The only hard and fast rule of becoming an avid cyclist is that accidents happen. It doesn’t matter whether you are a professional cyclist, a highly conscientious enthusiast, or even otherwise run on a string of pure dumb luck.
At some point, you will get into a bike accident. And the accident is likely to be caused either directly or indirectly by a car.
Getting hit by a car is traumatizing in more ways than one. But what happens after your collision is almost as important as the moment itself. Bike accidents aren’t taken as seriously by police and insurance companies. So if you want justice, you need to know what to do if you get knocked off your bike.
Most Common Types of Bike Accidents
Bikes can meet cars at any point on the road. But the most common bike-car accidents happen at intersections.
According to statistics, the most common crash occurs when a cyclist has a stop sign, but the motorist does not, and the driver with the right of way hits the cyclist.
These accidents are most likely to occur among children under 15. These kids are often too young and inexperienced to judge the speed of an oncoming car accurately.
The next most common is an accident that happens the other way around: the cyclist has the right of way, and the driver does not. The collision then places the driver at fault unless the cyclist is riding against traffic when the accident occurs.
Perhaps the most familiar accidents and near-misses are those that happen when one party is turning. In these cases, a car is turning left and takes out a cyclist with a “left cross.” Alternatively, the vehicle turns right and lays out the cyclist with a “right hook.”
The type of accident that occurs is essential both for your insurance claim and any potential lawsuit. If you rode your bike in a way that made you liable for the accident, then it limits your options in the weeks and months following the accident.
What to Do After a Bike Accident
We all know that cyclists are the enemy of impatient drivers, but if you ride often, you know that even “good” drivers might not have your back. Unfortunately, when you get into a bike accident, much of what happens next is up to your ability to make sure you are both seen and heard.
Here’s what you should do after a bike accident, whether you are grazed by a car or thrown from your bike.
1. Stay Safe (and Get Out of the Street)
If you can move, then do it.
Get yourself off the road and onto the nearby pavement or grass and sit there. Don’t bring your bike or your bag with you. Just move.
Finding yourself on the ground is bad enough, but getting hit by a second car? You might not be as lucky the second time as you were during the first bump.
Forget about your bike – and everything else – for the moment and check out your injuries. Are you bleeding? Where does it hurt? Is there damage to your helmet (a sign of a potential head injury)? Can you see any of your bones?
You may not feel the full brunt of the pain right away, even if you have severe injuries. So, your next step is to call 911.
2. Call the Police, Emergency Services, and a Family Member or Friend
The combination of the adrenaline, fear, and sheer anger may make you want to get back on your bike, shout some choice words, and speed out of there. But you need to resist the temptation.
It’s rare to escape a bike accident without damage to at least your body or your bike. So you need a police report and potentially an ambulance.
Do you have to call the police? After all, the horrified driver looks like they’re about to be vomit – and they were in a giant car with padded seats and protection.
But you do need to report the accident, and as a cyclist who is often less protected by city ordinances and laws as well as insurance companies, you need all the documentation you can get in case someone tries to change their story.
Plus, even if you don’t feel pain yet, it’s handy to have someone around when you do.
As a general rule, if you fall off your bike as a result of an accident, then you should always call the police.
While you wait, sit down again and take a deep breath. Re-assess yourself for injuries. Is anything starting to feel sore?
At this point, you can also look at your bike. Be sure that you don’t go out into traffic to do so. If it’s safe, wheel or drag it over to your resting place. Do not – DO NOT – get on it. You don’t know if it’s still functioning or structurally sound.
While you wait, you should also call a family member or friend. Even if you aren’t injured enough to hitch a ride in an ambulance, you shouldn’t get back on your bike. Have someone pick you and your bike up from the scene to avoid any further accidents or injuries.
Plus, if you ride away from the scene, the police and other drivers might assume you’re fine – even if you find out later that you are not.
Talking to the Police
When the police arrive, make sure you speak to them and ensure they document both your statement and your injuries in the formal report. Even if you only have a few scrapes, get them on the record.
You may need to make a point of talking to the police. In some cases, they speak to the driver and try to skip you altogether. If the officer on the scene won’t speak to you or you’re too severely injured, you can go to the station to amend the report at a later date.
4. Exchange Information with the Driver (and Witnesses)
While you wait, get your driver’s name and insurance information. Look at their license and insurance card; don’t just take their word for it.
If there are bystanders who have come to help or other drivers who pulled over after witnessing the crash, ask them for their information, too. All accounts are helpful, particularly if the driver did something careless or even reckless before hitting you.
While you chat, don’t admit guilt. At this point, it doesn’t matter if you forgot to signal or if you think you have only a few scrapes and bruises. Collect all the evidence of your accident and ideally, let a bike law lawyer speak for you later.
5. Go Home and Get Your Bike Checked
Don’t give your bike a once-over and call it good. You need it checked by a mechanic.
Your bike is like an extension of your body. It may look fine at first, but cracks and other damage may lurk beneath the surface, particularly when you look at it through the eyes of someone who was just thrown from it. Get a full bike mechanic’s report. You need it to submit to the driver’s insurance company.
As tempting as it may be, don’t get your bike fixed just yet. Don’t touch anything: don’t wash your clothing or cycling gear, throw out your helmet or repair your bike. You need to document all the damage, and if you bring a claim, then the items themselves may be entered into evidence.
6. Hire a Lawyer
If you cycle with any regularity, you know that neither drivers nor the police always operate with cyclists’ best interests at heart. Even though you’re doing your part to reduce congestion and pollution, too many people either have a lack of knowledge of cycling or in worst-case scenarios have a vendetta against them.
It’s not unheard of to be lying on the pavement recovering from an accident and receive a citation on the spot.
Then, there are the insurance companies, who are happy to use whatever you say against you when processing your claim.
The combination of the type of accident and the potential for a traffic citation means you’ll benefit from a lawyer.
In most cases, you need a personal injury lawyer, and ideally, you should find someone who specializes in bike law.
Were You Injured in a Bike Accident?
If you found yourself in a bicycle crash, your safety should always be your priority. But after you check yourself for injuries and call the police, you need to be careful. Even cycle-friendly cities don’t go far enough to protect you despite sharing a road with vehicles that weigh a ton.
Be sure that you exchange details with your driver and share your story with the police. And no matter what, don’t admit fault to either party.
Are you trying to figure out what to do after a crash? You can speak to us for free.
Call us now at 904 LAW-1212 (904 529-1212).
Get answers to your questions with a free case strategy call. Lets get your claim moving toward resolution and a cash recovery!