Every time you leave for a ride, take your cell phone (fully charged) with you so that you can make an emergency call if need be. Consider wearing ID on your person or on the bike, in case you are involved in an incident and a responder needs to contact your family or quickly ascertain if you have any allergies or Rx history. Start your cycling computer, or cell phone map app, so you can track your route in case you need to prove point of impact, direction or speed you were riding, or the time you entered an intersection.
If you are on a bicycle and are involved in a collision with a motor vehicle, what you do at the scene, and immediately after, is crucial...
If you are involved in a crash while riding your bike, your adrenaline, injuries, fear and anger will keep you from thinking clearly. DO NOT SAY A WORD to the motorist. Instead, do the following:
1. Medical care comes first -are you injured?
Does an ambulance need to be called? Are you able to call or does someone need to call on your behalf. If you fear you have a neck/head/back injury, try to remain still and ask someone to block traffic/redirect traffic so that you do not risk further injury.
2. Hit and Run?
If the driver flees the scene, do your very best to note the vehicle type/color/plates/driver description or ask a bystander to help you with this.
If you are the bystander (whether in your car or on your bike) to a crash --stop! Make note of any fleeing vehicle make and model, the time of day, the intersection, license plate numbers, physical descriptions of the people involved and most importantly- what you observed. You may prove enormously helpful to the injured party and their case against the negligent party. Stay on the scene until the police arrive and give them your name, contact information and your statement. If you hope to have help from bystanders in the event you are injured, please do your part if you witness an accident!
3. Ambulance and Hospital documentation -keep the copies!
If you are injured, allow medical care providers to render care to you. This is why you have health insurance! This also documents your injuries and proves you were hurt in the accident. Do not decline an ambulance ride if you think you may have serious injuries. Make your medical care top priority. Document all of your healthcare needs and services provided to you. Keep copies of all of the paperwork given to you at the hospital. Keep receipts of deductibles you pay, prescriptions you fill, etc.
Why this matters: evidence of your injuries by ambulance ride, Emergency Room reports and records and healthcare provider documentation all substantiate the fact that you were injured in the accident. This will assist you when it comes time to deal with the driver’s insurance company.
4. Police report and investigation –be proactive!
Colorado law requires all motor vehicle accidents to be reported immediately. Your injuries and damages may not seem serious at the scene but often can be worse than you think. If the driver was clearly at fault and/or witness statements substantiate that the driver was at fault, they will be cited for hitting you. Keep the driver at the scene and get all of their contact and insurance information while you wait for the police. Do not negotiate with the driver regarding fault or damages.
Once the police officer begins his investigation, be sure it is accurate (do not assume the officer will see things from your perspective). Take your own photos of the scene with your cameraphone, such as: photos of the driver’s car, where your bike landed in the road and its condition, skid marks from the driver's tires, speed limit signs. Ask the police officer to document or photograph if you are unable. Get the officer’s name, badge number and business card. Ask the officer if the driver will be cited, and for what. If not, why not?
Why this matters: if the driver is cited, it will make it easier for you to demonstrate to their insurance company that they were at fault.
If you were taken from the scene by ambulance, you will have missed the police investigation and report process. You should request a copy of the police report (or your attorney may do so on your behalf).
If the incident is relatively minor and the police are not called or do not arrive on the scene, you can file a report online with the Colorado State Patrol (https://crash.state.co.us/). The following is copied directly from the Colorado State Patrol website:
In an effort to provide better service to the citizens of Colorado, the Colorado State Patrol has created this online accident report for compliance with Colorado law which requires all motor vehicle accidents to be reported immediately. Each driver involved in the accident must file an accident report to be in compliance with Colorado state law. This online accident report may be used if you have been directed by a law enforcement official to file a "counter report".
To file a report this way, the accident must meet each of the following criteria:
· No fatality or injury requiring medical attention was sustained by any person(s) involved in the accident, and;
· The accident is not an alleged hit and run or it is an alleged hit and run, and there is no information on the other driver involved in the accident, and;
· The accident does not involve damage to any public property other than wildlife, and:
· No drivers involved in the accident are suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or have insurance or driver's license violations.
-damage must be under $1,000 -vehicles are drivable and the parties had insurance
If the accident does not meet ALL of these above criteria, do not complete this report, click the "Cancel" button, below, and contact the law enforcement agency in whose jurisdiction the accident occurred for additional reporting instructions.
Witnesses are important!
Witnesses can play a crucial role in your case. If bystanders stop, do not hesitate to ask them for their name and contact information. If the police are present, be sure that the witnesses give a statement to the police. Otherwise have the witness write down their statement and ask them to sign and date it. Keep this document with your documentation file.
5. Document everything!!!
As soon as possible, take photos of your injuries and damages - body injuries, bike damage, cycling clothing, phones, shoes, glasses, etc -- use a camera that will denote time and date on the photo. Document everything. Write down your version of what happened and every detail you can remember. Write down witness names and numbers. Be sure to save your GPS/garmin data in case you have to prove your route/path/point of impact. If your bike/accessories are damaged - begin a spreadsheet detailing every item on the bike and its original cost as well as anticipated replacement costs. Include all items damaged in the accident. Keep the bike and all items from the accident in one place -your attorney may need them for appraisal or trial purposes.
After the event - if you spend time going to doctor's appointments, if you incur medical costs or costs associated with bike repair or replacement -- document all of these items. Did you miss work? Did you miss training? How did the collision affect your life? Start a journal and record your impressions daily. Document, document, document.
6. Hire an attorney?
Do not make this judgment call on your own. Contact Hottman Law Office or another lawyer that you trust, and seek guidance. Hottman Law Office will provide you with a free initial consultation, to help you determine what your damages are, what the course of action should be, and how we might help you.
Why this matters: Insurance companies can be difficult to work with ... personal injury lawyers know how to deal with them and spare you the headache!
While many attorneys are competent to handle general injury cases, make sure your attorney has experience and is familiar with the nuances of cycling:
- bicycle laws in Colorado (or your state)
- negotiating bicycle crash cases with insurance companies
- names and functions and prices of bikes and bike components
- speeds that bikes/cyclists travel, as well as stopping and cornering principles
- bike skills, techniques, bike etiquette and customs, the "industry" and "sport"
- how to get the full replacement value for your bike and accessories
- establishing the value of lost riding/training/racing time
- how professional and semi-pro cyclists earn their living (sponsors, media)
- establishing the value of permanent diminished riding/racing ability
- establishing the value of permanent end to ability to ride/race
- licensed forensic bicycle engineers/bicycle accident reconstruction experts