swelling often develop over several days. Road rashes scab and weep. Continue to photograph your injuries over the days, weeks, and months of your recovery.
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.
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.
Always call 911 to report a bicycle accident involving a motor vehicle. The police report is a critical piece of evidence in all bicycle traffic accidents.
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 documentation of your injury expenses will boost the value of your claim.
Know when to contact an attorney
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.
Serious injury claims are a different story. Bike riders often suffer severe injuries from car accidents, like head trauma, spinal cord injuries, permanent scarring, bone fractures, or internal injuries. These types of claims are complicated and expensive.
Don’t believe the insurance adjuster who says you won’t need an attorney for your 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’s 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. Most personal injury attorney offer a free consultation to accident victims.
Most bicycle injury claims are paid by the at-fault motorist’s auto insurance company. The driver should have provided their insurance information at the scene, to you and to the investigating police officer. The driver’s insurance info will be on the police report.
If you’re represented by a bicycle accident attorney, the attorney will handle your insurance and property damage claims from the start. Of course, you can consult with an attorney at any point in the claim settlement process. Otherwise, it’s up to you to notify the insurer and negotiate a settlement.
Notify the driver’s insurer as soon as possible of your intent to file an injury claim. If you have an auto insurance policy, or are covered under a family member’s auto policy, notify your own insurance company, too.
Negotiating with the driver’s insurance company
After notifying the at-fault driver’s insurance company, you may be contacted right away with a quick settlement offer. It’s better not to discuss a settlement until you know the full extent of your injuries and are fully recovered.
Just tell the adjuster you’re still receiving medical treatment and will let them know when you are ready to discuss compensation.
When you’ve completely recovered it’s time to calculate the value of your injury claim. Total your medical bills, lost wages, and other expenses, then add one or two times that amount for your pain and suffering.
Negotiations get underway when you send a demand packet to the insurance company.
Relatively minor injury claims should settle after a few rounds of negotiations with the adjuster. If the adjuster just won’t come up from a ridiculously low offer, or blames you for your injuries, contact an attorney.
Sometimes all it takes is a call from a bicycle accident lawyer for the adjuster to bring more money to the table. The last thing the adjuster wants is for you to file a personal injury lawsuit against their insured.
Bicycle injury coverage under your policy
Even though you were riding a bicycle when the collision occurred, you may have injury coverage under your own auto insurance policy, or under a family member’s policy. For example, a college student may be covered under one or both parents’ car insurance policies.
In no-fault insurance states, you should have medical expenses and lost wages covered under your Personal Injury Protection (PIP). In traditional fault states, the policy may have optional Med-Pay coverage, typically ranging from $5,000 to $10,000.
Many auto insurance policies have Uninsured Motorist (UM) coverage that may pay for injuries caused by a hit-and-run driver who can’t be located.
Don’t take the insurance company’s word for it if they say you aren’t covered because you’re an injured bicyclist. Your policy will spell out exactly when they’re obligated to provide coverage.
Don’t assume you won’t need a lawyer for personal injury claims with your own insurance company. UM claims have to be handled according to strict policy rules, and often become contentious when serious injuries require high-dollar compensation.
Video: How to Build a Bike Accident Claim
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