Tampa Bay, Bradenton, and Sarasota offer some of the most beautiful bike trails, parks, and paths in the country. Unfortunately, drivers are frequently not mindful of cyclists while sharing the road and accidents do occur. In fact, 2019 saw 857 cyclists die in traffic accidents, a 6.3 percent year-over-year increase despite an overall decrease in traffic fatalities. Even more frightening? Pinellas County has the highest rate of bicycle accidents and the highest cyclist death rate in the country, with Hillsborough and Sarasota not far behind.
If you or a loved one is hit by a car while on a bike, here are four steps you should take to make sure you’re holding the driver accountable for their negligence and getting the insurance payout you deserve to cover medical expenses, lost wages, and other damages.
1. Move out of the street, and keep the driver and any witnesses present
First and foremost, move out of the path of traffic and make sure you or the rider is safe from further collisions. If the driver stopped, ask that they stay to help you gather all necessary information about the accident. If anyone else was injured, such as the driver or a passenger in the car, make sure they are out of harm’s way as well.
If there are any witnesses nearby, such as pedestrians, other cyclists, people dining or shopping in nearby businesses who saw the accident, or other drivers who stopped to help, ask them to stay until the police arrive to gather information.
2. Call 911 to file a crash report
Once everyone is safe, call 911. If they stopped, the driver of the vehicle may be hesitant to get the police or first responders involved, but your safety has to come first. If the driver fled, it is even more critical to call 911 as the incident is now a hit and run. First responders will make sure the appropriate medical attention is received. Even if no injuries are immediately evident, there is always a risk of internal injuries, traumatic brain injuries, or smaller fractures that may not be noticed due to shock or adrenaline. And even less catastrophic injuries are not felt for hours, days, or sometimes even weeks after the crash. Early medical intervention will help you ensure that your health is always top priority.
In addition to medical help, police should be dispatched to the scene to ensure an accurate report is taken, especially if the driver fled the scene. The information in a crash report is very important and valuable in a personal injury case, and offers an unbiased view of the events that occurred, testimony from any witnesses, and your accounting of the events as well as the driver’s. Waiting until after the accident is often too late to file a report.
3. Gather evidence
Take down the driver’s information as critical evidence. Be sure to make note of their name, license plate, insurance information, the make and model of the car, driver’s license number, and their contact information—the easiest way to do this is by taking photos of the documentation and emailing them to yourself. If your cell phone was damaged in the accident, ask if a witness is willing to assist in taking these photos.
In addition to the driver’s information, take detailed photos of the scene, including the driver’s license plate, the part of the car that struck you, your bicycle, any injuries you’ve sustained, the nearby surroundings, and any circumstances that may have contributed to the accident (such as potholes, fallen branches, or construction in the area). If possible, use video to immediately record your recollection of events, and record any witness statements. If a witness is helping you take these photos and recordings, have them email them to you immediately so they aren’t lost or forgotten.
It is particularly critical to note if you or a witness saw the driver using a cell phone just before they hit you. Distracted driving is illegal in Florida, and one of the top contributors to accidents involving cyclists and pedestrians. If the driver was using a cell phone, they are subject to additional penalties.
4. Contact a bike accident lawyer
It’s important to contact a bicycle accident attorney before contacting the driver’s insurance company. The goal of the insurance company is not to protect you or to protect the driver, but simply to minimize the amount they are required to pay out. Anything you tell an insurance company will likely be used against you in an effort to lower the claim payout or take fault off the driver.
A personal injury lawyer with specific experience in bicycle and pedestrian accidents will be able to assess your case and help with the process of filing a claim, navigating traffic law, and representing your interests in court if necessary. If you or a loved one has experienced a traffic accident while biking, reach out to Matthews Injury Law for a free case evaluation.