Top 5 steps for a bicyclist involved in a crash

If you have car insurance, your uninsured and underinsured coverage may help with losses from a collision with a vehicle. (Photo: Shutterstock) Editor’s Note: Insurance agents and brokers often have P&C insurance clients that are avid cyclists. Here’s an article to share that offers helpful tips for dealing with an auto/bicycle collision. A bicycle crash, even if not serious, can be a traumatizing event. While job one in a crash is preserving life and preventing further injury, other issues need to be attended to quickly. This article is written assuming you are a cyclist who was struck by a vehicle, but much of the same advice applies to crashes in other situations. Naturally, where someone else suffered physical or property damage, you will need to be extra careful about making oral or written statements, as you may become a defendant at some point. 1. Medical attention You need to see a doctor to ascertain the extent of your injuries and, of course, get any treatment you need. This is key to building any potential legal case. You can obtain medical records to bolster any injury claims. No doubt if you do not go to the doctor or do so after some delay, the opposition will point that out. You should be aware that some medical problems may not be obvious to you so go to the doctor right away to get checked out. 2. Capture evidence Take pictures of your bike, your helmet if it is damaged, your injuries, whatever you impacted or impacted upon you, the street, and any relevant signage. Always carry a phone with a camera when biking on public streets and paths. Obtain the names and contact information of witnesses and the driver and passengers of the vehicle if one was involved in the accident. Call the police as they will gather evidence as well. Stay until the police arrive, as you could be liable for a hit and run yourself if you leave the scene of the accident. If you are unable to help with gathering evidence, see if a friendly witness can get pictures and information before it disappears. Related: 6 tips for at-the-scene photography by auto claimants 3. Call the insurance company If you have car insurance, your uninsured and underinsured coverage may help with losses from a collision with a vehicle. A number of car vs. bicycle crashes are hit and runs, so your own car insurance may be all the coverage you have. Not only have hit and run accidents increased, about 80% of them go unsolved, according to this LA Times article. If you are biking as part of your employment, you would also report the incident to your employer because they likely require you to do so for worker’s compensation purposes. Your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance may have coverage, so call them too. 4. Don’t make statements You have just been traumatized so you might not be thinking clearly and you probably do not understand all of the facts yourself at this point. Do not make statements or get into arguments with the driver of the car. These statements can be used against you later. You may even end up as a defendant in a civil or criminal case depending on the circumstances. Related: Insurance for high-end bikes Take the example of Nako Nakatsuka: She was a UCLA graduate student and member of the UCLA triathlon team when a driver struck her bicycle from behind. She had to hire attorneys to represent her because the driver claimed she backed into them and the driver demanded payment. For some reason, the LAPD never filed a report which complicated her case. Never assume you won’t be sued. Do not talk to the driver’s insurance company without talking to a lawyer first. You need to cooperate with the police (unless there is some reason to believe you are the cause of the accident — then call a lawyer before talking to anyone) to help document what happened. 5. Call a lawyer Many personal injury lawyers will give a free consultation. If you do not have a case, they will likely tell you. So, be safe instead of sorry and get a legal opinion about your case before making damaging statements or giving away rights you did not know you had. If you are accused of breaking the law, you do not want a statement you made in a moment of confusion later being used against you. If it turns out the damage isn’t serious enough to involve a lawyer, you may be able to settle with the driver or insurance company directly. The evidence you gathered will make that much more likely to be successful. If they do not cooperate with settlement, you can bring them to conciliation (small claims) court. A bicyclist has to be vigilant in protecting their rights, as public attitudes (and therefore juror attitudes) toward bicyclists, are not good, as revealed in an article from Plaintiff Magazine. Being in a crash is awful, but taking the steps above can help limit the damage done and overcome the obstacles to legal recovery for bicyclists. Related: Bicycle insurance: 5 myths and misconceptions Shaun G. Jamison is associate dean of faculty at Concord Law School at Kaplan University and an avid cyclist. Twitter: @shaunjamison.

About John Fagan

John is a Jacksonville native who grew up on the First Coast. He graduated from Bishop Kenny High School in 1975 and went to college at Florida State University where he completed a 4-year program in 3 years. John graduated from the Florida State University College of Business in 1978 and went straight into Florida State University College of Law. While in law school, John earned a position on the prestigious Law Review Board serving as its Business Editor. As a law student, John studied in the Oxford program. He also interned with the Florida Legislature working in the Florida House of Representatives Criminal Justice Committee. John was admitted to the Florida Bar in 1981. John began his legal career as a law school intern in the State Attorney's Office in Jacksonville in 1981. After his internship, legendary State Attorney Ed Austin hired John as a full-time Assistant State Attorney for the Fourth Judicial Circuit (Clay, Duval, and Nassau Counties). As a prosecutor, John tried jury and non-jury trial on charges ranging from DUI to Murder. In 1983, John moved from the State Attorney's Office to begin his career in private practice. He has practiced law for 30 years on the First Coast. For the last 20 years, John and his family have made Clay County their home. John limits his practice to personal injury and disability cases. While there are many fine attorneys in Clay County, John is one of only a few Clay County attorneys who limit their practice to personal injury and disability cases. John takes pride in helping clients resolve injury claims in ways that avoid the stress, uncertainty, and the expense of unnecessary litigation. Professional Activities John is the past President of the Clay County Bar Association and has served on the Board of the Clay County Bar Association from 2009-2013. He is an active member of the Florida Bar, and the Federal Bar of the Middle and Southern Districts of Florida. He is also a member of the American Association of Justice, the Florida Association of Justice, the National Organization of Social Security Claimants' Representatives, and the National Organization of Veterans' Advocates. Service to the Community John is involved in the Clay County Community serving as a member and Director of the Rotary Club of Orange Park, of the Clay County Bar Association, and the Putnam County Bar Association.
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