What To Do After Your Bike / Car Crash

This article was written by John Duggan and originally appeared in Cascade Courier in June 2005.  

You might be on your club training ride, commuting to work or simply out riding with friends, and when you least expect it, your worst fear becomes a reality. The minivan approaching from the opposite direction makes a left turn in front of you. You lock up your brakes, skid and crash into the passenger side of the minivan. You have some road rash but quickly realize you're not dead, and your adrenaline kicks in. The minivan driver immediately takes the offensive and asks why you were riding in the roadway and why you did not stop.

Unfortunately, I've been in this situation twice, and both times I thought I wasn't injured and could ride away. In each instance approximately a mile down the road, I realized I was injured, my bike was damaged and I was looking for the nearest emergency room. By this time, it may be too late to gather the information you need to make a claim against the at-fault driver. Through my personal experience on the bike as well as my experience representing injured cyclists, I have learned what you should and should not do if you find yourself a victim of a negligent driver. Keep in mind that as a cyclist, you are usually behind the eight ball.

To preserve your rights, remember the following:

  • Do remain calm and non-confrontational.
  • Do call the police and insist that the officer file a police report. In the event that an officer does not respond, go to a police station and file an incident report within 72 hours of the incident.
  • Do get the vehicle driver's insurance information, address, phone number and license plate number.
  • Do get the name, phone number and address of every witness.
  • Do get the necessary medical treatment.
  • Do have your bike thoroughly inspected by a reputable bike shop.
  • Do take photographs of the crash scene, your injuries, your bike and all other involved vehicles (your new camera phone may come in handy!).
  • Do not lose your temper or argue with the vehicle driver.
  • Do not minimize your injuries or your bike damage.
  • Do not give a statement to the vehicle driver's insurance without first consulting an attorney.
  • Do not rush into any settlement until you know the full extent of your injuries and bike damage.

In most bicycle/motor vehicle incident claims, I demand that the insurance company declare the bike and all damaged clothing and accessories a total loss and reimburse you at market value. As will be discussed in a further article, in most bicycle/motor vehicle incidents in Washington, regardless of who was at fault, the vehicle driver's insurance will pay reasonable and necessary medical bills and some wage loss.

Hopefully you will never find yourself in a situation where you need to use this information, but if you do, you will be prepared.

Ride safely!

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