It’s safe to say that none of us throw our leg over the saddle and embark on a ride thinking that we will be involved in an accident with a motor vehicle. Unfortunately, for many cyclists, this is an encounter that they will face. Statistics show that you are much more likely to be injured in a car versus car motor vehicle accident than you are while riding your bicycle. Regardless, I would venture to say that even those of us who have not been struck by a car know someone who has been in that situation.
If you are unfortunate enough to find yourself the victim of a car versus bicycle collision, the list of things you should know far exceeds the space available in this column. There are, however, a few basic things to try to remember.
You have the right to ask law enforcement to investigate the accident. If you fall victim to another’s careless driving, reporting the accident will initiate an investigation process, and create an official record of the occurrence. Failing to report the accident can have a serious impact on your ultimate ability to recover the damages you sustain in it. Law enforcement involvement will further assure that you are getting accurate insurance information from the at-fault party. That information will appear on the official Traffic Accident Report.
If it is a hit-and-run collision, it is potentially even more important that you report the accident and initiate a law enforcement investigation. Even if the driver cannot be located, you can still pursue damages under your uninsured motorist coverage on the insurance policy of your motor vehicle. The Colorado State Patrol has confirmed that its hotline to report aggressive driving is available to bicyclists if they see a motorist putting a bicyclist at risk. In addition to calling 9-1-1 to report a hit-and-run collision, you have the option of calling *CSP (*2-7-7) to report the aggressive driver. Having as much identifying information relative to the vehicle as possible is critical. For the process to work effectively, it is often imperative that you have the vehicle license plate number. Today, many, if not most of us, ride with mobile phones that are also cameras. While it may not be possible to snap a quick photo if you are lying in a ditch, we should all be prepared to take this quick action if we see an incident involving one of our riding companions.
In my practice, many cyclists try to delay or avoid medical attention. This is no time to be a hero. Get the treatment you need, and let the process play itself out. Delaying medical treatment can create questions about the causation of your injuries. If you have health insurance, you will use that as your primary source of payment for treatment. Most of us who own cars will also have medical payments coverage (usually $5,000) that will assist in out-of-pocket expenses such as satisfying deductibles and co-insurance obligations while your personal injury claims against the at-fault party’s insurance company are pending.
If witnesses offer to provide you with their contact information, definitely take them up on it. Get a business card or as much contact information as they are willing to provide.
The scene of an accident is no time to argue fault with the other party or law enforcement. Assuming that a law enforcement officer is investigating at the scene, there is no obligation to even speak to the at-fault party about the collision, and there is no real advantage to doing so. If a law enforcement officer appears to be wrongfully holding you responsible for the collision, it is important that you state your version of how it occurred, but there is little to be gained by engaging the officer in an argument.
Once you have received emergency treatment, photograph all visible injuries and damaged equipment. It is important that you not discard or repair damaged equipment. These things can become important pieces of evidence if the motor vehicle driver disputes fault.
If your injuries are serious enough that you are immediately transported from the scene in an ambulance for emergency medical care, you have the right to file a statement as a supplement to the official Traffic Accident Report. This is often an important way to document your perspective of the collision, and create an official record of that.
Following these basic tips will get you going in the right direction. There is no question, however, that you would be wise to contact an experienced bicycle attorney to further protect your rights. I would be happy to provide a no-cost no-pressure consultation to help determine if your rights would be best protected by hiring an attorney.