Wednesday, October 24, 2012

What to do if you have had a Bicycle Accident #bikedc

Accidents happen. They happen in cars. They happen walking down the street. They happen on bicycles.

Being in a car is nice. When you are in an accident, in that instance, the car crumples to protect you, the glass breaks in such a way to protect you, the seatbelt restrains you, the airbag deploys, and the car calls 911. Just after the accident, you get out of the car and get the flares out of the trunk. You pull the forms out of your glove box that tell you step by step what information to gather. Than you go home, and the insurance companies take care of it. This is a mature ecosystem.

Bicycles aint like that.

Here are some thoughts on bicycle accidents. They aint mine; These are gleaned from wise sages from various trails.

Before the Accident:

  • Review your safety equipment: helmet, eye protection, gloves, lights, reflective gear, high viz…
  • Check your bicycle: brakes, tire pressure, tire tread, chain…
  • Download a copy of WABA’s Accident Form and carry it in our bicycle bag
  • Check your insurance to see if a bicycle accident is covered [3]
  • Consider wearing a cyclist ID so that if you can be identified (for instance if you are lying unconscious in a ditch by the road --- yip, been there). Carry some form of identification one way or another, along with an emergency contact number and your insurance information. [3] [4]
  • Download Apps to your smart phone: first aid, what to do when in an accident, from your insurance company, bike repair.
  • Pack some tools: A universal tool and a tire repair kit may help you get back on the road
  • Consider if your bike is disabled, how are you going to get home? Bike rack on the bus? Call a friend?
  • Pack a camera and a phone. Some cyclists mount a sports camera to their handlebar or helmet. [3]
  • Keep your receipt showing the purchase value of your bike.
  • Take a confident cycling class to improve your cycling skills
  • Consider your route and your style of cycling; are their adjustments you can make to decrease the risk of an accident?

At the Accident

Accidents vary from the very small to the very unfortunate. It is really hard to give good advice hear. You are going to do what you are able to do and what wisdom tells you to do.

  • Careful. When I use to play Ultimate Frisbee, when I took a bad hit or dive – I would stay on the ground and count to ten – making sure all the pieces are there. Make sure you are safe to move before you try to move, or if you can stay where you are, wait for the paramedics. [2] [8] [9] [10]
  • Get to safety. Where you are may not be a safe place to be. [9]
  • Call 911 (or tell a specific person to call 911). [1] [2] [6] [8] [10]
  • Get medical attention; see whether the other person needs medical attention. [2] [4]
  • Take out your WABA Form and exchange information with the other person (or ask someone to do it for you). [1] [3] [8] [9] [10]
  • >> Drivers Name, Driver’s License #, Address, Phone, Make of Car, License Plate #, Insurance Company, Insurance Police #, Date Time Location of Accident
  • Get the names of witnesses; ask them to stay a few minutes; ask them to talk to the police officer writing the report. [2] [3] [6] [9]
  • Take pictures of everything (Damaged Bike, Damaged Clothes, Accident Scene, Other Vehicle). [2] [4] [8]
  • Make sure the police fill out a police report. Make sure your version of the accident gets into the report. It may be available to you in a few days. Police reports can be amended. [1] [3] [4] [9]
  • Get medical attention – some injuries are not immediately apparent. Consider being examined by a paramedic, going to the emergency room, and/or seeing your own doctor. [1]
  • Do not argue or fight; if the situation seems acrimonious, call 911 and inform them that you feel threatened. Also take out your camera, put it on video, and record everything. [2]
  • “First, DO NOT discuss any aspect of the crash, including who might be at fault, with the driver, and DO NOT attempt to negotiate with the driver.” [3] [10]
  • Figure out how to get home (Call a friend, Take a Taxi, Take public transportation). Be hesitant to ride a bicycle that has been in an accident and may be damaged. [9]

At the Accident: The Witness Edition

  • If you are a witness or come upon the scene soon thereafter, stay at the scene.
  • Call 911.
  • See if anyone needs medical attention.
  • Help make the scene safe.
  • Give your name to those involved in the accident.

I once came upon a very unfortunate accident on the GW Parkway. The cyclist was lying on the parkway. My job was to go down 100 yards, cut off the car traffic – diverting it away from the accident – until the police came.

After the Accident:

Again, accidents come in all different flavors. What you do will depend on what happened.

  • See a doctor. [1] [9] [10]
  • Write down what happened at the accident. [1] [2] [3] [8]
  • Your GPS (including the GPS on your phone) can help reconstruct the accident [4]
  • Call your insurance company. Call their insurance company.
  • Get the police report.
  • Consider hiring an attorney (this may be an unnecessary step; but where it is necessary, the attorney may give you a free consultation). [1] [9]
  • >> League of American Bicyclists directory of attorney's
  • >> DC Bar Association How to Hire and Work with a Lawyer
  • >> American Bar Associations Find Legal Help.
  • >> Consider looking at a social network review site such as Yelp, or Washington Checkbook
  • >> NOLO Find a Lawyer
  • >> WABA says they can recommend an attorney [8]
  • Take your bicycle to a bike shop for an inspection. [10] Some bike shops will give you a repair estimate that may be helpful for working with insurance. [4] [9] The damage to the bicycle is evidence and many recommend not repairing your bicycle until you have reached a resolution with the other party. [4].

A bad accident can shake your confidence. I had one of those. I wanted to get back on the bike, but I was timid. It took many months before I got my confidence back. Consider working with friends; consider talking with your mates; consider taking another confident cycling class.


[1] Bike Accidents: What to Do After a Crash, NOLO,

[2] What to Do In Case of a Bike Crash, WABA

[3] Bob Mionske, How to Handle a Bike-Car Accident Part 1, Bicycling June 2nd 2011

[4] Bob Mionske, How to Handle a Bike-Car Accident Part 2, Bicycling June 30th 2011

[5] Bob Mionske, How to Handle a Bike-Car Accident Part 2, Bicycling July 17th, 2011

[6] Brent Hugh, What to Do If You Are in a Bicycle-Car Collision, Missouri Bicycle and Pedestrian Federation, June 7, 2012

[7] Bob Mionske, Accident Advice,

[8] Bicycle Crashes FAQ, WABA

[9] If you crash, MASSBIKE

[10] Ryan Wood, How to Handle a Bike Accident With a Vehicle,

1 comment:

  1. Not a lot of people realize that their car insurance covers them in a car/bike (or pedestrian) accident. In Virginia your coverage for this kind of accident is "stacked". If you have $100,000 of coverage for each vehicle you own and you have 3 vehicles, you have $300,000 coverage for your bike accident. (We learned this experientially - when my wife was walking across a street and was run over by an SUV.)