Unfortunately, more and more bicycle accidents occur every year. Arizona recorded 2,039 in 2013, and of those, 30 were fatal. That’s a huge jump from 18 fatal bicycle accidents in Arizona in 2012. From a numbers persepctive, a cyclist’s chances of a fatal bike crash is approximately about 1.47 percent, and that is 1.47 percent too much. Even one fatality is too much; one bicycle accident is too much.
However, for the other 98.53 percent of us who survive our bicycle accidents, here is a top 10 list of everything you should or shouldn’t do when in a bicycle accident. The more you know of your cyclist rights and obligations, the less you will damage your own case.
1. DO call 911.
Hopefully by now you know how valuable your cell phone can be when cycling. Its not just useful for cool apps such as Strava. Your cell phone is your best tool in your accident for many reasons; first and foremost it is important to immediately call 911 for any medical assistance needed. Call a relative and/or a close friend as well to come out and provide any assistance you may need, such as photographing the accident, collecting your bike, providing you a ride back home, meeting you at the hospital, etc. These calls document your case later with the insurance companies with whom your attorney will end up fighting. Every documented call for help, especially to emergency responders is very important. The medical records and notes taken by the emergency responders will greatly assist you in your case. Seek medical attention as soon as possible. When arriving home again after the accident you should make immediate appointments with any and all necessary medical professionals to begin treatment for your injuries sustained in the bike accident. Any delays in treatment will be negatively viewed by the insurance companies as simply not relating to your accident.
2. DO call the police.
Sometimes many of us want to simply get back on our bikes and limp home, or call for a ride and get out of there after simply collecting a bit of insurance and contact info. This is a huge mistake. Your bicycle accident case will go much smoother with a report from a police officer. Make sure you are cordial with them. Most of us are pretty angry for getting hit by a driver, and sometimes we forget that the officer is there to help. Be sure to be kind, straightforward, and clear about what happened. Help the police officer understand the facts of your accident as clearly as you can remember. In a hit-and-run accident we often think we shouldn’t call the police, but that is a huge mistake. It is even more important to have the police meet you out there at the scene of your accident (or in the hospital if you were transported to one) than it is in a regular bike wreck. Insurance companies will often fight hit-and-run accidents with everything they have if you can’t prove that it was a hit and run. A police report helps substantiate your accident, especially in a hit-and-run bike accident.
3. DO take lots of photos.
Again, your cell phone is an important tool. Use it to capture as many photos of the accident scene as possible. Try to capture the damage to the car, the bike and of course to yourself. Take photos of the streets, the lighting, the road conditions and anything else that may look important. If you are too injured to take photos try to ask for help from a nearby witness or anyone who is there and willing to do so. The more pictures taken the better.
4. DO collect the names and contact information for all witnesses.
Don’t assume they will be easy to contact from a police report or by finding them on Facebook. Take the time to get their current contact information so your attorney can contact them later. Ask them to stick around until the police arrive so they can make a statement for the official report. Take pictures of their contact info if that is faster and of them if they permit it.
5. DO get the make, model, color and license plate number of the driver’s vehicle as well as all contact and insurance information for the driver.
Use your cell phone to help collect this information and take photos of these important documents if you are able. As always, ask someone nearby to help assist you in collecting this information if you are too injured to do so.
6. DO keep all of the GPS and Strava data from that ride.
This information stored in your GPS devices (such as a Garmin, etc.) can provide helpful information about the events immediately prior to and during your bicycle accident. Many of these devices record helpful information about the percent grade of the road, your speed, the time of day, the weather and much more. This information can be helpful in establishing your own innocence in a bicycle accident and can provide much needed details when fighting with an insurance company. Sometimes police officers wrongly issue citations to cyclists, and these citations can be better overturned when we have data to support our position.
7. DON’T discuss any aspect of the bicycle accident case with the driver.
Sometimes we inadvertently say sorry to the driver even though we cyclists aren’t at fault. These and other similar statements can and will be seized by the insurance companies and at fault drivers as some sort of confessional to liability. When the cops arrive and start taking statements, the driver may inform the cop of your “sorry” statement and may begin to assume that you are at fault. It is certainly OK to listen to the driver go on and on about the accident, especially if he/she is admitting fault. But you should never say anything about the accident. Seriously, say nothing at all – don’t talk about how curvy the road was right there, or how crazy fast the light changed, etc. Say nothing.
8. DON’T leave the scene of the accident until the police have told you that you are free to go.
Unfortunately, leaving the scene of an accident is actually a criminal violation in Arizona. Never leave until you have been told you are free to go. Additionally, you may be so nervous and anxious that you just want to get right on your bike in spite of the pain and the injuries you suffered and just quickly ride home (if the bike is still even somewhat functional). Such a decision is not only criminal but can actually reduce or hurt your bicycle accident claim in a serious manner as the insurance company may simply use it as evidence that you are not really injured. Many of us are pretty amped up after a bike wreck, and the adrenaline alone can carry us home. Then a few days or hours later and we are in agonizing pain. Be smart and stick around until you are free to go and it is safe to do so.
9. DON’T negotiate with the driver.
Not all that often, but certainly sometimes, drivers may feel guilty enough to immediately offer you some cash to just keep the accident “off the books” with their insurance companies. This is a huge mistake. Often the pain and damages sustained can only really be effectively understood after weeks and months of review, treatment and analysis, etc. Any monetary sum you accept at the scene of the accident may very well terminate your case in its entirety. Only later you may realize how damaged your bicycle really is, or how much pain you really are suffering and what the real costs may finally total.
10. DO call an experienced bicycle accident attorney.
Bicycle accidents are unique. There is a very real bias out there that drivers feel towards cyclists. There is a belief that as cyclists we are somehow at fault for these accidents for being “stupid enough” to ride on streets where cars also drive. This bias is not limited to just the drivers out there – I have seen it in police officers and insurance adjustors as well. Educating the police officers, the drivers and the insurance companies on cyclists’ rights is the only way these cases end up receiving fair treatment. An experienced bicycle accident lawyer will be able to help identify the key issues in a bike accident that lend to a stronger medical and financial recovery. No cyclist should have to settle for less just because when they were in an accident they were riding a bike and not driving a car.