About 20 years ago, when I worked in DC, I used to bike to work from Northern Virginia. Loved it. The commute was often the best part of the day, though I’ll admit there were days when I feared the wind would blow me off the Roosevelt Bridge and into the Potomac.
I know many people who live in Arlington and Fairfax Counties still do commute by bicycle. And with spring arriving and the weather improving, more and more people are out and about on their bikes.
Unfortunately, more traffic means more possibility of accidents, and the injuries caused by bicycle accidents can be just as bad, and sometimes worse, than those arising from car accidents.
What do you do if you’re seriously hurt in an accident while biking? Can you make a claim against the person who hurt you? Would that even be covered by insurance?
The answer to that last question depends on the circumstances of the collision.
Car v. Bicycle Accident
Kevin was commuting home from work in Alexandria, crossing a busy street in the crosswalk at an intersection controlled by a traffic light. A driver tried to make a right on red, didn’t see Kevin, and struck him in the crosswalk.
In a case like Kevin’s, the liability claim can be brought against the driver’s auto liability coverage. In addition, if Kevin also owns a car that is insured, his own auto policy might apply, even though he was not driving his car when the collision occurred. The truth is that many auto policies contain coverages that protect you when you are riding your bike or walking as a pedestrian, if you are injured in an accident involving a motor vehicle.
Bicycle v. Bicycle
Early one Saturday morning, Amber was out on the W & OD Trail, taking a ride for exercise and relaxation. She was on her side of the trail, coming up on a sharp curve that bent over a hill. Another cyclist came flying over the crest of the hill from the opposite direction, took the curve too wide, and struck Amber head-on on.
In a case like Amber’s, where no cars are involved, auto insurance doesn’t apply. But a liability claim can still be made against the cyclist who caused the collision if that cyclist has homeowner’s or renter’s insurance. While any auto insurance Amber might have would not apply, if she has health insurance, it can help her weather any medical expenses, while a claim is pursued against the cyclist that hurt her.
If you or a family member is in a bicycle accident, it is important that you protect yourself and your interests. Here’s a quick checklist of things you should do immediately after an accident.
- Stop! Never leave the scene of an accident even if it seems minor and you don’t think anyone was hurt. If you are in an unsafe situation or are interfering with traffic and are physically able, move to a safe place away from moving traffic. This reduces the risk of additional accidents and injuries.
- Call 911: Request that the police come to the scene to document the accident and, if there are injuries, to prepare a crash report. The police report may be helpful when you file your insurance claim. If there are injuries, request that the dispatcher send an ambulance as well as the police, as it’s important to get injuries caused by the collision evaluated and treated as soon as possible. If there are no injuries, or it is a bad-weather-day with lots of accidents, the police may not come to the scene and may instruct you to exchange information with the driver.
- Give your account to the police: Tell the truth. Don’t offer your own opinions, speculate, guess, or embellish. Just stick to the facts as you know them.
- Document the accident and keep a file: If you are able, write down everything you can remember about how the accident occurred while it is fresh in your mind. Establish a timeline of the events. Take pictures or video of the scene, the location of and damage to your bike, to any cars involved, and of any visible injuries. Exchange complete contact information with the other driver(s) or cyclists involved.Obtain insurance information from the person who hurt you. If you were struck by a car, you will need the driver’s auto insurance information. If you were hurt by another cyclist, you’ll need that cyclist’s homeowners or renters insurance information, if available. Get the names and contact information of any witnesses.Keep this information, as well as future accident-related materials, including reports, forms, repair estimates or invoices for your bike, medical reports, doctor appointments, prescribed medications, and any other bills or expenses you incur as a result of the accident.
- Contact your auto insurance company: If you own a car and you were struck by a car, your auto insurance may contain coverages that might benefit you. Most insurance policies require that accidents be reported immediately and that you provide full cooperation, whether you are at fault or not. If you were struck by a car, the other driver’s insurance company will reach out to speak with you. You are not obliged to speak with them, but if you choose to do so, keep in mind that they are not on your side. In fact, it’s probably best to at least speak with a lawyer who is experienced in handling bicycle accident cases before speaking with the other driver’s insurance company just to make sure you know your rights and what to expect.
- Get medical attention: Unless you are absolutely sure that you were not injured in the auto accident, seek medical attention immediately at the emergency room or by seeing your personal physician. Even a minor impact can cause serious injury. Sometimes, the shock caused by a collision makes it difficult to immediately and accurately assess the extent of one’s injuries. The symptoms from certain kinds of injuries, like concussions or traumatic brain injuries, are not readily apparent and do not manifest for several days or even weeks. If you lost consciousness, are dazed, dizzy, or vomiting, you may have suffered a concussion or other traumatic brain injury (TBI) and should be transported immediately to the emergency room by the EMTs.
- Understand and protect your rights: Under Virginia law you may be entitled to monetary damages if you have been injured in a bicycle accident caused by the recklessness or negligence of another person. If so, it’s imperative that you consult with a personal injury attorney. He will advise you of your rights and evaluate the circumstances of your case to make sure that your rights and interests are protected and that you achieve the best possible outcome. Working and negotiating with an insurance company can be complicated, and an experienced and knowledgeable attorney can help ensure that the process goes more smoothly and that you get the compensation that you deserve for your injuries.
About the Bergeron Law Firm
Bergeron Law is a personal injury practice serving the Northern Virginia area. Our mission is to provide all our clients with the highest quality of legal representation and unsurpassed dedication and customer service.
Steve Bergeron understands that a successful attorney-client relationship depends on his ability to understand each client’s needs and objectives. Bergeron Law will be there for you with the information, advice, and advocacy you need to help you get back to your life.