In my seven years of cycling, I have known at least one person, every year, who was hit by a car. Lately, however, it seems like this has been happening a lot more. Just this weekend, professional triathlete Richie Cunningham was seriously injured while riding with a group outside of Boulder, CO, in what sounds like a case of driver harassment and possibly even road rage. This same weekend, one of my triathlete friends in Chico was hit by a car. In addition to them, three other teammates and acquaintances have been hit by cars in the last couple months. Some of these have been serious. One was a hit and run. As far as I know, every one of them were following the rules of the road. Cycling incidents with cars have especially personal significance for me, not just because these people are my friends and fellow athletes, but also because four and a half years ago I was hit by a car. I was lucky. I didn’t break any bones, but I was pretty banged up. It took over 6 months to really fully heal back and almost two years to settle.
I will leave discussions about wearing a helmet and being courteous to motorists for other blogs. Neither will I reiterate the rules of the road, nor the importance of following the rules, except to say that if you are ever in an accident proving that you were following the rules of the road and that you were riding safely will help your claim It will prevent a driver from claiming you were negligent and therefore responsible, in whole or in part, for the accident, thereby diminishing or, possibly, entirely negating any money you hope to get to cover medical expenses and bike repair or replacement. Instead, I will focus on things you need to think about if you ever have the misfortune of getting hit by a car. In addition, I recommend an article written by Jordan Rapp on Slowtwitch and another by Ray Maker on his blog, DC Rainmaker, wherein each share their advice about what you need to know if you are ever hit by a car.
Based on my own experience being hit by a car and also based on my perspective as an attorney, these are my thoughts. This is not intended as legal advice. If you are in an accident, consult with an attorney, licensed in you state, territory, or jurisdiction, with expertise in personal injury and/or handling bicycle accidents.
- Get healthy. Your recovery is more important than anything (yes, it’s more important than your bike). See your doctor, buy Tegaderm bandages and Ibuprofen, and get all the chiropractic treatment and physical therapy you need.
- Call your automobile insurance company. It will be your primary insurer. If it covers bodily injury it will supplement your medical insurance. Even with good medical insurance, copays, deductibles, and non-covered items can add up to a pretty big sum (in addition to your bike). More important, it means your insurance company will go after the driver’s insurance company, possibly eliminating a lot of work for you and possibly also the need to hire (and pay) an attorney.
- Photograph your injuries immediately, because their appearance will change. You will need to thoroughly document your injuries for an insurance claim or for litigation. Note the date and time for each photograph.
- Photograph your bike and its damage. List every part and every article of clothing and the cost of each item.
- Document everything and get copies of every report – every doctor or medical report, the police report, medical bills, receipts for medications and bandages, the names and addresses of any witnesses, including police officers, lost work days, lost wages, every medical insurance document, etc.
- Get the names and phone numbers of any witnesses, including law enforcement officers.
- Check your helmet. If it needs replacing, contact the manufacturer and try to get a discounted replacement.
- If you get a settlement offer you disagree with or if the driver’s insurance decides you were even partly at fault, get an attorney. Bicycle accidents fall within the expertise of personal injury attorneys, but there are some attorneys who specialize in bicycle accidents.
- Find out if law enforcement gave the driver a ticket. Track the ticket and find out whether the driver was convicted, plead no contest, or successfully defended the ticket.
While I have focused on what to do if you ever are hit by a car, one thing you can do now is to check with your insurance company and find out whether it will cover you in car accidents if you are riding a bike. If it does not, get insurance coverage that does. I cannot recommend this highly enough. Do not assume your insurance will cover you, do not wait to find out for sure whether it does, and do not hesitate to change it if it does not.