The relative difference between a bike and a car is obvious. While a car has a ton of metal protecting the interior, to say nothing of airbags, a cyclist has only their wits and a helmet standing between them and serious injury.
And just as an aside, cyclists who don’t wear a helmet are three times more likely to die of a head injury in an accident than those who do wear one. Keep that in mind next time you just want to whip over to the corner store on two wheels. (Source)
Back to my point: prevention is the order of the day and in our ‘car-is-king’ society, drivers really need to take the onus onto themselves, given their larger size, to watch for cyclists and be mindful of their right to share the roadways.
However, as proven by the rash of cyclist deaths in the last twelve months in Toronto and Hamilton, the reality is that accidents are going to happen.
Blame the growth of the GTA, or the fact that the city wasn’t designed to allows cyclists easy and continuous paths to their destinations. The causes of these awful fatalities are being discussed and debated at Toronto and Hamilton City Councils and in council offices throughout the province.
In the meantime, if you are cyclist, you need to be prepared in case you too are in an accident one day. Remember one thing in particular: even though you aren’t required to carry insurance as a cyclist, you are required to follow the rules of the Ontario Highway Traffic Act, just as cars do.
Typically, I see three big mistakes that cyclists make following a collision with a motor vehicle:
Cyclists Think They Are Fine
I can’t tell you the number of cases I’ve seen of cyclists who are involved in a dooring—where they fly over their handlebars after hitting a carelessly opened car door—or other collision with a car, who didn’t report any injuries at the time of the accident and didn’t see a doctor.
This is critical. After a cycling accident, your body will be pumping with adrenaline and you will be in shock. That shock will prevent you from feeling the real impact of any injuries that you might have. But records documented by a physician are vital to a potential lawsuit, down the road.
Be truthful with your doctor—don’t exaggerate your pain and injuries but don’t try and be tough about them either. The notes that your doctor makes at that time could make all the difference in settlement negotiations.
Further, if you do see a doctor and they diagnose injuries and a course of treatment, don’t ignore their directions. Any refusal to participate in treatment, or if you only follow the plan intermittently, won’t be a positive in a claim or lawsuit.
Bottom line: even if you don’t think you are seriously injured, go and see your doctor to be sure. Shock can take hours or even days to fully wear off, so you might not be aware of the extent of any injuries right away.
Cyclists Don’t Get The Necessary Accident Information
Whether it’s because of the shock, or just not knowing what to do, many cyclists in accidents don’t end up getting the information they need to either file an insurance claim or a lawsuit.
So first off, if there are any injuries (even minor ones), call the police. You are more likely to get all the necessary information about the driver of the vehicle if the police attend.
For minor collisions, with no overt evidence of injury (though remember my point above), the policy may instruct you to report to a collision reporting centre (CRC), rather than attending the scene themselves. This makes it doubly important to make sure you get all the necessary information.
If you’re told to go the CRC, do so, but also get the following information from the driver:
- Full name and driver’s license number.
- Telephone number for the driver.
- Driver’s insurance company and policy number – if you don’t have car insurance of your own, any injury claims might be filed under the driver’s policy.
- Witness information. This one is particularly important. If someone saw what happened, get their name and phone number in the event that follow up interviews will be needed with police or your lawyer.
If you have a phone, photograph the documents and the scene and jot down any details that you might forget. I had a client once who copied and pasted a list like this one, of information to remember to get into his phone so that he wouldn’t have to recall it in the chaotic moments after an accident.
NOTE: if you are hit and the driver is leaving the scene, your best and most important information to get is going to be their license plate. It’s not easy but try to remember it!
Cyclists Try To File Their Own Insurance Claims
Filing an insurance claim for injuries is not an easy thing at the best of times, particularly as a cyclist.
Under Ontario’s no-fault insurance system, if you have car insurance, you will claim first under that. If you don’t, you can claim under the insurance policy of the driver who hit you.
Either way, medical evidence and eyewitness reports are going to be important to filing any claim, so make sure you have both.
It all gets more complicated if you have no car insurance and the driver doesn’t remain at the scene and is not discovered later.
A hit and run, or a collision where neither you or the driver have proper insurance, isn’t without options. At that point, you do have recourse for injury claims to the Motor Vehicle Accident Fund (MVACF), but there is a cap on these claims, so the more information you have about the accident and the driver of the vehicle, the better.
Ultimately, you are better off to speak with a personal injury lawyer before you get in too deep in discussions with the insurance company.
This is particularly true if your injuries are serious. A consultation with a personal injury lawyer won’t cost you a cent but it could save you thousands in the long run.