First published in the Coloradoan July 22, 2014
I often hear from cyclists who were the victims of a crash. And sometimes I hear from people who were in a crash and didn’t notify the police. Don’t let this happen to you. If you are ever in a crash with an automobile, call the police.
There are several possible scenarios to here. One is that you are in a crash and are badly injured. In this scenario we hope that someone will call the authorities and that you will get emergency medical care immediately. You’ll have to rely on those investigating the crash and on witnesses.
Even if you are not injured insist on calling the police to the scene to report your crash. Latent injuries can haunt you and a police report is critical both for legal and insurance purposes. I am aware of an instance on Shields Street in Fort Collins in which a cyclist crashed after being run off the road by a pickup pulling a long trailer. The driver of the pickup stopped, they called the police and the officer asked the cyclist if she “wanted” to file a police report. That is a question an officer should not ask but if he or she does, the answer to is always “yes.”
If you are a witness to a bike/car crash stop and make your name and contact information available to those involved in the crash. This is especially important if a cyclist is seriously injured or incapacitated. You may be the critical link to the investigation of such a crash. Write down the license number, make, model and color of the car and get the name of any motorist involved if possible. If the motorist is cooperative get their driver’s license number and the name of the insurance company. Make note, also, of the date, time and place of the crash. Wait for the police officer and be sure to give him or her your contact information.
A cyclist in shock will often insist that they are fine, that they don’t need an ambulance or the police. Help them to calm down and help them by getting the names of anyone involved in the crash. They will thank you for this later.
If time allows, both witnesses and victims should jot down details of the crash. Did someone run a stop sign?
I can remember a friend who reported that after she was rear-ended by a motorist the motorist exited the car while still talking on her cell phone. So make note of details like this.
Our legal system, like much of society, still carries a bias against cyclists. So it is important so make sure that the facts of the crash are accurately recorded. The investigating officer provides the initial step in the legal system and can influence future legal and insurance proceedings by issuing traffic tickets on the spot. Those tickets are hard to dispute. That is all the more reason to be sure a complete police report is filed.
For more on this topic read bicycle attorney Bob Mionske’s blog, bicyclelaw.com.