10 Things to Do After a Bicycle Accident
Safety is paramount when riding a bicycle, but no matter how safety conscious you are, the odds are against you – cars far outnumber two-wheelers in Los Angeles. At some point, you or a fellow rider may be in an accident involving a motorist. Knowing what to do in the immediate aftermath can make a difference in how well you protect your rights, or those of a companion who may be severely injured. The following checklist can help you maintain control and preserve critical information:
1. Wait for the Police to Arrive
You and the motorist involved in the accident are legally obligated to remain at the scene if there have been injuries or property damage. Even if you believe you have not been injured, wait for the police to arrive. You may not realize you've been injured until later. Once you have left the scene, it may be impossible to track down the motorist.
2. Never Negotiate with the Motorist
Don't negotiate with the driver even if he or she apologizes and accepts the blame. You may not be aware of the full extent of your injuries and damage to your bike, and the driver may change his or her mind later and deny the accident.
3. Obtain Driver Information
Exchange information with the motorist, including: name, address, phone number, driver's license number, license plate number, make of car and insurance policy number.
4. Obtain Witness Contact Information
Write down the names and phone numbers of witnesses.
5. Document What Happened
Remember every detail about the accident: when, where and how it happened; and road, traffic and weather conditions. As soon as possible, write everything down. Draw maps or diagrams showing the position and direction of everyone involved. You should include streets, signs and traffic lights. If you or a rider with you has a cell phone with a camera, use it to document the scene, injuries and the vehicle(s) involved.
6. Make Sure the Police Take Your Report
Police are sometimes more concerned with recording a motorist's version of events than a cyclist's. Make sure your statement of what occurred is included in the report. Report any injury, no matter how minor it may seem (it may develop into something major later on). If you cannot get your statement included in the report at the scene, you can ask to have the report modified later. In any case, get the accident report number and write it down.
7. Seek Immediate Medical Attention and Document Your Injuries
Even if your injuries are minor, consult a doctor immediately and get a written evaluation. Have photos taken of injuries and record symptoms for several days.
8. Preserve Evidence
Keep any damaged clothing and don't wash it. Keep damaged bike parts and do not have your bike repaired. If it is absolutely necessary to have it repaired, take photos first and get a written document of the damages.
9. Never Negotiate with Insurance Companies
The driver's insurance company may call you and attempt to settle before you have all the information ready to support your claim. Don't negotiate directly with any insurance company.
10. Seek Advice from a Professional
Don't contact your insurance company before talking to a personal injury attorney experienced in bicycle accident cases. Insurance companies may use anything you say against you later. An attorney can negotiate with insurance companies on your behalf, hire a bicycle accident expert to investigate the accident, and represent you in a lawsuit if necessary.
Remember that as a bicyclist you have the same rights and responsibilities as the drivers of motor vehicles. Drivers need to respect the rights of bicyclists and be mindful of sharing the road and avoiding accidents, but it is also in your best interests to take the proper steps after an accident to make sure your rights are protected.