What do you do if you are in a cycling crash with a vehicle? Many cyclists find themselves in a state of shock, considering themselves lucky to be alive after a crash and they forget some basic steps that could make a big difference in their lives.
Before you go out on a ride, make sure you are carrying some form of identification, your emergency contacts, and a form of communication and documentation (your cell phone). Familiarize yourself with the rules of road, or even better get certified by taking a course like Traffic Skills 101 from a trained instructor like the ones at the Coalition for Appropriate Transportation in the Lehigh Valley. These courses will teach anyone, from the novice to the most seasoned rider, how to be safe and ride the right way.
Don’t Assume You are OK
Many crash related injuries don’t present themselves immediately. Just because you feel “OK” right after the crash does not necessarily mean that you are not injured. Sometimes it may take a few days for the symptoms of a crash to appear. Your body will generate adrenaline and endorphins which will produce energy and can mask pain. Once the effects of those chemicals released in your body have subsided, the pain from your injuries could appear.
Call 9-1-1 or have someone call for you. Have the police respond to document the incident. Explain how and where you were riding and why you were riding there. Many police officers have not received any training in the proper way to operate a bicycle in traffic. If needed, politely educate the officer on the safe and proper way to operate a bicycle on the roadway. Become familiar with the laws in PA and know the PA Bicycle Driver’s Manual.
If the police cannot or will not respond, gather the necessary information yourself and submit a report yourself. In Pennsylvania, anyone involved in a crash with injuries to a person or damage to a vehicle to the extent it cannot be driven normally, must complete a crash report and submit it to the Commonwealth. Even if the police do respond, it is a good idea for you to gather as much information as possible.
You will want to gather as much information as possible at the scene. The more information you can gather, the better off you will be. You never know what piece of information will prove to be valuable later on.
- Crash Location
- Document the exact location, street names, reference points if not at an intersection. Try to get whatever information could be useful to pinpoint the exact location of the crash. Get the speed limit of the roadway, take photos of the traffic signs in the vicinity. Document the road configuration (number of lanes, turning lanes, etc.)
- Vehicles and People Involved
- Copy or take photos of the cars, driver’s license, registration card, insurance card, license plates
- Find out who was in the car that hit you.
- The names and seating positions of all passengers is very importatnt
- Get the information of all witnesses
- Find out what they saw, what they heard and where they were when the crash occurred.
- If they will give permission, take a short video of what they are telling you. It is much faster then writing it down and there are no mistakes.
- Vehicle Damage
- Document all damage to any vehicles involved and your bicycle
- If possible, document the location of all vehicles involved before they are moved, including your bicycle.
Seek Medical Treatment
If you feel any pain or discomfort, you should see a doctor. Do not delay seeking medical treatment. Your doctor is in the best position to check for injuries and to give you advice on what to look for in case your injuries do not appear right away. Don’t worry if you don;t have medical insurance. There is coverage available to you because you were injured in an automobile crash. Pennsylvania law provides protections that are not available in many states.
If you own a car and have car insurance, your car insurance policy will pay 100% of your medical bills up to your policy limit ($5,000 minimum on all policies in PA). This is called the Personal Injury Protection (PIP) portion of the auto policy. If you do not own a car, the insurance policy of the car that hit you will be responsible to pay for your medical expenses, up to that policy’s limit. There is no reason to avoid seeking medical treatment. You will ensure your health and well-being is being cared for and there are no expenses associated with the initial treatment. After the PIP is exhausted, any private medical insurance will begin to pay and you will be subject to any deductibles or co-pays associated with that insurance policy.
Seek Professional Counsel
Do not make statements to insurance adjusters and do not try to negotiate with the offending driver. These people are not on your side and will not look out for your best interests. Insurance adjusters have one goal: settle and close your claim as quickly as possible by paying as little as possible. A professional, experienced attorney will help you navigate these very troubled waters and make sure that you are protected.
Jason Schiffer is an attorney with the law firm of Cohen, Feeley, Altemose & Rambo located in Bethlehem, PA. He spent a twenty-year career as a police officer, a bicycle police officer, certified cycling instructor, and certified bicycle mechanic. He was also certified in police accident reconstruction and uses his experience and cycling passion to advocate for cyclists’ who have been injured in crashes. Contact me if you have any questions or think that you need assistance with a claim for a no-charge consultation. Our firm does not charge any attorney fees unless and until a recovery is made for you.