What is the Legal Process After My Bike Accident?
The legal process can feel scary, especially if you have never been through a personal injury case before. A personal injury attorney who has been through the process many times should be able to guide you through the process and ease your worry – but knowing an overview of the process can also be helpful.
After you decide on a lawyer and sign a representation agreement with them (or even before), they will begin investigating the facts of the bicycle crash. The first part of the investigation will usually center around who was at fault for the crash. In order to have a successful insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit in California, someone besides you needs to be at fault for the crash. In a bike crash, this other person is most often the driver of a car, or a government entity if the crash was caused by a road defect.
If you were partly at fault for what happened, you can still win a claim. However, your compensation will be reduced by the percentage you are found to be at fault. For instance, if it is determined that you were 50% at fault, you will only receive 50% of the money you would otherwise receive.
A skilled bicycle accident lawyer will also find out as much as they can about the insurance coverage applicable to your case. If you were hit by a car, knowing the policy limit of the driver’s insurance is essential information for coming up with a case strategy.
Your lawyer will need to gather all of your medical and billing records to document your injuries and the cost of treatment. This process can take weeks or even months, depending on how quickly your medical providers process these requests.
If you missed work, your lawyer will also need to gather documentation of your lost wages. And if your property was damaged in the crash, you will need to gather any evidence you have, such as photos of the damage, receipts for the purchase of the property, and a crash evaluation of your bike from a bicycle shop.
Waiting For you To Heal
Because you can’t go back and ask for more money later, it is always best to wait to proceed with your claim until you have healed 100% — or a doctor has told you, and documented in medical records, that you have reached maximum medical improvement.
Once the investigation, and your healing, is complete, your personal injury lawyer may file a claim with the driver’s insurance company. Your lawyer will handle all communication with the insurance. They will communicate in a strategic way the information gathered in the investigation and try to negotiate a settlement.
According to the State Bar of California Rules of Professional Conduct, your personal injury attorney must communicate any written offers of settlement to you. They must also communicate “significant” oral offers.
Filing a Complaint
Most of the time, you will not get full value in your personal injury claim without filing a lawsuit. Insurance companies exist to make a profit, not to treat you fairly – so getting fair compensation usually means a legal fight. This is especially true if your injuries are relatively minor, or are injuries that are difficult to see like soft-tissue injuries.
Filing a complaint is the first step in a lawsuit. This is a legal document that your bike crash lawyer will prepare and file with the court, then serve on the driver and any other relevant parties, like perhaps the owner of the car or the driver’s employer if the driver was on the job at the time of the crash.
After the complaint is filed, a legal process called “discovery” begins. This is a formalized process of gathering information. Both the Plaintiff and Defendant, through their lawyers, can ask each other written questions and oral questions under oath. They can also require each other to provide certain documents relating to the crash.
The driver’s defense attorney may also require the injured bicyclist to go to a doctor of their choosing for an exam.
Settlement Negotiations and Mediation
Although technically the case can be settled at any point, usually settlement talks will really begin after information has been exchanged in discovery.
This process can be as informal as your personal injury attorney sending emails back and forth with the defense attorney. It can also be done through a formalized statutory offer to settle, called a 998 offer.
Your case may also benefit from a formal mediation, in which a mediator is hired to help with the negotiation.
A very small percentage of personal injury lawsuits go to trial. But if settlement talks and mediation fail, a trial is the next step. At the trial, each side with present evidence and either a jury or judge will decide the outcome.
Contact an Experienced Bicycle Accident Lawyer
At Bay Area Bicycle Law, we specialize in bicycle accidents and bicycle law and will work to get you the compensation to which you’re entitled under the law. Unlike property damage claims, which are often fairly straightforward, personal injury claims can be very complex. Without a personal injury lawyer, you are almost certain to not walk away with fair compensation. If you have been in a bike crash, contact our law firm today to schedule a consultation and let us handle the legal work so you can focus on your recovery.