As bicycle law specialists, we always think it’s a good bike accident advice for cyclists who have been in a crash with a car to talk to a bicycle attorney about their case.
However, many people are on the fence about talking to or hiring an attorney. People worry that it will be expensive, or that maybe they don’t really need a lawyer’s help. The truth is that an ethical attorney won’t take your case unless you have a valid claim that they can help with, and that they don’t get paid unless you win.
Still, if you haven’t yet made up your mind about whether or not to bring on a bicycle attorney to help you after you crash, there are a few things you must be sure not to do because they could mess up your case for a long time, even if you do end up hiring a bicycle attorney.
Some mistakes cannot be undone, and can cost you significantly. If you’re still on the fence about hiring an attorney or trying to do things on your own, our bike accident advice is: make sure you don’t do these three things.
1. Don’t talk to the insurance company
If the driver reports the crash to their insurance company, somebody will be contacting you. Whether it is the insurance company or an attorney representing the at-fault driver, this person does not have your best interests in mind and is calling to get information that will work against you.
You are not obligated to talk to them (although you might be obligated, under certain circumstances, to talk to your own insurance companies), and until you are fully healed and prepared to negotiate, you shouldn’t talk to them.
It is very possible that in one of these conversations you could unknowingly admit liability that could hurt your chances of getting fair compensation in the future. It’s also possible that you could communicate a settlement amount that is not actually commensurate with your damages.
It is also very possible that, even if you don’t actually say anything that hurts your case, the insurance company may mis-quote you later on, and you will be hard-pressed to prove later what you really did or did not say to them.
Especially in the first days and weeks following your crash, you don’t know the full long-term extent of your injuries and damages. It is a mistake to agree to something — or indicate that you would be happy agreeing to something — early on that might grossly underrepresent the actual damages that you will face.
In most cases, this will be your first time encountering someone who is actively working against you. If you’re not an expert attorney with experience negotiating with insurance companies, it is better not to talk to them and avoid making damaging mistakes.
2. Don’t sign any authorizations
You should never sign anything presented to you by insurance companies.
Even simple documents can include fine print that you don’t understand, but that can cause major changes that you can’t undo. For example, the fine print might include a waiver of future injury claims (meaning you can’t ask for coverage for injuries that develop later on). It could also include an agreement to give the driver’s insurance company to access your entire medical history or to waive other rights you might have to privacy.
Even if you don’t hire an attorney to assist with your entire case, it is always worth it to have a trained lawyer read over any documents you receive before you sign them. Attorneys are trained to look for — and more importantly, understand the implications of — the fine print that could negatively impact your case.
3. Don’t repair any damaged property or destroy any evidence
You are entitled to be covered for more than just medical injuries in the event of a crash; you can also be compensated for damage to your property.
However, you can’t be compensated for any damage if the damage isn’t properly documented. Your claim disappears as soon as the evidence disappears.
The best way to maintain evidence is to do nothing to it until you have its value accurately documented and recorded. This is something an attorney can help you with.
If you absolutely cannot wait to repair your bike, helmet, or other personal belongings, make sure you thoroughly document the damage before making any repairs. Take many photos from many angles, so you can prove the damage later on if need be.
If you choose to simply replace the damaged items, you should hold onto the original damaged items as evidence. You should also keep any other evidence of the toll the crash has taken on you — any prescriptions, medical equipment (such as braces, casts, etc), and receipts or medical records — to back up your case should you pursue one.
Bike Accident Advice: It never hurts to talk to an attorney
An initial consultation with an attorney is free, confidential, and no obligation. They can help you navigate the tricky situations that can arise post-crash, and can help you avoid making mistakes that could cost you big in the long run.
To talk to a bicycle law expert at Bay Area Bicycle Law, call 415-466-8717 or 866-Bicycle-Law. We would be more than happy to take a look at your case and advise you on how best to proceed to protect yourself and get back on your feet after your crash.
Please be aware that these case results do not constitute a guarantee, warranty, or prediction regarding the outcome of your legal matter. Every case is different and case values turn on small facts and differences. Thus, the results achieved on one case do not necessarily mean the attorney will achieve the same result, or a similar result, even for a case which may have some similarities.