Frequently Asked Questions After a Bicycle Accident
You’re riding to work and all of a sudden find yourself slamming into a car door opening right in front of you, and you hit the ground. You’re in shock and don’t know exactly what to do.
Although we hope you’re never in this situation, it is good to think ahead and plan for it just in case, so that you know what to do. Or perhaps you have already been in a bicycle accident and are wondering what your next steps should be. Below are some of the common questions our bicycle accident lawyers hear from injured cyclists all the time.
Should I call the police?
This depends somewhat on the extent of your injuries. However, with the adrenaline you experience in a crash, it can be extremely difficult to accurately assess how injured you are.
If you end up bringing a personal injury claim against the driver who hit you, a police report is an important tool in convincing the driver’s insurance company that you deserve compensation. That means that if you have any injuries (aside perhaps from minor scrapes and bruises), you should call the police so that they document the crash in their report.
If you don’t have any visible injuries, but hit your head or experienced whiplash, you may have a concussion. Symptoms of a concussion include: headache, confusion, feeling dizzy, ringing in your ears, and memory loss. You do not have to lose consciousness to suffer a serious concussion. Although many concussions will clear up on their own, occasionally they result in long lasting – and unfortunately life altering — symptoms. Therefore, if you suspect at all that you may have had a concussion, you should call the police, and make sure you tell the responding officer your side of the story.
What if the police report says I’m at fault?
If the police report places you at fault for the crash, and you think that you were not actually at fault, you can file a supplemental report with the police providing the facts that you think the report got wrong.
If you wish to bring a personal injury claim and have a police report that places you at fault, you will almost certainly need the help of an attorney. Remember – if the crash truly was 100% your fault, then you don’t have a right under the law for compensation. Unfortunately, police reports place cyclists at fault for crashes incorrectly all the time. An experienced bicycle injury lawyer, like those at Bay Area Bicycle Law, is your best bet for getting a good settlement.
What should I do with my bicycle?
If you think you may wish to bring a property or personal injury claim, you should keep your bicycle somewhere safe and not ride it. Your bicycle may be important evidence in your case, and you should preserve it. The same goes for your helmet and any other clothes or property that were damaged during the crash.
Should I bring a personal injury claim?
We all have heard about personal injury lawyers from billboards or late night infomercials. (Bicycle accident lawyers are a type of personal injury lawyer). Unfortunately, these advertisements don’t always give much information about what a personal injury claim or lawsuit actually. And because personal injury lawyers and lawsuits have been cast in an unfavorable light, many people don’t think a personal injury is something they want to pursue, even if it would make sense for them.
So let’s start at the beginning of what personal injury claim is, and why you shouldn’t be shy to bring one if you have been injured by someone else’s wrongdoing. A personal injury lawsuit is a way to hold someone accountable financially when they do something wrong that causes you harm to your body and/or mental health. It is a type of civil, not criminal, legal action. And despite lobbyists’ largely successful attempts to get people to believe that bringing a personal injury lawsuit is a new, American culture problem, personal injury law has roots that go back to medieval times or before.
For instance – take the situation at the beginning of this article. You’re riding your bicycle, following all the laws, and get doored. Now imagine you end up at the emergency room, and even though you have health insurance, between the copays and deductible, you have to pay $10,000 out of pocket. As the weeks wear on, you realize you still can’t concentrate at work, you’re tired all the time and get headaches. You are diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury, but there is little treatment available. Eventually you lose your job due to your injury and are having trouble finding another job. Obviously, the person who broke the law by opening their door when it wasn’t safe to do so caused you to lose a great deal of money and turned your life upside down. Doesn’t it only seem fair that they (or, more realistically, their insurance company) should compensate you for what you lost? That is exactly what a personal injury claim is supposed to do.
Whether you bring a personal injury claim when someone injures you is, of course, ultimately up to you. If you have lots of out-of-pocket medical expenses, lose your job, or have ongoing pain or disfigurement as a result of a bicycle accident, we think it is probably a good idea to bring a lawsuit. Just keep in mind that personal injury lawsuits are supposed to get to a fair outcome, after something unfair has happened to you. There is no reason to be embarrassed about bringing one.
Do I really need a bicycle accident attorney?
Personal injury lawsuits generally start as a claim with a person’s insurance company. You may have handled property damage claims through insurance companies before, and feel like you can handle your personal injury claim. And in some cases, that is true. But keep in mind that personal injury claims are much less straight-forward than property damage claims, and can be much more difficult to handle. While it is straight-forward enough to figure out the cost of repairing or replacing a car, placing a value on, for instance, a permanent injury to a person’s brain is much more difficult. There also is potentially a lot more money at stake for a personal injury lawsuit, and therefore the insurance company has more incentive to pull out all the stops to fight against your claim.
Remember, despite how they portray themselves in advertisements, insurance companies exist to make money, not to help you out. It is always a good idea to call a bicycle crash lawyer after you’ve been in a bicycle crash. Any good personal injury lawyer will consult with you for free, with no obligation. They will help you assess whether you need a lawyer or not. At Bay Area Bicycle Law, we will always tell you if you’re better off handling your case yourself, and will give you some free help in doing so (just read our Yelp reviews).
Trying to handle your case by yourself, and planning to hire a lawyer later if you aren’t successful, is not a good idea. We unfortunately have people come to us often who have fallen into insurance company traps and have decreased the value of their claim in the process. If you aren’t 100% sure you’ll be handling your own claim from start to finish, talk to a bike injury lawyer before you have any contact with the driver’s insurance company.
Should I call my own insurance company?
No, don’t call your own insurance company, at least not right away. You don’t want them to open a claim for no reason. You should, however, look into whether you have underinsured/uninsured motorist coverage. This insurance will cover you if either the driver has no insurance, or the amount of insurance they have is insufficient to compensate you.