If you do much cycling on the road, you understand the rational fear of getting hit by a car. It seems like everyone has either been hit or knows someone who has. These incidents can range anywhere from a simple side-swipe that causes little to no damage to much worse. While we all hope to never experience colliding with a car, it’s important to know what to do in the event that you do get hit.
A few years ago, I had the misfortune of getting in a minor accident with a car while I was on my bike. Not having prepared for such an event, I did everything all wrong, causing me more stress and grief than it would have otherwise.
As I was biking to work one morning through a busy section of the city, I was surprised to suddenly be flipping over the handlebars of my bike, falling into a heap on the ground. I got up, still confused as to what had happened, and realized I’d just been hit by a car. Dazed and confused, I started to assess the situation.
Looking around, I realized that blood was dripping from somewhere and began trying to find the source. Fortunately there were pedestrians around who informed me that it was from my chin, and they offered me a rag to stanch the flow. The driver got out of the car, irritated, and began telling me that I’d been going too fast and that I was now responsible for the damage done to his car. Still dazed from having my helmeted head slammed into his car, I didn’t know how to respond when he said this.
Luckily, one of the pedestrians who’d seen everything stepped in and told the driver he’d been at fault, as I’d had the right of way. As soon as the driver realized that he wouldn’t win this battle if the police were involved, he immediately stopped suggesting that we file a police report. Calling the police seemed like a hassle to me, and I was concerned about getting to work, so I was all for not involving law enforcement.
I got about 200 feet up the road before realizing that neither my bike nor my chin were fine. I jumped on the train, trying to hold myself together while simultaneously hiding my profusely bleeding chin from the children on the train with me.
I felt fine, and my bike looked fine (according to my five-second glance over), so I figured we could just part ways and that would be that. Those around me who had witnessed everything had different opinions. They could see that my chin needed medical attention and were all in favor of calling the police, offering to give a statement. Again, I was just focused on how late I already was for work, so I said everything was fine, jumped back on my bike, and rode off.
I got about 200 feet up the road before realizing that neither my bike nor my chin were fine, as I’d been so quick to reassure everyone. My bike was not functioning properly, and my still bleeding chin had started to hurt a lot more. Feeling very anxious, I jumped on the train, trying to hold myself together while simultaneously hiding my profusely bleeding chin from the children on the train with me. I began to regret not listening to those around me who could see what was really going on.
After getting myself and my bike fixed (the cost of which fell entirely on me), I realized that this could have gone so much better if I had been prepared for situations like this and had an idea of what to do. I’m sure those of you who have been in an accident (or if you just have more common sense than I do!) were shaking your head as you read the story above. I guess learning things the hard way is my thing! But the important part is that I learned from my mistakes. For those readers who don’t like learning things the hard way, I’ll share what I learned, so you can be better prepared than I was if an accident happens.
1. Assess your injuries and call for medical attention, if necessary.
If you are involved in a collision, the most important thing to do, before moving or anything, is to assess yourself. Are you injured? If so, how badly? If immediate medical care is needed, call for help if you are able. Do not try to move if your injury is serious, unless not moving will result in more injuries (i.e., you’re in the middle of the road).
If you feel fine, but those around you say that you need medical attention, listen to them. If you’ve just been hit by a car, chances are, you won’t be thinking clearly. The adrenaline flowing through your body might be telling you that nothing is wrong, even when you’re seriously hurt. Once your injuries have been assessed and are being cared for you, can start thinking about other things.
2. Call the police!
Hopefully the driver stuck around (if not, try as hard as you can to remember the make, model, color, etc. about the car, or ask a bystander to get this information) and you can start discussing fault. Learn the bicycle laws of your city, because if you’re involved in an accident where you as the cyclist were breaking the law, you’re likely to be the one at fault. Don’t immediately start dishing out the blame on them, and don’t immediately start taking the blame yourself.
Instead, call the police and file a report. If there were people who witnessed the accident, ask them to stick around to help give a statement so the police can get an accurate depiction of the crash.
3. Collect as much information as you can.
While you’re waiting for the police, start taking pictures, asking someone to help if needed. Pictures of your injuries, damage to your bike/equipment, skid marks, the car, the driver, etc., could all be useful. Collect as much information as you can about the scene and events leading up to the crash to help identify what really happened. Inspect your bike fully to determine what repairs need to be done, and make a note of that as well.
Collect the driver’s insurance information and, whenever possible, take a picture of their actual insurance card. Insurance issues can often be a pain, as there are so many different possible scenarios. Talking with your own insurance agent beforehand about what the best coverage is for you can help in situations like this.
4. If necessary, hire an attorney.
Sometimes accidents between bikes and cars become a mess of legalities, in which case it’s a good idea to hire a bike-accident-specific attorney. If you do hire an attorney, as much information as you have about the accident will be helpful. It’s important to continue keeping track of the costs associated with the accident (medical bills, repair costs, down time from employment, etc.) so you can get the full amount you deserve.
Learning what your rights are as a cyclist and what to do if those rights are violated will save you time, money, and headaches if you’re involved in an accident. Stay safe out there, and if you have any other questions or advice on post-accident procedures, share it with us below!