For cyclists, road accidents can be devastating – especially when there’s a car weighing thousands of pounds involved. But knowing the right steps to take after being hit is crucial (and could mean the difference between devastating long-term consequences and a faster recovery).
While there are certainly factors outside of your control, the more proactive you are, the better your chances of a successful outcome.
Prioritize Safety First
In the immediate aftermath of a collision, your health and safety should be the top priority. Here’s what you need to do as soon as possible:
- Move to a safe area away from traffic, if possible.
- Use hazard lights or any available warning signals to alert other road users. (If you have a light on your bike, use this. Otherwise, ask other drivers who have stopped at the scene to turn on their flashers.)
- Assess yourself for injuries, and if necessary, seek immediate medical attention. Even minor-seeming injuries might have underlying complications, so it’s crucial to get a professional evaluation.
It can obviously be tough to remember a checklist of what to do in the moment, but hopefully you’re able to remember these three steps. By following them closely, you’ll maximize your chances of recovery and minimize additional damage.
Gather Essential Evidence
While still at the scene, if it’s safe to do so, gather evidence. This evidence will prove crucial as you consult with attorneys and file claims with insurance companies. It’s a good idea to do the following:
- Document the incident by taking photos or videos of the accident scene, including vehicle positions, damages, road conditions, and traffic signs or signals.
- Exchange information with the driver involved, including their name, contact details, insurance information, and vehicle license plate number.
- Collect contact information from any witnesses who may have observed the incident.
Seek Medical Attention and Document Injuries
Even if injuries appear minor initially, it’s very important to seek medical attention promptly. Some injuries might not manifest symptoms immediately after the accident but could become apparent later.
As Pinnacle Health Chiropractic explains, “Adrenaline tells your body how to reallocate resources, causing the physical responses, one of which includes the release of endorphins, neurotransmitters that act as your body’s natural painkillers. With endorphin release, your after-accident pain may be partially or completely masked.”
You can’t use blood or obvious pain as the only barometers for the severity of your injuries. You were just hit by a vehicle that weighs thousands of pounds – take no chances.
When you do seek treatment, be sure to keep a paper trail. Document all medical visits, treatments, and expenses related to the accident, as this information will be crucial for insurance claims or legal procedures.
Understanding Legal Rights as a Cyclist
Cyclists have rights on the road, and understanding these rights is crucial when seeking legal recourse after a collision. Contacting a legal professional such as BamiehDeSmeth.com experienced in handling bicycle accident cases is highly recommended.
Laws regarding cyclists’ rights and responsibilities on the road vary by location, but generally, cyclists are entitled to use the road and have the same rights as motorists. In a lot of cases, an accident involving a bicycle and a motor vehicle tends to favor the cyclist. This bodes well for you – but only if you know your rights and hire someone to help you exercise them.
When looking for an attorney, you want someone who:
- Specializes in bicycle accident cases and has a track record of successful outcomes for clients
- Listens to the details of your case and wants to work with you
- Has been in practice for at least five years and has a good reputation within the industry and the local community
When it’s all said and done, you want someone who is competent, hungry, and trustworthy. Usually, you can trust your gut on these decisions. Never hire an attorney whom you don’t feel comfortable with.
Taking Legal Action and Seeking Compensation
If you’ve been hit by a car while cycling, pursuing legal action might be necessary to seek compensation for damages, including medical expenses, lost wages, bike repair or replacement costs, and pain and suffering.
Here’s what will usually happen in these cases:
- You’ll reach out to the driver’s insurance company (or they will reach out to you).
- They’ll determine whether you or the driver was at fault. (And don’t be surprised if they initially say you’re at fault, since they’d rather not pay out.)
- If the insurance company determines you are at fault, they may try to close the claim.
- If the insurance company determines the driver is at fault, they’ll usually offer you a settlement. This settlement will almost always be lower than it should.
Never accept the insurance company’s initial settlement offer. In many cases, this will be worth just 10 to 50 percent of the amount they’re actually willing to settle for. That means an initial settlement offer of $5,000 could be worth upwards of $10,000 to $50,000. If you agree right away, you may be leaving money on the table that could otherwise be used to offset your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
As a second piece of advice, never, under any circumstances, admit to being at fault without first speaking with your attorney. Your lawyer will understand how to tackle the negotiations. If necessary, your attorney will work with you to file a lawsuit against the individual and/or insurance company.
Proactive Measures for Prevention
While some accidents are unavoidable due to external factors, there are proactive measures cyclists can take to minimize risks. Wearing reflective clothing, using lights and reflectors on bikes, following traffic rules, and staying vigilant while riding are all helpful ways to lower your risk.
With all of that being said, being careful and proactive will only get you so far. Riding a bicycle is, unfortunately, always fairly dangerous when you have large vehicles on the road going as much as 30 to 60 miles per hour faster than you.
So in a situation where an accident does occur, you always need to be prepared for how to respond. Hopefully, this article has given you some information on what to do so that you can protect your best interests.