No matter what side of the Hudson River you live on, bicycle accidents happen every day. This is particularly true now that Spring has arrived and the weather is getting nicer. More than 5,000 bicycle accidents occur each year between NYC and northern New Jersey involving motor vehicles, and this number only continues to grow. When you or your family members are injured in a bicycle accident, you must focus on your physical recovery and legal rights in order to obtain the compensation you deserve.
Here are some of the five most important steps you can take after a bicycle accident:
Step 1. Visit the Emergency Room Immediately
Some bicycle accident injuries are more emergent and apparent than others. For life-threatening accidents, you are likely rushed to the emergency room via ambulance. Less severe injuries may not appear immediately, but you should still visit with your physician or head to an emergency room to err on the side of caution. This is particularly true for head injuries and concussions, which are very common for cyclists. Indeed, according to the Mayo Clinic, the signs and symptoms of a concussion could be subtle and not obvious to you right away. Concussion symptoms may last for days, weeks or even longer. Regardless, you need to seek medical help as soon as possible.
Step 2. Call the Police And Obtain A Police Report
After a bicycle accident involving a personal injury or fatality, you should call the police immediately so they can do an investigation and file a police report. If you cannot contact the police because of a traumatic injury, then a friend or family member can contact the police for you. It is vitally important that the police take the time to inspect the accident scene and fill out a police report. The police report contains important information and will typically assess blame or fault on one party or the other.
What Does a Police Accident Report Contain?
After calling 9-1-1 or 3-1-1 (NY), a police officer will arrive on the scene and begin recording accident scene observations and evidence. This report is something that your insurance company will use when making its decision on your settlement offer.
A police accident report will include:
- Date, time, location of the accident
- Weather-related information (was it sunny, cloudy, raining)
- Name/address of the parties involved, including drivers and owners of vehicles
- Cause of accident
- Eyewitness information
- Car/truck insurance policy number and identity of insurance company
- Other relevant details
Avoid making any speculative or self-incriminating statements. Do not guess. Many good people apologize for an accident even though they did not cause it. In this situation, your politeness is something that at-fault parties can use against you later on in court to negatively affect your case. Also make sure you state all of your injuries or body parts that hurt and cause you pain, no matter how serious or minor.
Does a Police Accident Report Automatically Go To Insurance?
City and state police departments in New Jersey and New York do not automatically send police accident reports to insurance companies. An insurance company will find out if you were in an accident if you inform them of your injury claim or if the other driver provides the police report to their own insurance company. If you have been injured in an accident, we would typically obtain the police report and provide it to the insurance company to show the other party was at fault.
Step 3: Try To Take Photos, Obtain Witness Information, And Preserve Evidence
Depending on your injuries and condition, you need to take photographs of the accident scene, the other vehicle, your bicycle, the general location, and your injuries. This must be done so critical evidence can be preserved to help prove your case. If you are severely injured, you may not be able to take pictures. Typically, the police may take photographs of the accident scene for their police report and to determine who is at fault. However, sometimes the police do not take photos. You should also ask any friends or family members to take photographs if they are at the scene or are available.
It is also important to obtain the names and contact information of any witnesses who observed the accident. The testimony of such objective third-party witnesses will be critical at a future trial of the case. Even if the case does not go to trial, obtaining an oral or written statement from a witness will help obtain a pre-lawsuit settlement recovery with an insurance company. Again, if you are seriously injured, you could ask friends or family members to get the names of any witnesses. The police should also be collecting witness information as well.
Obtaining this type of photographic and witness evidence could be crucial to winning your NYC bike accident case or NJ bike accident case. Even if it is fairly obvious that the cyclist was not at fault for the accident, and the vehicle driver was at fault, many times the insurance companies will still attempt to bully you and dispute liability, trying to blame the cyclist. Collecting this important evidence early on will help your NYC bike accident lawyer fight the insurance company's bogus arguments.
Step 4: Follow Through on Your Doctor's Orders
You also need to take the appropriate steps to ensure you are receiving prompt medical care and follow your doctor's orders. Another defense strategy that insurance companies can use involves your actions following your doctor's visit. Make sure that you follow through on your physician's orders, attend all scheduled appointments, schedule and attend physical therapy sessions if needed, and take medications as prescribed. Moreover, it is important that you seek treatment right away, as the insurance companies will hold against you any gap of time in treatment. They will argue that you are not really, seriously hurt because you did not seek treatment immediately. In addition, your treatment should continue on a consistent schedule. If there are large gaps of time between treatment dates, the insurance company may argue your injuries are not that severe. The insurance company could also allege that you further caused your injuries by not taking care of yourself properly after an accident.
Step 5: Speak with a Bicycle Accident Injury Lawyer to Evaluate Your Accident
Contact a bicycle accident injury lawyer as soon as possible after your accident. Many people wait to see what the initial settlement offer is from an insurance company before seeking legal help. While this strategy may work well for very minor injuries, it may cost you more money in the long run and could detrimentally impact your case.
It is important to speak with an experienced NYC bike accident attorney as soon as possible in order to understand your legal rights and also take appropriate action to be able to assert your claim successfully. For example, an NYC or NJ bike accident attorney will be able to investigate the accident, obtain the necessary evidence and witness testimony as mentioned above, determine liability, and assist in ascertaining the extent of your damages.
Your state's negligence laws will play a significant role in your accident. New York follows a “pure” comparative negligence doctrine, while New Jersey follows a “modified” comparative negligence doctrine. Depending upon where you live, or where your accident happened, the outcome of your case will vary according to these rules.
New York's Comparative Negligence Laws
New York applies a “pure” comparative negligence doctrine. Comparative negligence is a legal doctrine that assigns fault by a percentage to all parties. Typically, in court the jury would decide who is at fault, and assign a percentage of fault to the various parties in the case. If the at-fault party can prove that you were partially responsible for your accident, then your compensation is reduced by the percentage for which you are at fault. It is a common and valid defensive strategy.
For example, in a New York case where the damages amount to $100,000, if the jury finds that the cyclist was 60% responsible for the accident, and the car driver was 40% at fault, then the cyclist would be entitled to only $40,000.
New Jersey's Comparative Negligence Laws
New Jersey's “modified” comparative negligence law is quite different than New York's doctrine. In New Jersey, if a jury finds that you are more responsible for the accident than the defendant, then you are barred from any recovery. In other words, if the plaintiff seeking damages against a defendant is determined by the jury to have a greater degree of responsibility than the defendant, the plaintiff is barred from obtaining damages. If you are found to be less responsible than the defendant, you can recover damages but your compensation will be decreased by the percentage of your fault. This strategy is also a common and valid defensive strategy.
For example, in a New Jersey case where the damages amount to $100,000, if the jury finds that the cyclist was 60% responsible for the accident, and the car driver was 40% at fault, then – unlike in New York – the cyclist recovers nothing because the cyclist was deemed more at fault than the vehicle driver. However, if the cyclist is deemed to be 49% at fault, and the car driver is 51% at fault, then the cyclist would be entitled to an award – however the recovery would be decreased in proportion to the cyclist's percentage of fault, and recover $51,000.
How Much Does a Bicycle Accident Lawyer Cost?
Not only will a bicycle accident lawyer help you avoid making legal mistakes, but an NYC bike attorney will also take on your case at no upfront cost. Our firm does not get paid for our time and resources unless we successfully recover compensation for our clients.
As such, you can receive affordable legal representation and protection while you focus on recovering from your injuries. We will also handle comparative negligence arguments if the insurance company or at-fault party tries to place the blame on you.
Contact Hunt & Associates, LLC for a Free Consultation
Call us now to learn more about your legal options in a no-cost, no-obligation setting. Contact the legal team at Hunt & Associates, LLC for a Free Consultation at (866) 456-HUNT or send us a direct message online. If you hire our law office, you will speak directly with an injury attorney and we will not get paid unless we successfully obtain compensation for you. Hablamos Español o puedes contactarnos aquí.