Mark Harshbarger of HarshLaw provides legal experience to bicyclists and their loved ones in the event of a serious or fatal accident involving a vehicle. With an increase of commuters, recreational and amateur cyclists sharing the already crowded roads, accidents between cars and bikes are unfortunately becoming more common.
Always request the police come and create a report if you are ever in an accident with a vehicle where a collision or serious injury has occurred. While you may have the information already, it is a helpful document to have prepared by third-party officials if any facts become disputed.
What information is contained in a police accident report?
The police report will likely and should contain the identity of the vehicle driver’s insurance company. Additional helpful information will include location of the accident, the identity of the driver and may indicate statements made by you and the driver of the other vehicle. It may also identify any witnesses to the accident. It is prudent that you speak to and retain your own lawyer. If possible, this should be done early in the process who will communicate with the insurance carrier on your behalf.
How does liability for the accident become determined?
After initial medical and police assistance, the first step in the legal process of recovery is to define which party was at fault, or if there was fault with both the cyclist and the vehicle driver.
Here are several initial questions that may be used to determine fault:
- Was there a right of way established for the vehicle or bicycle?
- Was the cyclist aware a vehicle was about to exit or merge into the area the cyclist was occupying?
- What was the level of attention to the road of the cyclist?
- Was the bicycle operating within reasonable speeds?
- Did the cyclist utilize reflectors and or illumination if at night or low light?
- Was the cyclist distracted by a headphone or other device?
- Was it possible for the cyclist to ride clear of the danger?
- What attempts did the bicyclist do to avoid the collision?
After the Accident: Preserve Evidence!
As soon after an accident as possible, all relevant evidence should be carefully and fully gathered and preserved. Some of the evidence to compile are police reports and the names and addresses of witnesses.
- Photographs of bicycle
- Photographs of vehicle
- Photographs of injuries
- Photographs of accident area from vehicle’s perspective
- Photographs of accident area from bicycle’s perspective
- Photographs of accident area from alternative perspectives
- Name and phone numbers of any witnesses that may have seen the accident
Photographs depicting the scene of the accident as it existed at the time of the accident should be taken. Make certain to secure and preserve the damaged bike for forensic analysis, avoid the desire to repair it or continue to use it until after discussing with your attorney.
Preserve any GPS or mobile app data. If wearing a Go Pro type camera, be certain to preserve the video. Photographs of the vehicle involved should be taken as soon as possible. Do not destroy or lose any evidence. This can result in severe sanctions including the dismissal of a lawsuit.
Be proactive in obtaining evidence and the early assistance and intervention of an attorney can be key to preserving relevant evidence. In many cases, this evidence may directly impact the ultimate result of a lawsuit as forensic evidence can in some cases scientifically establish the manner in which an accident occurred.