It’s that time of year when cyclists are looking forward to leaving our rollers in the basement for some open road; or at least we hope, open road. Although many communities have been welcoming cyclists with the addition of sharrows and other bike-friendly amenities; cyclists still must navigate roadways along with motor vehicles. This can be extremely intimidating for a new-comer and is no less dangerous for an experienced cyclist. Throw in deteriorating road surfaces, debris, defective products, and the occasional dog, and a simple bike ride can be a fairly precarious activity.
We’ve all had close calls out on the road and, fortunately for most, that is the worst we will endure. However, according to the Ohio Department of Public Safety, in 2013 there were 975 accidents involving bicycles; many of which resulted in permanent, debilitating injuries including death. While the 2013 statistics pale in comparison to 2012 – 1,954 accidents involving bicycles – it still means that approximately three (3) Ohio cyclists are involved in an accident per day.
Every accident is different and the majority of accidents do not involve motor vehicles. However, if you are involved in such an accident, here are some tips of what to do to protect your rights and legal remedies.
- Call 911 and Wait for Police to Respond: If you were involved in an accident with a motor vehicle, the police need to be called in order to properly investigate and document the accident. The driver’s address and insurance information will be included in the crash report as well as any statements. For this reason alone, it is important for you to stay on scene until the police arrive so that you can provide your statement. Moreover, as first responders, the police will be able to assist with you any injuries and call for EMS if it is necessary. If you are injured, even in the slightest way, it is important that you make all of your injuries known to the police – even if it’s a scrape – so that they can be documented. Often, injured cyclists do not know the extent of their injuries until hours later when the pain sets in. Having your initial injuries documented will enable you to make the causal connection back to the at-fault driver. In the fortunate event you are not injured at all, having the police investigate the accident will benefit you in resolving any claim you may have for property damage.
- Treat Your Injuries: Not only do you need to inform the police about any injuries sustained, but you should also seek appropriate medical attention. Go to the local E.R., urgent care, or even make an appointment with your primary care physician as soon as possible. Be sure to provide as much information to the attending physician so that he or she can document and treat your injuries. Medical records are an invaluable tool in establishing that you sustained an injury as a result of the accident. The bottom line is even if you feel fine at the time, get checked out.
- Gather Information: If you called the police, they will facilitate gathering information. Notwithstanding, try to get witnesses names, phone numbers, and addresses. If you’re phone has a camera, take pictures of your bike and any injuries, record a video and statement while everything is fresh. If you have a cycling computer, be sure to save the data immediately.
- Preserve Evidence: This one may hurt more than your body hitting the ground; that twisted piece of carbon and aluminum sitting at your house is evidence and it needs to be preserved as such. That means leaving it in the condition it was after the accident; do not fix it. The same is true for the torn and tattered kit; do not wash, mend, or throw it away.
- Records and Receipts: Keep copies of receipts of all your expenses and medical care related to the incident. E.R. bills, prescriptions, and physical therapy sessions can be quite expensive.
- File an Insurance Claim: Do not negotiate with an at-fault driver on the scene; instead get his or her information and file a claim with their insurance company as well as your own insurance company. If the driver is uninsured, or underinsured, you may be able to recover under your auto policy if you have UM/UIM coverage. It is not advisable to negotiate with an insurance company without the assistance of counsel and, certainly do not sign any document or release of claims without first consulting with an attorney. A release may cut off all future rights against others, obligate you to repay past medical bills or disability benefits, or jeopardize future benefits.
- Consult with an Attorney: Either before, or immediately after, a claim is opened, consider consulting with an attorney. Handling these claims can be quite complex and having an experienced attorney at your side will not only protect your interests but also give you an advocate to help make you whole.
If you, or someone you know, were injured by a motorist while riding your bicycle, please feel free to contact the law firm of DeMarco & Triscaro, Ltd. for a free consultation and let us be your advocate.
Information about the author: Scott M. Kuboff, Esq. is an experienced trial attorney with the law firm of DeMarco & Triscaro, Ltd. and is an avid cyclist. Scott holds a USA Cycling racing license in cyclocross (Cat. III) as well as road (Cat IV) and is a co-founder of North Coast Cycling, a Cleveland-based amateur cycling team.