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Protect yourself as a cyclist, and what to do if you’re in a bicycle crash

If you have been in a bicycle crash, there are certain things that you should do. The first and most important thing is to take care of your health. Call 911 or have someone else call 911 and get the medical attention that you need. If you are seriously injured, do not decline medical care and take an ambulance to the hospital. Your health is paramount to all else.

Here's some things you can do to protect yourself as a cyclist, and what to do if you're involved in a bicycle crash:

Seek medical attention

Immediately seek medical attention, either at the scene, the emergency room, hospital or doctor's office. When in doubt go to the ER! Provide all complaints to a doctor. Medical records are proof that you were injured and document the extent of your injuries.

Ride with lights

Use front and rear flashing light during the day and night. A flashing light has been shown to catch the attention of a driver’s eyes. Carry a cell phone, personal identification, emergency contact, and something to write with.

Ride defensively

Approach intersections with care. The most common bicycle/motor vehicle collision is a left turn into or directly in front of a bicycle. Try to make eye contact, ride defensively in town. The second most common type of collision is the right turn into a cyclist either in a cross walk, or when a cyclist passes a car on the right. Do not pass a vehicle on the right in an intersection, this is a receipe for disaster.

Dial 911

Call the police or an ambulance immediately. If you are unable to do so, ask someone to help. Assist other who were injured if you're able to do so.

Always wait for the police to arrive and file an official report. A police report provides documentation detailing the incident, including the identity of witnesses. Do not admit any fault. In other words, don’t say “I could have” or “I should have,” e.g. “perhaps I could have swerved to the right to avoid the collision.”

Obtain information

Get the driver’s name, address, phone number, license and insurance information. Get the report # and contact info for the police officer. Obtain contact information of all witnesses. It is common for the police officer to fail to include witness names in the police report.

Maintain the scene

Leave your bike in the same state it was after the crash, if possible. The same is true for a motor vehicle; if possible, request that the motor vehicle not be moved prior to arrival of the police. It is best if the police see the accident scene undisturbed. Often times the bike and vehicle have to be move for safety and the flow of traffic.

Take photos

Pictures tell a thousand words so take photos as soon as possible. If the bike and vehicle need to be moved, take photos first. Take photos of the bike, the car or truck, the road, the road surface, obtain the contact information of any witnesses. Photograph your injuries. Photograph all road rash, scratches, and bumps and bruises.

Traffic Tickets

When the police arrive, they will form an opinion as to what happened. If you receive a citation, you still do not want to admit fault. A citation might not affect your case. We have successfully handled many cases where the cyclist was improperly cited by the police. In most instances, the issuance of a traffic ticket is inadmissible in a subsequent civil case.

See a doctor

Many injuries do not present themselves immediately at the scene of a collision. Adrenaline and immediate trauma may mask some injuries. Follow up with a doctor as soon as possible and detail each injury that you suffered.

Don’t Get Into It With the Driver

Do not negotiate with the driver of the vehicle, regardless of fault. Get the driver's contact information and his or her insurance information, along with the names of any passengers. Do not discuss what you did ot did not due leading up to the collision. Save it and tell the police.

Bicycle Repair

Once the bicycle has been fully and completely photographed, you can take it to a bicycle shop for repair or total loss assessment.

Insurance considerations  

Obtain proper automobile insurance to cover yourself. Automobile policies cover cyclists if they are involved in a motor vehicle collision.

Make no statement to any insurance company, including your own, and don’t sign any medical releases for any insurance company until you talk to a lawyer.

There are several types of automobile insurance coverages that you should have as a cyclist, including liability, medical payments or personal injury protection, uninsured or underinsured motorist (UIM), and umbrella coverage.

Liability coverage covers you for damages you may cause to someone else.

Medical payment or personal injury protection coverage pays for your own medical bills. Even if you have health insurance you should medical coverage on your automobile policy to cover co-pays, deductibles, and to cover charges and treatments not covered by your health policy.

Uninsured and underinsured (UIM) coverage steps into the shoes of the at fault driver and provides insurance coverage for the at fault driver’s negligence/fault when the at fault driver has no insurance or has inadequate insurance. When you suffer damages that the at fault driver cannot afford, UIM pays for damages you suffer, including economic damages such as medical bills and wage loss, impairment damages, and non-economic damages such as pain and suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life. Do not waive or reject UIM coverage.

Umbrella coverage. If you can afford it, Umbrella coverage is a great idea. It provides additional limits across most of your coverages. In other words, it provides additional protection against getting sued and against being injured by an underinsured driver. Make sure that any umbrella you purchase includes UIM.

Insurance Tip: Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage is essential. Insurance companies would not write this coverage, but they are required by law to offer it. If you have to choose because of premium costs considerations, consider raising your deductibles, remove towing or windshield coverage, but never reject UIM coverage. This is the coverage that protects you against every hoodlum, crazy, or drunk driver that is on the road without insurance. Remember people who break the law and drive without insurance are more likely to break the law while driving and cause you injury. Be smart and protect yourself.

See. Be Seen. Other Safety Tips

  1. Always ride in the direction of traffic.
  2. Obey traffic signals and stop at stop signs and stop lights.
  3. Be aware of all vehicles around you including, blind spots.
  4. Be careful on sidewalks and in crosswalks. Sidewalk riding may violate municipal law and can be unsafe.
  5. Use bike lanes when possible.
  6. Watch out for left turning vehicles.
  7. Always wear a helmet.
  8. Use flashing lights when riding during the day or night.
  9. Have proper insurance to protect yourself.

Please be aware of the language that you use. We don't call bicycle/motor vehicle collisions “accidents” anymore and neither should you.  The word "accident" implies that the collision was not somebody’s fault, that it was merely "accidental" or unavoidable. Most "bicycle accidents" involve the fault or negligence of a motor vehicle driver.  As a result, we use the phrase "bicycle crash” or “bicycle collision".


-Stuart Mann, Esq. 

Stuart Mann has been representing bicycle crash victims for over 20 years. He recently won the largest personal injury verdict in the history of the State of Colorado in a bicycle case. He is an avid cyclist and a masters age category racer on the road, gravel, and trail. His law firm supports the Colorado High School Cycling League, Boulder Junior Cycling, Community Cycles, Cyclists For Community, Bicycle Colorado, ItCouldBeMeWednesday Morning Velo and other community based cycling groups.  

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