Bicycle crashes with vehicles—cars, pickup trucks, delivery vans, tractor trailer trucks—can happen in many ways and circumstances, even under ideal riding conditions. Sharing the road and observing traffic laws are essential to preventing such accidents. Vehicle drivers should know that bicyclists have the same rights as they do. Motorists should only pass cyclists when it’s safe and should always slow down and give bike riders plenty of room.
Cyclists are naturally in a more vulnerable position on busy streets and roads. So they need to go through a safety checklist before setting out for a leisurely or vigorous bike ride in a rural or urban setting
- Make sure the bike fits properly in terms of height and seat position and that the brakes, tires, mirrors, and reflectors are in good working order.
- Wear a helmet and adjust it to fit correctly.
- Dress appropriately for the weather and wear reflective clothing, day or night.
- Don’t weave in and out of vehicle traffic; ride in a straight line as much as possible.
- Always ride with traffic and obey all traffic signs, stop signs, and lane markings.
- Remain alert to road hazards such as large cracks in concrete, wet leaves, potholes, construction debris, sand, or any other obstacle that could threaten safety.
- Though it may seem self-evident, never ride a bicycle when under the influence of alcohol. (A 2013 study found that 20 percent of bicyclists killed in crashes were riding with a blood level greater than 0.08 or higher.)
When an Accident Bicycle/Vehicle Accident Occurs
When a cyclist is riding at fifteen miles per hour, he or she is traveling at twenty- two feet per second. That means that things can happen fast. In the case of a bike crash with a vehicle, first evaluate any damage to your body, checking your helmet for any cracks if you hit your head. If you can stand, slowly move your arms and legs, and check for any bleeding or broken bones.
If you’re unable to stand, crawl to the side of the road and call for medical help. Know that if cars aren’t aware of you when you’re riding upright, they won’t be able to see you on the ground. If you’ve suffered a concussion, you may be confused or unaware of familiar surroundings. Do not attempt to get on your bike and ride if you have any concussion symptoms. Ask any bystanders for their assistance in making the necessary calls.
If you’re physically able, check to see if your bike has been damaged. That means evaluating the handlebars, the brake levers and shifters, the seat, the wheels, the spokes, the chain, and the frame. If any of these parts or components is not fully functional, leave the bike as it is.
Next, identify any witnesses to the crash and obtain their names and contact information. Report the crash to the police, and don’t discuss the accident with anyone else. Write down the driver’s name, address, phone number, and insurance company name and location. Request a copy of the accident report from the police. It’s also important to document the scene of the accident by taking photos—the more the better.
Be sure to note the driver’s license plate number, and don’t try to negotiate with the driver or respond to his or her attempt to negotiate a settlement. Don’t let them talk you out of calling the police. It’s helpful to record any details that stand out about the timing and circumstances of the crash.
No Collision or Contact Accidents
Here’s an example of a no collision accident. A car and a bicycle are both traveling in the same direction in a separate lane. The car is ahead of the bike and switches lanes suddenly without signaling. To avoid the car, the cyclist swerves, loses control, and crashes. No contact was made, but the driver will likely be found negligent if their actions put you in danger.
If, however, a cyclist is traveling behind a vehicle in the same lane and the motorist slows down without the cyclist noticing, the cyclist may not decelerate in time and may swerve to avoid collision. In this case, the trailing bike is almost always going to be liable for the crash, as he or she was responsible for seeing and reacting to the slowing vehicle ahead.
In both these examples, the key issue in “no contact” accidents is not whether there was a collision but whether the drivers or riders acted negligently. If the driver of a vehicle acts negligently—defined as failure to exercise reasonable care—by not observing the three-foot passing law, causing a cyclist to swerve and crash and that driver intentionally or unintentionally (possibly having not actually seen the crash) leaves the scene, the cyclist may be eligible for UM (Uninsured or Underinsured Motorist’s) coverage under his or her own automobile policy for the amount of the damages up to the limits of the available UM coverage. Further, UM Coverage is designed to cover the damages suffered by the injured bicyclist which exceed the amount of the at fault motorist’s liability insurance policy.
As a Motorist, If I Hit Someone on a Bicycle, Do I Need to Call my Insurance Company?
The answer to this question is yes. Both parties involved in a crash should report the incident to their insurance companies. If you accidentally hit a cyclist, stop your vehicle immediately and check for any injuries. If there’s a need for an ambulance, call one. In the case of a minor accident, move your vehicle out of traffic and call the police. The same precautions and advice given to cyclists apply to motorists: take photos, document the scene and any damage, obtain witness information, and notify your insurance company at once.
Motorists’ insurance policies include a number of types of coverage, including bodily injury liability, which applies to injuries that you, as the driver, cause to someone else. If you, as the driver, are at fault in an accident where a cyclist is injured, this coverage will protect you from having to pay their medical bills yourself. It is always advisable to purchase more than the minimum bodily injury coverage. Your financial responsibility for injury to a cyclist in a crash can easily exceed $100,000.
Seek Legal Advice from a Cycling Attorney Expert
The relationship between motorists and cyclists can be an uncomfortable or wary one under the best of circumstances. Both parties must learn to respect each other’s rights under the law and share the road safely. But in the event of an accident, dealing with insurance companies can be difficult and complicated, especially if you’re trying to recover from serious injuries.
Therefore, it’s best to consult with a personal injury attorney who’s also an active cyclist. This move will insure that you receive expert advice and fair compensation for any injuries and financial losses such as loss of income, medical expenses, property damage, and your own pain and suffering and loss of the enjoyment of life.