Arizona enjoys beautiful weather throughout the year, making it the perfect place to take up bicycling as a hobby or lifestyle. Bicycles do more than just provide great exercise; they are a cost-efficient means of transportation around Maricopa County. Unfortunately, Arizona holds the record as the fifth most dangerous state in the U.S. for cyclists. There is a not-insignificant risk of getting into a bicycle accident when you go out.
Understanding the Severity of a Bicycle Accident
Safety should always be the number one concern when riding a bicycle, and many take precautions against injury by wearing helmets or other protective equipment. In spite of how proactive you are with protecting yourself, though, motorists are a serious threat to your safety. Wearing a helmet often isn’t enough to protect you from potential injuries caused by an accident.
Arizona statistics show that 71% of all bicycle accidents reported across the state occurred in Maricopa Country, with 63.3% of all fatal accidents also taking place in Maricopa County. The sheer force and weight of a vehicle and the contact with asphalt can cause serious injuries to a cyclist. There is little to protect you from severe trauma when you’re involved in a bicycle accident. You may experience a traumatic brain injury, broken bones, lacerations, bruises and other injuries.
In addition to the high likelihood of bodily injury, there are additional costs to worry about with an accident. Treating your injuries could require emergency transport or an extended stay in a medical facility. The injuries could be so severe that you’re unable to work for a length of time, losing your income to the accident. You could also experience long-term disability, another situation that jeopardizes your earnings potential. In severe accidents, death and funeral expenses may be a concern.
Handling the Aftermath of a Bicycle Accident
When personal injuries occur on account of a third party, Arizona law allows you to pursue compensation for your damages and loss. This holds true if you’re involved in an accident while riding a bike: You have rights, just as if you were driving in a car and hit.
However, if you don’t take care to protect your rights, you could find yourself dealing with the aftermath of an accident without any help. Here’s what you can do to protect your interests if you’ve been in an accident.
1. Call for Help
Your first response once an accident occurs should be to call for help. If you notice severe injuries, dial 911 and request medical care. In most cases, the dispatcher will also send out law enforcement. Even if you don’t see any signs of an immediate injury, call law enforcement to report the accident and request for an officer to come to the scene. If there is any property damage or injuries, it is a reportable accident that requires police involvement.
It’s important for you to wait on the scene until the police arrive. Because it’s a reportable incident, you have a legal obligation to stay until the police release you. While you wait for the officer and first responders to arrive on the scene of the bicycle accident, there are several things you can do to protect your health and safety as well as a potential personal injury case.
2. Assess Your Injuries
Prioritize taking care of your injuries. Serious injuries are usually evident, such as broken bones or lacerations. Head injuries, like a concussion or TBI, are not always noticed right away. Inventory your injuries and take any steps necessary to prevent further damage until help arrives. You may need to apply pressure to a wound or keep your body still.
3. Exchange Contact Information
Although the police will gather the contact information for those involved and potentially any witnesses to the bicycle accident, you should also gather this information as well. Start with the motorist involved and get the following:
- Phone number
- Driver’s license number
- License plate number
- Make and model of the car
- Insurance policy number
If the motorist refuses to speak with you, wait until law enforcement arrives and let them help you get the information. Your cell phone is a useful tool in these situations, as you can take a picture of the car, the license plate and the driver to have them for your records.
4. Look for Witnesses
You will want others to corroborate an accurate account of what happened, so if there are any witnesses around the scene, be sure to talk to them. Ask them for their names and contact information. You can also ask them to wait until the officer arrives so they can share what they saw for the report. If they don’t agree, you can also share their contact information with the police.
5. Gather Documentation About What Happened
It’s important for any potential legal claim to have supporting evidence, and you can begin to gather documentation at the scene of the bicycle accident. Write down what you remember about the details of the accident, including where it happened, who was there, what the weather conditions were and how the accident occurred. If you don’t have pen and paper nearby, use your cell phone to capture footage of the scene.
Take pictures of the location, including street names, traffic signals, nearby businesses and the weather conditions. Get close-up photos of the damage to both cars, any debris or road conditions, injuries and other relevant details. If you’re afraid you’ll forget details, you can also make a video recording of the scene where you narrate what you remember happening and other details.
6. Speak Only to the Responding Officer
Regardless of how you may feel after the incident, don’t get into a conversation with the parties involved. If the motorist wants to make an apology or accept the blame, simply refer them to the police officer and the official report. Don’t make negotiations or a deal on how you will handle the accident. Don’t admit to any wrongdoing or make accusations against the motorist.
Make sure the police officer takes your report. It’s common for motorists to receive priority in an accident, but you have rights just like they do. Tell the officer you want your statement included on the report, preferably while the officer is at the scene. Although you can request to have the report modified later, it is more efficient to have the report done while the information is fresh in your mind. Don’t admit fault. Just state the facts and details of what took place. Be sure to write down the accident report number.
7. Get Medical Attention
Once the police officer finishes making the report of the bicycle accident, you are free to leave the scene. At this point, you should get to a medical facility and speak to a doctor about your injuries. It doesn’t matter how minor you think your injuries are. Some injuries won’t show symptoms until a few hours to a few days later, so it’s important to get a doctor to examine you and provide a written evaluation of your symptoms and noticeable injuries.
You should keep a journal of how you feel for several days after the accident so you have a record and can notice if you develop unusual symptoms. In such cases, seek additional medical care or follow up with the original treating physician.
8. Protect a Personal Injury Claim
When your injuries are someone else’s fault, you need to protect and preserve any evidence that could support a personal injury claim. There is nothing too big or too small to hold onto. Keep any damaged clothing in a Ziploc bag; don’t wash it or have it cleaned.
As much as you would like your bicycle back, don’t have the bike repaired if possible. Instead, bag up all the damaged parts. If you need it for transportation, before having it fixed, take plenty of photos, and obtain a written report about the damage and cost of repairs from a bike shop.
Addressing the Legal Options of a Bicycle Accident
Because Arizona classifies bicycles as vehicles, the laws that govern and protect motorists also apply to you. Incidents in Maricopa County are much higher than in the rest of the state since cycling accidents occur more frequently in urban and metropolitan environments over rural areas.
Regardless of where you cycle, it’s important that you carefully follow all of the laws that pertain to cyclists. This will help minimize your legal liability in an accident.
Drivers have a duty of care when sharing the road with cyclists. Neglecting that duty either intentionally or accidentally could lead to being legally held responsible for the accident.
A majority of the personal injury cases filed over a biking accident involve claims of negligence. This means a motorist failed to uphold a reasonable standard of care when sharing the road and either from an action or inaction caused an accident. This doesn’t have to be intentional, but if damages and injuries occur, they could be liable. Injury claims and liability laws in Arizona are complex, which is why hiring a lawyer is always advised following a bicycle accident.
Successful negligence claims must prove three things:
- The driver owed you a duty to drive with a reasonable degree of care.
- The driver failed to drive with this reasonable degree of care and breached his or her legal duty.
- The driver’s breach of duty and negligent actions were the cause of the accident that led to your injuries and damages.
Because proving these three elements is fundamental to your personal injury case, it’s important that you don’t admit fault or make incriminating statements when giving the police your report at the scene of the accident. This is also why gathering and preserving evidence is a critical part of how you should respond in the immediate moments after an accident.
Keep in mind that at-fault determinations for accidents vary by situation. Even if you weren’t completely obeying traffic laws or following proper cycling etiquette, you might not bear full responsibility for the accident on account of what the motorist did or didn’t do. Remember, never admit your part in an accident. Simply state the facts and contact legal aid.
Arizona is a comparative fault state. This affects who bears responsibility for the accident and how much compensation an individual is eligible to receive. Under this process, the degree of fault each participant shares impacts the amount of damages to receive.
If you were cycling at night without a light or reflector on your bike and a distracted driver didn’t see you, a jury could find that your decisions contributed 20% to the accident while the driver texting on the phone contributed 80% of the fault. Under the law, you could only receive 80% of eligible damage compensation. Professional legal involvement can establish a solid defense or argument concerning fault.
Dealing With the Insurance Company After a Bicycle Accident
Looking at the list of what to do after an accident, you’ll notice that calling an insurance company is missing. However, while you probably don’t have insurance on your bicycle, any car registered to operate in the state of Arizona must carry liability insurance. The motorist involved in the accident should carry the minimum coverage to address your injuries and property damage, but insurance companies don’t always have your best interest in mind when addressing a claim.
The motorist should contact their insurance company, but you can also make a claim with that company directly. Don’t panic if the insurer tries to stonewall you over the claim and is difficult to work with. Although it’s possible to continue to work with them and fight for a settlement, a better option is to contact legal help.
Getting a Settlement After a Bicycle Accident
If a bicycle accident caused your injuries and damages, the at-fault party may have a legal liability to provide compensation. At Sargon Law Group, you have a resource for finding help after an accident. Contact our team to find out how we can help your personal injury claim.