We protect ourselves every time we leave on a ride. We have our helmets, gloves and even mirrors. But these things cannot protect us from a motorist running a red light or talking on their phone when they should be looking where they are going.
A cyclist will always end up on the losing side of a car versus bike accident. Our bikes and bodies do not have crumple zones to absorb the physical forces of a collision, so even a minor impact can have catastrophic results on our bodies and our lives.
Things to know before you ride.
Having handled many bike accident cases, I have found that there are some steps that you need to take even before you hit the road to make sure you are protected in the event that you really do hit the road.
First, every cyclist needs good health insurance coverage – No Exception. While the driver that hits you is legally liable for the costs of your medical care, they do not have to pay these costs as you need them – only once your case is ready to settle or you win a verdict. Having health insurance means that you will be able to quickly get all of the medical care you need. Carry a copy of your insurance card in your bike bag.
You should also consider a disability insurance policy, especially if you cannot afford to go without income for at least six months. Bike accidents often result in severe injuries that can keep you from your job for months. This insurance will replace much of the income you may lose as a result of your injuries.
Increase your Uninsured/Underinsured motorist coverage (UM/UIM) under your auto insurance policy. Many auto policies will extend such benefits to you even when you are hit while riding your bike. This is very important to have as you may likely have to pay back your health insurance company for the money they spent on your medical care out of the proceeds of your accident settlement with the at-fault driver. Large amounts of UM/UIM coverage will help ensure that you will still recover for your losses even if you have to repay your health carrier. Ask your insurance agent about the availability of such coverage.
What to do after an accident.
Everything that you say and do after an accident will affect the final value of your case. Generally, you should avoid making any statements about what caused the accident except to the police or emergency personnel. You may be contacted by an insurance adjuster shortly after your accident. If you do not clearly recall what happened, you should talk to a lawyer before making any statements to the insurance company. Likewise, do not sign anything unless you are positive of what it is you are signing.
You should quickly seek medical treatment and follow your doctor’s advice. Many of us prefer to treat with chiropractors and massage therapists for our injuries; however, the other driver’s insurance company may not consider such treatments unless prescribed by an actual medical doctor. Also, starting a physical therapy program sooner rather than later can take months off of your recovery time.
Record all of your accident related expenses. I recommend that my clients save all receipts in an envelope that they give to me when they have finished all treatment.
Determining the value of your case.
You are entitled to recover for:
1. Damage to your bike and other property. In most cases this element of damages is settled relatively early in the case. Make sure that the at-fault driver’s insurance company pays fair market value for your damaged bike. Insurance adjusters are rarely familiar with the cost of upgraded wheel sets and gruppos and may simply look at the Internet for used bike prices to estimate your damages. Provide receipts for all upgrades, if possible. Have your LBS give you an estimate of the fair market value of your bike.
2. Any physical injuries, including permanent impairment, sustained in the accident.
3. Past and future pain and suffering resulting from your injuries.
4. Income you lost because you could not work after the accident. Document all of the time you missed from work either due to your injuries or having to attend appointments.
5. Any loss of future earnings due to your permanent, accident-related impairment. In the event that your injuries were so substantial that you may not be able to work in the same job again, you should immediately contact an attorney to handle your claim.
6. Medical expenses for the treatment of your injuries. If another insurance company has paid your accident-related medical expenses, you will most likely be required to repay such expenses that the insurer paid out of the proceeds of your settlement.
7. Any out-of-pocket expenses. You are entitled to reimbursement for all of the out-of-pocket expenses you incurred as a result of your accident (prescription medications, medical devices, etc…).
8. The spouse of an injured person is entitled to “loss of consortium” damages. This is meant to compensate the husband or wife of the accident victim for the injured person’s inability to contribute to the household.
Finally, consider hiring a lawyer who is experienced in this area of law. Studies show that accidents victims receive substantially larger settlements when represented by a lawyer, even after the lawyer’s fees are paid.
Copyright (c) 2008 Jason Crawford