You can make your own riding as safe as possible, and you can take precautions to help drivers be more careful, but what if you’re involved in a crash anyway, despite taking all of the precautions? While some accidents are unavoidable, there are some things that you can do, both before and after the crash, to protect yourself, and make dealing with the accident just a little bit easier.
Before You Ride
Before you head out on your bicycle, make sure that you are fully insured on your auto, health, and homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policies. If you have an automobile insurance policy, make sure that you have the highest amount of UM/UIM (“Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist”) coverage available. This is the insurance that will kick in if the motorist who hit you doesn’t have insurance and so it is extremely important coverage for cyclists. Unfortunately, this coverage is only available right now if you have auto insurance, but that may be changing soon. If you have medical insurance, carry your medical insurance card or policy number when you ride. You will need this information if you crash and are taken to a hospital.
Always carry some form of identification with you when you ride. This can be any form of government-issued ID, such as a driver’s license, state I.D., military I.D., or passport. Alternatively, GET A ROAD ID and carry it with you! Road ID is one company that makes identification bracelets for cyclists, with information about the cyclist, and who to contact.
Carry a cell phone with you when you ride. If you are riding alone and get in an accident or are injured, it is important to have a way to call for help. Program important numbers into your cell phone—your emergency contacts, maybe your treating physician, you can even put in the number for Inserra & Kelley (800-642-1242) and call from the accident scene with questions. But these days, the cell phone is useful for more than just calling for help—you can also use it take photographs and document the accident scene.
After a Collision
Suppose a careless driver collides with you. Now what? There are some things that you need to know right away, and there are some things you will need to do, preferably in the immediate aftermath of the crash, or as soon as you are able afterwards.
First, DO NOT discuss any aspect of the crash, including who might be at fault, with the driver, and DO NOT attempt to negotiate with the driver. From the moment of impact, the driver’s insurance company becomes your adversary, and anything you say about the crash from that moment forward will be evaluated by the driver’s insurance company for its potential as evidence against you. Even if it seems obvious to you that the driver is at fault, the driver’s insurance company will attempt to turn your words and actions against you if it can. The claims adjuster’s job is to minimize the amount they pay out on claims. Their job is NOT about being fair to you.
That said, it is okay to speak to law enforcement officers who arrive at the scene and to make sure you’re your version of the events is documented in the official paperwork—the officer’s report. So, if a law enforcement officer is on the scene asking questions about the crash, make sure you give the officer your account of what happened, along with providing your name and address. Make sure that you stick only to the facts during this exchange so that you don’t accidentally indicate you were at fault. For example, saying things like “I should have looked more carefully” might come back to haunt you later.
Try to remember everything the driver says; drivers will often apologize for causing the accident immediately after the crash, only to later deny that they admitted fault. Some drivers will not only deny causing the crash, they will even deny that they were there. Note the color, make, model, and license plate number of the driver’s vehicle. Get this immediately, before the driver can have time to think about leaving the scene.
DO NOT let the driver leave the scene without providing you with his or her driver’s license and proof of insurance. Insist on seeing the actual driver’s license and proof of insurance. Do not let the driver of the car that hit you talk you out of calling the police and making the report. Even if the accident seems minor, problems might arise later and you want to make sure you did everything correctly from the start.
Collect the names and contact information of any witnesses to the accident. If you are injured and cannot get the names of witnesses, and the driver’s information, ask a witness to do it for you. If police respond to the accident scene, they should collect this information, but there’s no guarantee that the responding officer will do a good job, so if you’re not too seriously injured, make sure that the police have all of YOUR witness information before the driver leaves.
After an accident report is prepared, make sure that it is accurate. It is not uncommon for police to interview the driver, and fail to interview the cyclist, particularly if the cyclist has been injured. These one-sided accounts of what happened typically and frequently shift the blame for the accident to the injured cyclist. And, in addition to the official accident report, write your own report. While the facts are still fresh, write down everything you can remember about the accident—a description of the driver, the driver’s vehicle, and your best recollection of what happened.
After the crash, you may decide that you want to make a claim with the driver’s insurance company. However, DO NOT discuss the accident with the driver’s insurance company adjuster before consulting with a PERSONAL INJURY ATTORNEY, like someone at Inserra & Kelley. Again, the driver’s insurance company is NOT your friend. Insurance companies are highly skilled at fighting claims, so do not discuss the accident or your claim until you have consulted with an attorney and DO NOT give a recorded statement to the driver’s insurance company adjuster without having a personal injury attorney present with you.