What to do when you get in a bike accident
Getting into a bicycle accident is often a scary and disorienting experience, and most people don’t know what they are supposed to do when it happens to them. There’s so much happening in one quick moment; most accidents come as a surprise, you might not yet be feeling any injuries or how severe they are, and your first instinct might be to just get away from there as quickly as possible.
Unfortunately, your instincts can lead you astray in these moments and it is important to know beforehand what you should do when you get in a bike accident.
What to do when you get in a bicycle accident
Whether you got doored by an inattentive driver getting out of their car or clipped by a cab making an unexpected turn, when you get into a bicycle accident it is usually a huge, scary experience.
It can be hard to know what to do in the moments just after an accident. You’ll likely be feeling shaken, confused, or even scared or in pain; unfortunately, what you do in the moments after an accident matters a lot and can significantly affect your future once police reports and insurance companies get involved.
If you’ve been injured (even if you can’t tell that you’ve been injured yet) and will need help covering your medical bills, or if the driver’s insurance company wants to find you at fault for the accident (so they can avoid paying you money for the driver’s mistakes), what you say and do in the moments after you get in a bike accident will matter a lot.
So keep this post-accident checklist of the five things you MUST do when you get in a bicycle accident in mind as you are cycling around town — or better yet, print this off and keep it in your wallet or bike basket, so you are prepared for what to do if you are ever in a bike accident.
1 – Don’t make any statements except to the police
2 – Make sure your side of the story gets in the traffic collision report
3 – Obtain witness and driver contact information
4 – Make notes of the incident and preserve evidence
5 – Contact a reputable attorney BEFORE speaking with any insurance company investigator or representative
Here are the details on why these five steps are exactly what you should do when you get into a bike accident, and how to do each one correctly.
At the scene of the bike accident
1. Don’t make any statements except to the police
At the scene of an accident, it’s understandable that you might want to talk to the driver, tell them you’re okay, or even apologize for something you may have done.
However, talking to anyone but the police about the accident — either at the scene or afterwards — is not a good idea. Anything you say can and will be used against you in an insurance claim or lawsuit, and even an off-hand remark you made at the scene of the accident while in shock or injured can be used against you later on.
Do not apologize or take blame. Do not feel pressured to describe or explain the accident to anyone other than the police. Do not tell the driver, other people at the scene, or the driver’s insurance company that you are okay, at fault, or not injured.
In your conversation with the police, you are required to share your personal identification, contact information, and insurance information.
2. Make sure your side of the story gets in the traffic collision report
When you are telling your side of the story to the police, make sure that your statements are being added to the traffic collision report. This report is crucial in making sure that insurance companies give a fair statement, and having your story accurately reported in this police document gives it more weight.
Make sure you are able to see a copy of the report and if you see any errors, contact the reporting officer and request changes. If you are not able to get the officer to report your story, or you find errors later on, getting your story added to the report is something an attorney can help you do.
3. Obtain witness and driver contact information
Before you leave the scene of an accident, make sure to ask the other parties involved for their contact information and their insurance information.
Occasionally there are errors in the police traffic collision report (or a driver may give false information), which means that if you are relying on that, you may not have accurate information for everyone involved in the accident. That’s why it behooves you to gather that information yourself as a backup for you and your lawyer.
Again, when you talk to the driver to get their contact information, remember do not make any additional statements, especially those admitting fault or mentioning any injuries. Just ask for their contact information and exchange insurance information, without any extra details.
After the accident (within 24 hours)
4. Make notes of the incident and preserve evidence
You would be amazed how much information you can forget about an accident after a little bit of time has passed. Often, cyclists are in shock after an accident and every detail can seem kind of fuzzy or confusing, and that’s why it is critical to record everything you remember as soon as possible. Otherwise, you risk not having a clear story or timeline of events to present in the event of a lawsuit or insurance claim.
Here’s what you should make sure to write down:
— The who, what, when, and where of the accident, in as much detail as possible
— Note the weather conditions at the time of the accident
— Note any damage to the vehicles or people involved that you noticed or experienced
— Write down anything you heard the driver, the witnesses, or the police say
Write as much as you possibly can; no detail is too minor. If a lawsuit or claim comes up, you will be glad to have a really thorough document to refer back to.
After the accident, continue making notes about anything in your life that related to the accident, including:
— Any important details about the accident as you remember them
— All of your medical care, injuries, and pain (in addition to your own notes, keep every record given to you by your care provider)
In addition to making your own records, do not get rid of or repair any property that was involved in the accident until you have spoken with an attorney.
While it may be frustrating to have your bike, helmet, or other essentials out of commission for a few days, consulting an attorney before getting repairs is critical for making sure the maximum amount of evidence can be presented in your favor in a lawsuit or insurance claim.
5. Contact an attorney before speaking with any insurance company investigator or representative
After an accident, it’s very common for the driver’s insurance agency to contact you to get your side of the story. While this may seem simple enough, it unfortunately is anything but simple.
Many times, the insurance company is calling to get you to incriminate yourself, change your story, or otherwise make it possible for them to avoid paying out for the accident. They may try to get you to repeat your side of the incident multiple times, in hopes that you will trip up and change your story so that they can accuse you of lying.
So while you may think that talking to the insurance company is what you are supposed to do to be helpful, it is not something you should do until you have spoken to an attorney who can advise you on how to handle these kinds of calls. When you are the injured party, you deserve to be compensated for your suffering and should not risk being tricked by a major corporation trying to avoid paying what you are owed.
Don’t get taken advantage of after you are in a bike accident
An attorney who specializes in bicycle accidents can help you navigate the complex world of insurance claims and lawsuits that you will almost inevitably face after being injured or involved in a bike accident.
Make sure you get fair treatment and that you don’t make any mistakes that could be held against you. If you are involved in a bicycle accident, call Bay Area Bicycle Law for a free consultation and to learn how to protect yourself. Keep this number programmed in your phone: 415-466-8717.