The number of yearly collisions between bicycles and cars is much lower than that of two car collisions, but as more people begin riding bikes, those accident numbers will inevitably rise. During 2012, the number of fatalities resulting from collisions rose by five percent. During 2011, traffic fatalities fell in every state except California, where they rose 2.6 percent. While only a small number of those fatalities involved bicycles, there are thousands of bicycle related collisions reported each year. So, what do you need to do if a car hits you while riding your bike?
After a collision involving a bicycle and a car, the steps you need to take are similar to those taken when a collision involves two cars. One of the most important things you can do is to insist that the driver pull over. You need to call 911 and file an official police report.
After alerting the authorities, document any evidence at the scene. If you are carrying your cell phone, snap pictures of the accident and any injuries you may have sustained. You should also obtain the driver’s insurance information and the car’s license plate number.
The key is filing a police report. Never downplay your injuries of the seriousness of your accident, even if there is no visible damage to either your bike or the car involved. Things can change. You may notice injuries that only become apparent later…injuries that are not immediately obvious after the collision. If you do not take the initiative to file a police report and your injury turns into a chronic problem, you can run into some serious hurdles with your insurance. Your legal options can suddenly become very limited without an official report of the collision that originally caused the injury.
Personal injury claims involve a number of factors that can determine their validity. If you are the victim of a collision involving a bicycle and car, it is possible you may be entitled to compensation. Remember the following key points when you consider filing a personal injury claim:
Negligence on the Part of the Driver
The foundation of any personal injury claim is negligence. If the driver of the car that collided with your bicycle did not exercise the proper and necessary precautions while driving, they may be held liable for the resulting damage that occurred. For example, if a driver fails to look and make sure an intersection is clear before driving through and then hits you, the driver can be held responsible for damages due to their negligence.
Negligence of the Part of the Rider
In certain instances, the rider of a bicycle may be partially at fault for a collision with an automobile. While state laws can differ when it comes to how a personal injury claim is affected by fault, California is considered a “pure comparative negligence” state. Simply put, in California, you can seek to recover compensation from other at-fault parties, regardless of the degree of your own fault. However, the amount of compensation you recover will be reduced by your determined percentage of fault in the collision.
To illustrate pure comparative negligence at work, let’s say your bicycle is hit by a driver who made an unsafe lane change. However, witnesses and the official police report state that you were riding your bicycle in an unsafe manner. After some negotiation with an insurance adjuster, you are found to be 10 percent at fault, while the driver of the car is 90 percent at fault. You can legally recover compensation for your damages, less 10 percent as your percentage of fault. That means if your total damages, including bicycle damage, medical bills, and lost income, equal $5,000, you can recover $4500.
The Statute of Limitations
As in every other state, California has laws placing time limits on your right to file a personal injury lawsuit. These laws are known as “statutes of limitations” and different rules are applied for different kinds of cases. In California, you have two years to file a personal injury lawsuit after an accident involving a bicycle and a car.
One last thing to consider when you are filing a personal injury claim is insurance. Depending on the specific insurance involved, your claims process may slightly differ. Since bicyclists are not insured in the same way that cars are, it is always best to speak with an experienced San Francisco personal injury lawyer in order to figure out the best way to work with the insurance company.
For more information on this or other bicycle accident related issues in California, contact the law offices of Nelson C. Barry III.