By Fred Goss
I have been representing injured cyclists for over 20 years now. In my experience, cyclists tend to minimize their injuries and handle claims to the insurance company on their own. While I find most cyclists to be educated and accomplished, these qualities can blind them to the realities of personal injury claims.
You may be the president of a Silicon Valley start-up, a medical doctor or college professor (all former clients of mine), but the insurance industry knows how the personal injury game is played – and you do not.
It is VERY easy to put a big hole in your case without even knowing it. The bottom line here: representing yourself is a big mistake. Doing things correctly starts immediately after any accident.
What To Do If You’re In an Accident
So what should you do after someone knocks you off your bike in any number of unexpected ways? Here are some guidelines to follow, to the extent possible based on any injuries you might have sustained:
1. Exchange INFORMATION – not blame – with the other party. Do this after you get yourself settled down and the adrenaline rush has stabilized. Do not admit anything or make any accusations. You need his or her contact and insurance information.
2. Get the names of any witnesses at the scene. Don’t bother trying to “interview” the witnesses; just get names and contact information. If it’s necessary to speak with a witness, most attorneys use a professional investigator.
3. If you can, get pictures of the scene – where your bike landed, the road layout, the other party’s car and anything else that appears related. This can be extremely important in determining how the accident happened if the other party has a different recollection of events. Take pictures of any visible injuries like road rash or bruises as soon as possible.
4. Get yourself to a doctor or emergency room. Even if you are a doctor, you cannot diagnose yourself. There are many types of injuries that are not apparent until days or weeks later. Getting medical attention as close as possible to the time of occurrence will help document your injuries. One of the favorite dodges of the insurance industry is that a client could not have been badly injured because she did not go to the doctor right away.
5. Contact a personal injury lawyer. Your focus needs to be taking care of yourself and your bike. The lawyer can focus on all the “back office” stuff while you recover – and you will not be busy digging that hole. Even if your sister-in-law is an attorney, if she doesn’t do personal injury litigation, she very well could be as lost as you in this area. Find someone who does this for a living.
6. DO NOT GIVE ANY STATEMENT to the other party’s insurance company. I cannot emphasize this enough. They may even call you before you have had the chance to get follow-up medical care or get an attorney. Simply tell them you do not wish to talk right now, and hang up. What you say can and will be used against you by the insurance company. If a carrier wants to speak to my client, I arrange the call and thoroughly prepare my client on how to speak about the crash.
7. Make sure you follow any treatment plan your doctor gives you. The value of a case depends on the nature of your injuries and treatment required.
8. Stay in touch with your attorney. Feel free to ask questions. If for some reason you are unhappy with the legal services you are getting, get another attorney.
9. Go out for a long ride when you are feeling better!
Fred Goss is an attorney in Oakland, California. His focus has been on personal injury litigation for the past 30 years. He is an 18-time Ironman, including a trip to the World Championship in Kona. He has been commuting to work on his bike for almost 25 years. He has represented dozens of injured cyclists over the years. Fred can be reached at 510-832-0199 or [email protected].