If you are ever in a bicycle accident, there are a several pieces of information you will want to record and keep track of.
Even if you don’t decide to pursue an insurance claim or lawsuit after your accident, having these records will help you track your progress as you heal and move on from any injuries or trauma — and if you do decide to pursue a case, these details you record right after the accident will be critical for your success.
Aside from hiring an attorney, this is the most important thing you can do for yourself in a bicycle accident case. No matter how minor your accident may seem at the time, you should always make sure to document this information in the days and weeks following your accident.
Many cyclists initially underestimate the impact of the accident on their lives, and choose not to document the accident and its effects; however, not recording this key information can leave you without critical details you will need if you later decide to pursue a lawsuit to help you cover medical bills and property repair costs, and gain compensation for lost wages, loss of ability to work or aid in household duties, and even emotional distress.
1. Your memory of the accident
As soon as you can, you should attempt to record every single detail you can remember from the accident. No detail is too small.
Start with the basics of who, what, when, and where. Describe:
- where you were going
- the speed of your bike and the car (or cars) involved
- weather conditions
- road conditions
- what you saw when the accident began to occur (for example, did you see the driver coming or notice any strange behavior?)
- what you heard before and during the accident (for example, did you hear screeching tires?)
Then you can begin to get into more details, including:
- the course of the accident, from your perspective (what happened, what did you do, etc)
- what happened immediately after the accident
- anything said to you by witnesses
- anything said to you by the driver
- anything you said to either witnesses or the driver
- what the police said and did
- your impression of the police officer’s investigation (were they being thorough?)
Again, no detail is too small to record here. Whether or not they seem important, every detail will have a bearing on the success of your case, and you may not realize right now which detail will ultimately be the most important. Your job is to record everything your can now; it is your lawyer’s job to figure out the most important ones for your legal case later.
If you can, draw a diagram (or several diagrams) that show the accident. Illustrate exactly where the collision occurred, and any important landmarks or details. You can also diagram exactly where on the bicycle or vehicle the impact or other damage occurred.
Finally, document the accident with photos. If you can, take photos of:
- the accident scene
- your injuries
- your bicycle
- the clothing you were wearing during the accident
- any other items that were visibly affected by the accident
Keep all of these details in one clearly marked place, so you won’t lose track of them. You will want all of this information later, and it all could be important for your case.
2. The police report
This one is really important. The police report will have a major impact on your case, and as a result, you want to make sure that it is correct and accurate in its report of the accident.
Make sure you get a copy of the police report, and go over it very carefully — line by line. Make a note of any issue, error, or misstatement, no matter how small it seems. The smallest details can end up having the biggest impact, and you want to make sure this official report is accurately representing the situation.
3. A diary about your life post-accident and answers to these questions
Just as important as noting the details of the accident itself, having an accurate record of the impact of the accident on your life will greatly aid in your ability to successfully argue a case.
Start the day after your accident, and continue as regularly as possible — even making multiple entries per day, if necessary.
You should write about how you feel (physically and emotionally), and what activities you do, if/how your ability to do them has changed, and how you feel doing them.
If you need help getting started or writing thorough enough answers (again, every detail helps — you want the maximum amount of evidence at every stage), you can use this list of questions to answer in your daily entries:
- How did you feel when you woke up this morning?
- If you didn’t feel rested when you woke up, was it because your injuries kept you up during the night?
- Were you slower to get out of bed and through your morning routine because you were trying to minimize the pain in parts of your body?
- Was your appetite affected because of your pain or injuries?
- Did you have to miss work or leave early, or was your productivity at work affected because of your injuries?
- Did you have to miss out on any enjoyable social events or recreation because of your injuries?
- Did your injuries have any affect whatsoever on your spouse?
- Did you experience any headaches, soreness, or pain?
- Did you suffer from any fear or anxiety caused by the accident?
- Can you see any evidence of your injuries on your body (bruises, abrasions, scars, etc.)?
- Did you suffer from any disability, limitation, or pain during a workout or other physical activity?
- Did you suffer from any embarrassment or other emotional distress as a result of any of the above?
Bring your diary with you to medical appointments, and inform your doctor about any injuries or symptoms you have recorded and are experiencing. This record can help you bring the most complete information possible to every appointment, which will help your doctor give you the best possible care.
You should also bring your diary to your appointments so that you can accurately record any advice or information you get from your doctor regarding your injuries from the accident.
Tip #1: You can turn a copy of your diary over to your therapist or medical doctor and have it become part of your medical records. Having your notes as part of your medical records often results in the insurance company taking it (and the information inside) more seriously.
Tip #2: Your diary, in a legal case, is “discoverable”. This means that it may not remain private, as the other attorney in your case has a legal right to see it and use it in court. As such, you should not record any personal information that you wish to remain private, and you should use appropriate language and tone.
What to do with your post-accident records
Keep all of your notes in one place. Record your memory of the accident, your police report notes, and your diary of your life accident in a format that you won’t lose, because this information will be critical for your case and you may need to hold onto it for a long time.
Once you have hired an attorney, turn over all of your records and accident details to them. They will use the many helpful details you have provided them to form a strong case on your behalf.
Keeping accurate records of your bicycle accident and your life afterwards is one of the most important ways to empower yourself after your accident. By doing the important work now, even though it is hard, you will ensure the best possible outcome for yourself in the future.
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.