When you hop on your bike for an afternoon ride, you never expect to wind up injured. But accidents happen, and if your bicycle collides with a vehicle, it’s vital to take certain steps to protect yourself. This is especially true if the accident was the result of someone else’s negligence, because you may be able to collect for certain damages, including lost wages, medical bills, and pain and suffering.
However, how you handle the situation during the incident and after will have a significant impact on any legal proceedings. Follow these crucial steps if you’re ever in a bicycle accident.
1. Call 911. When involved in a bicycle accident, the first thing you want to do is call 911. It’s likely that you will experience a rush in adrenaline that may initially conceal your pain. Don’t fall for it. Many victims only end up realizing they are significantly injured after it is too late to do anything about it.
Getting examined by paramedics can help you to determine if you have any injuries and how serious those injuries may be. You will also want to have the police write up an accident report that includes details of the incident so that there is a clear record of what happened.
Beyond these reasons, Florida law requires you to report any collisions with motor vehicles if there are any personal injuries or property damage that exceeds $500.
2. Gather Driver Information. If your bicycle accident involves a motorist, you’ll want to collect the driver’s information while at the scene of the crash. If possible, obtain the year, make, and model of the vehicle, as well as the driver’s name, license plate number, and insurance information.
3. Take Photographs or Video. Either you, a passenger, or a witness should take photographs or videotape the accident scene. In addition to getting footage of the vehicle and bicycle involved, you may also want to photograph any markings on the road that suggest a crash occurred, any street signs or lights in the direct area, and any debris left by the accident.
4. Seek Medical Care. Even if the paramedics on the scene don’t believe that you need to be taken to the emergency room, it’s important to seek medical care soon after the incident. Failure to have any injuries documented within a reasonable amount of time may result a loss of benefits. In Florida, you are required to get medical care within 14 days or you give up your right to make a PIP claim through your insurance.
When visiting your doctor or hospital, have them submit your medical bills to your auto insurance company. In Florida, your auto insurance is “primary,” meaning it must pay for your medical bills first. Once you meet your coverage limit, your private health insurance will kick in. The other driver can only be held responsible for paying if your injuries meet certain requirements and you win a claim against them.
5. Contact Your Insurance Company. You may have noticed that making a PIP claim was mentioned above. This is because Florida law considers bicycles to be “vehicles.” Because of this, they are treated as automobiles when involved in accidents with cars, and your insurance company may have to pay you “PIP” or Personal Injury Protection benefits to help with your recovery. Sometimes insurers will do everything they can to avoid paying out, so you need to make sure your claim is airtight and know how to fight back.
6. Estimate Property Damages. If your bicycle was damaged in the accident, take it to a bike shop and get an estimate for damages. You’ll need to present this estimate to your insurance company if you wish to be compensated for cost of repairing or replacing your bicycle.
7. Speak with a Lawyer. One of the most important things to do after being involved in a bicycle accident is to contact an experienced personal injury lawyer. Opt for an attorney who has successfully handled numerous bicycle crash claims in the past.
Set up an initial consultation to explain the situation and to get feedback about the right way to proceed. A knowledgeable attorney will investigate your injury to determine liability through evidence, property damage, road conditions, police reports, and other means if necessary.
8. File Your Case. Under the statute of limitations in the state of Florida, you have up to 4 years from the date of an accident to file a personal injury lawsuit in a Florida civil court. If you fail to file your case within this amount of time, the court will likely refuse to hear it.
There are many reasons to file a bicycle injury lawsuit in Florida. You may have medical bills piling up from injuries you sustained in the accident, lost wages due to an inability to work, and be experiencing pain and suffering. Moreover, filing a claim is a way to get the at-fault party to take responsibility for their actions and possibly even shed light on a dangerous behavior that needs to be changed to keep others from being injured.
About the Author:
Since 1994, seasoned litigation and trial lawyer Anthony B. White has helped thousands of accident victims seek damages due to injuries sustained as a result of another party’s negligence. Included in America’s Registry of Outstanding Professionals and selected to the 2012, 2013, and 2014 editions of Florida Super Lawyers, Mr. White specializes in car accidents, insurance disputes, wrongful death, product liability, and medical malpractice cases. He is a longstanding member of the Florida Justice Association and the American Association for Justice and currently sits on the Board of Directors of the Broward County Justice Association.