By Rick Bernardi

Since Covid first made its appearance in countries around the world, there has been an explosion of new riders taking up bicycling, whether for exercise, recreation, or to avoid commuting on crowded public transportation.

This article is Part 3 in a series of bicycle safety articles for those riders who are new to bicycling, returning to bicycling, or are even experienced cyclists who would like a refresher on the basics of bicycle safety. In Part 1 of this article, we looked at protecting yourself (and your bike!) before you ride. This pre-ride safety information in Part 1 is an often overlooked but vitally important part of protecting yourself and your bike.

In Part 2 of this article, we looked at how to protect yourself while on your ride. And in this article, we will look at what happens if you are injured despite your best efforts to stay safe. Together, these 3 articles are a comprehensive primer on bicycle safety for bicyclists of all experience and skill levels.

Continued from Part 2

You’ve done everything right. You’ve protected yourself with insurance. You’ve protected your bike from theft, and you’ve learned how to lock your bike properly. You’ve made sure your bike fits and is in good mechanical condition.You’ve got proper safety equipment, and you’ve practiced your emergency maneuvers.

What else? You know the traffic laws, you understand the importance of situational awareness, and you’ve done your best to help drivers see you.

You’re ready to ride, and it’s a beautiful day. Sure, there will be cars on the road on this beautiful day, and like every cyclist, you’ve had your share of near misses with clueless drivers. But also like every cyclist, you know that cycling is one of the safest activities you can engage in, and that car-on-bike crashes are a relatively rare hazard. Not today, careless driver!

But this day the unthinkable happens, and a driver crashes into you.

Fortunately, you survive. But as the seconds turn to minutes, minutes to hours, and hours to days, your thoughts turn to “now what”?

What happened? Are you injured? Is your bike OK? These are common questions in the immediate aftermath of a crash.

If you haven’t been seriously injured, your next thoughts may turn to “who’s going to pay for this”? An ambulance ride is expensive. So is treatment. And you may need physical therapy. Can you afford to take time off of work? How will you pay your bills? Once the initial shock of the crash gives way to post-crash reality, these are common questions that come up.

Let’s assume that you aren’t showing any obvious signs of serious injury. You’re bruised, scraped, and sore, but nothing seems to be broken. While waiting for the police to arrive, you talk with the driver and some witnesses who have stopped to help. When the police arrive, they talk with the driver and with you, and then ask if you’d like an ambulance. You know the ambulance is going to be expensive, and you don’t need the expense of a medical bill for a few scrapes and bruises, so you decide to get home on your own.

Let’s stop there. In relatively minor collisions, this scenario plays out too often, and almost everything in this scenario is going to work against you. So let’s talk about what should happen instead.

What To Do If You Are Involved In A Car-On-Bike Accident

In the immediate aftermath of the collision, DO NOT assume you are OK. If it looks like all you have are a few scrapes and bruises, that’s good news, but don’t assume that your initial assessment is correct. At a minimum, let paramedics decide if it’s even safe for you to move.

While waiting for paramedics and police to arrive, DO NOT talk with the driver about what happened. It’s normal to be angry with the person who hit you. And it’s normal for the person who hit you to be remorseful and apologetic. But like it or not, this became a legal case from the moment the driver hit you, and that means the driver’s insurance company will be involved.

You might think the insurance company will get involved to make sure you get paid for your damages, but that is not the case. The insurance company will be involved because they step into the driver’s shoes in the event of a collision, and their goal is to minimize the amount of money they will pay for their driver’s carelessness. And that means that if they can find a way to blame you for the collision, they will.

DO NOT attempt to negotiate with the driver. The driver may promise to pay you, and then leave after giving you false information. Now you have no idea who hit you.

Even if the driver is remorseful and apologetic now, once the initial shock of the collision wears off, and the driver realizes the legal and financial implications involved, your formerly apologetic driver may later be accusing you of causing the crash. And that shift in blame will turn you from “victim of negligence” to “careless cyclist” in the eyes of the driver’s insurance company. So anything you say to the driver now, or to the driver’s insurance company later, can be used against you when it’s time to sort out who’s at fault in this collision. Of course, if the driver wants to blame himself (or herself) for causing the collision, let the driver talk. Listen to what the driver is saying now, commit it to memory, and write it all down as soon as you can.

Example of how not to respond:

Driver: “I’m so sorry, it’s all my fault! I just didn’t see you!”

You: “I’m sorry too. I didn’t see you until it was too late.”

Examples of how you can respond:

Driver: “I’m so sorry, it’s all my fault! I just didn’t see you!”

Polite You: “Well of course you should have seen me, but I appreciate your apology.”

Angry you: “How could you not see me? I was right in front of you and I had the right of way!”

Cautious you: “Yes, it is your fault.”

Smart and cautious you: “I’m in too much pain to discuss this right now.”

When the Police and Paramedics Arrive

If there are witnesses, ask one of them to call 911 (emergency) and report a car-on-bicycle accident with injuries. Let the paramedics examine you before you decide that your injuries are minor. The police will get the driver’s statement. Make sure that they get your statement too. This is important, because sometimes police only get the driver’s version of what happened. Make sure they get your side of things. Also make sure that any witnesses to the collision talk with the police. Finally, make sure that the police will file a police report, and make sure that what they report is accurate in every detail. Get the name of the officer, and if you can’t write it down, ask the officer for a card, or ask a witness to write it down for you. Also get the name and contact number of the driver, and of any witnesses. If you are injured and can’t write it down, ask a witness to do it for you.

If the paramedics decide that you should be transported to emergency by ambulance, don’t refuse. Sometimes a cyclist will refuse because they’re worried about the expense, and they believe that their injuries are not serious. But you should not refuse. Here’s why. First, because insurance will be involved, you should not be concerned at this moment about the expense of an ambulance ride to emergency. If the paramedics think it’s important, listen to them. And second, you’re not qualified to assess your own injuries. It’s very common for a cyclist to believe that they weren’t seriously injured, only to discover later, after the adrenaline wears off, that they had injuries they didn’t feel at first.

NEVER tell the driver or police that you aren’t injured. Only a doctor can make that determination. If you tell the police or the driver that you aren’t injured, that will be used against you later by the driver’s insurance company.

In fact, it’s extremely important to be examined by a doctor as soon after the crash as possible. An examination can uncover hidden injuries, if there are any. An examination also creates a paper trail for your negotiations with the insurance company. It’s how you prove you were injured.

Consider two different scenarios: In the first, you shrug off your injuries, go home, and don’t see a doctor until 2 weeks later, when severe and nagging pain convinces you to finally see a doctor. In the eyes of the driver’s insurance company, there’s no proof that your injury was caused by their driver.

In the second scenario, you go to emergency as soon as possible, even though you think you weren’t seriously injured. If there is a hidden injury, the doctor may uncover it at this point. But let’s say no injuries are found, but you return in 2 weeks with nagging pain, and that’s when the hidden injury is discovered. Either way, there’s a paper trail proving that you went to seek a medical evaluation and care immediately after the crash, and in the case of an injury that manifests later, the doctor can tie it to your crash. Now you have solid evidence that your injuries were caused by the driver who hit you.

Have several photos of your injuries taken, from different angles and under different lighting, as soon as possible after your accident. Keep a journal (an “injury diary”) of your physical symptoms starting immediately after the accident, and make entries every couple of days.

As soon as you are able, write down everything that happened in detail, while your memory is fresh. If you can, return to the scene of the crash and take photos, measurements (including skid marks) make diagrams, and note any pertinent details that help explain and establish what happened.

Once the driver’s insurance company has been notified that there was a collision, the insurance company will want to talk with you. DO NOT communicate with the driver’s insurance company before consulting with an attorney. You may be thinking that it’s obvious that the driver is at fault, and you only want fair compensation, so you’re only giving a fair and honest account of what happened. The insurance company, however, sees the same conversation as an opportunity to gather evidence which they can later use to prove that your negligence caused the accident.

If you have been injured contact bicyclelaw.com or another personal injury attorney who understands bicycling. While many attorneys are competent to handle general injury cases, make sure your attorney has experience and is familiar with:

  • Bicycle traffic laws
  • Negotiating bicycle accident cases with insurance companies
  • Trying bicycle accident cases in court
  • The prevailing prejudice against cyclists by motorists and juries
  • The names and functions of all bicycle components
  • The speed bikes travel as well as braking and cornering
  • Bicycle handling skills, techniques, and customs
  • How to get the full replacement value property damage estimates for your bicycle
  • Establishing the value of lost riding time
  • Leading bicycle accident reconstruction experts
  • Licensed forensic bicycle engineers
  • Establishing the value of permanent diminished riding ability

If you have been injured in a bicycle accident, whether in a solo accident that may be the result of another party’s negligence, or in a collision with another person, contact bicyclelaw.com for a free consultation with bicycle attorney Bob Mionske. Our Portland, Oregon Office is The Law Offices of Bob Mionske. Bicycle Law’s California office is at Emison, Cooper & Cooper. Given his extensive expertise and contacts in the national bicycling community, Bob is happy to speak with you wherever you are located. If appropriate, he will associate local counsel on matters.

If you want to speak to us about a crash, your rights, or an advocacy matter, please call 866-VELOLAW (866-835-6529) or email info@bicyclelaw.com.

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Bicycling is a very safe and healthy activity, and with appropriate precautions and attention to your safety, bicycling is even safer. Nevertheless, no sporting activity is ever completely safe. Despite your best efforts, there will always be some small possibility of injury. Regardless of whether a bicycle accident is a solo accident, or involves a collision with an automobile, or a defective cycling product, the accident is usually the result of somebody’s negligence– the driver’s negligence, the cyclist’s negligence, both the driver and the cyclist, or the local government responsible for the condition of the roads and trails.

If the negligent party in that crash is the driver, (or the government agency responsible for the roads, or even the manufacturer of a defective bicycle product), the cyclist has a legal right to be compensated for his or her injuries.

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For more information:

For information about Bicycle Accidents:

For information about protecting yourself with Insurance:,

For more in-depth information about accidents and insurance:

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About Bicycle Law:

As urban density increases and renewed interest in cycling reaches unprecedented levels, it is an exciting time for bicycling in the United States. In many places though, the laws and the road access for cyclists have not kept up. Conflicts occur between bicyclists and motorists.

Regardless of the cause of a crash, the outcome tends to be worse for the cyclist than the car. Bicycle Law was founded by Bob Mionske with one goal: to help cyclists. Given Bob’s unique professional cycling background crossed over with his lawyering, he is regularly approached by attorneys (and cyclists directly) for input on bicycle collisions. Cause, effect, and liability.

If you want to speak to us about a crash, your rights, or an advocacy matter, please call 866-VELOLAW (866-835-6529) or email info@bicyclelaw.com.

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