Cycling Legalese – Bike Traffic Accident 101
Welcome to Cycling Legalese, an online cycling law column from everyday cyclist and Chicago based injury lawyer, Brendan Kevenides. Unfortunately traffic accidents are a reality for city cyclists, in this column we go over what to remember in order to protect yourself legally if you’re involved in a collision.
Q: What should I do if I am involved in a collision while out riding?
Brendan Kevenides, P.C.:Whether hit by a car or hurled into the street courtesy of a pothole, let’s face it, in the first moments following a crash you probably will not be at your best. You may not accurately process what happened do to pain, shock, surging adrenaline or all three. So, let’s keep this as simple as possible; remember the 5 C’s, Calm down, Call 911, Camera, Communicate & Care.
Step 1 – Calm Down. In the immediate aftermath of a crash you will likely be dizzy with questions. Did that just happen? Am I hurt? What do I do? You may be in pain, bleeding. The red mist of anger may descend upon you. Perhaps you will feel embarrassed, your eyes welling with tears. All of those things are normal responses, but ones that could cloud your judgment. The first thing you should do after a crash is remove yourself from any further danger. Get out of the road, move your bike to safety, sit down, try to control your breathing and calm down.
Step 2 – Call 911. One of the most important pieces of safety equipment you should carry while cycling is your mobile phone. Pull it out and request both an ambulance and the police. Do this even if you are not sure that you are hurt or think that you have only minor injuries. During to first minutes after suffering trauma your body may mask signs of serious injury. Play it safe. Don’t forget to tell the 911 operator where you are to the best of your ability and provide your mobile phone number. If the paramedics have a hard time locating you, the dispatcher may call you back. If the police ask if you wish to make a report your answer should be an emphatic “yes.” If your injuries are severe and you cannot make a report at the scene, go to the police station nearest the crash site and make a report as soon as you are able to do so.
Step 3 – Camera. While you have your mobile phone out, click a few photos of whatever it was that caused your crash, e.g. the driver’s vehicle and license plate, the road hazard, etc. Also, photograph any damage to your bike as well as your own injuries.
Step 4 – Communicate. If there are people around you, ask if anyone saw the accident. Get the names and telephone numbers of any who did. Perhaps ask them to enter their contact information into your mobile phone. When the police arrive make them aware of any witnesses you have learned of. If you were hit by a motor vehicle ask the driver, with as much politeness as you can muster, for his or her name, address and telephone number. Ask to see their driver’s license and insurance card and photograph them both.
Step 5 – Care. If some part of your body hurts, go to the hospital. If it turns out that you are fine, good. Don’t worry about wasting your time or anyone else’s. Don’t be embarrassed. Just do what has to be done to rule out a serious injury. Also, seeking immediate medical care following a crash will help you or your attorney later if a claim or lawsuit arises from the incident. Time and again I see insurance companies fail to take seriously a claim brought where the injured bicyclist did not seek treatment right away following a crash. Their thinking is, how serious could the injury be if he/she didn’t go to the hospital. Delayed medical treatment tends to raise a red flag in the insurer’s mind: Maybe we are being scammed. Don’t give an insurance company any reason to be doubtful about your claim and the cause of your injuries. Seek immediate medical treatment.
You might find it useful to copy down or print out the cyclists’ collision cheat sheet. Stick it in your wallet, purse, backpack or whatever. Laminate it and turn it into a spoke card. Just have it with you to help you remember the right steps to take if you are involved in a crash.
Nothing contained in this column should be construed as legal advice. The information contained herein may or may not match your individual situation. Also, laws differ from place to place and tend to change over time. No reader should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information presented herein without seeking the advice of an attorney in the relevant jurisdiction. This column is meant to promote awareness of a general legal issue. As such, it is meant as entertainment. It does not create an attorney-client relationship between the author and the reader.
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