What to do After a Bicycle Crash in California

Whether you’re a hobby cyclist, a competitor, or a commuter, you know the road can be rough for bike riders. Sharing the road with cars, trucks, and commercial transport vehicles means you always have to be aware of your surroundings. Most of your trips are relatively uneventful – in terms of safety concerns anyway – but close calls and crashes do happen.

Staying Safe as a Cyclist

California has some statewide laws governing bikes on roadways, but it’s also important to become familiar with local ordinances. Cities and counties can implement their own rules. Knowing state and local bike laws not only keeps you safe, but also lessens the likelihood you’ll be held responsible, if you are ever involved in a traffic crash.

State laws require you to:

  • Move with traffic, not against it
  • Use bike lanes if they are present
  • Adhere to traffic signs and signals
  • Act predictably and responsibly
  • And stay to the far right, if moving slower than traffic, though you can “take the lane” if moving as fast as other traffic.

You’re safest if  you put some space between yourself and other vehicles on the road. This allows you and others appropriate reaction time for sudden stops, turns, or other traffic movements. Cyclists must also signal before changing lanes or making turns, just like any other driver.

If you are riding after dark or around dusk or dawn, you must ensure your bike has proper lights and reflective gear. California law requires:

  • A white headlight
  • White or yellow reflectors on the sides, front, and rear of your bike
  • Red, rear reflectors.

This safety equipment decreases your chances of a crash, but can also prevent you from being held at-fault for any crash that does occur.

What to do if a Crash Happens

If you’re involved in a crash, it can be hard to know just what to do. Really though, the steps are the similar whether you’re driving a car or riding a bike. The most important thing to keep in mind is that bicyclists are apt to be blamed for any crashes. To prevent this from happening in the event of a crash, you should:

  • Call the police and remain at the scene to file a police report in person, unless you need immediate medical attention. Be sure the police know your side of the story when giving your statement.
  • Go to the hospital to get checked out the day of the crash, and don’t hesitate to take an ambulance to the emergency room if need be.
  • Get a copy of the police report or the contact information of the police officers dispatched to the scene and follow up with any eyewitnesses.
  • Take photos of the crash scene, ideally on the day of the crash if you are able to do so.
  • Get pictures of the damage to your bike and of any physical injuries you suffer. It is important to not repair your bicycle until you get photos of the damage!
  • Keep track, and gather proof, of all your crash-related expenses and losses. These can include hospital bills, lost wages, damages to your bicycle or other equipment, and any future medical expenses, such as physical therapy.
  • Contact your own insurance company (you’re covered by your auto insurance even while operating a bike).
  • Contact the insurance company of the other driver by issuing a formal “demand letter” if you were not at fault for the crash.

Writing a Demand Letter

A demand letter is a formal communication that informs an insurance company of the crash details, including:

  • How, when, and where the crash occurred
  • Why the driver who hit you is at fault for the crash
  • What damages you require as compensation.

You can include personal injuries and property damages in your demand. Specific damages listed can include things like medical bills, bike repair or replacement costs, lost work time/earnings, and pain and suffering, among others.

You’ll need to take care in crafting your demand letter, as it serves as the first formal communication with the insurance company. It’s also the first step in what may be a series of negotiations with the claims adjuster. With carefully recorded evidence, you will likely not have to step foot in a courtroom to settle your claim after a crash.

*This article was provided by Personal Injury Help (www.personalinjury-law.com) and was not written by an attorney, and the accuracy of the content is not warranted or guaranteed. If you wish to receive legal advice about a specific problem, you should contact a licensed attorney in your area.