1. It is advisable to first wait for the police to respond to the accident scene so that an official report will be documented and later filed for evidentiary purposes. Some California bicyclists do not realize that they have been injured until several hours after the accident, and what appears to be minor injuries may develop into serious and permanent injuries as a result from the collision. By then, it may be too late to identify the at-fault driver, which is why a police report is always very helpful for documenting what occurred.
2. Emergency scenes are often very stressful. You should not admit any fault at the accident scene, or even attempt to negotiate with the at-fault driver. The car driver may not give you accurate information about his or her identity, he or she may refuse to give you an ID, or drivers license (which is against the law), or insurance coverage, or vehicle ownership information. Often times, car drivers who cause bicycle accidents will initially apologize and accept blame for the car accident, but later, after they have had time to consider the consequences of their negligence, will deny that they were negligent (at-fault)! They may even deny that they were present at the accident scene! This frequently happens.
3. If there is a police accident report that was taken you should double check it to make sure that it is accurate. The police accident report will include the driver’s statement as well as all other witness statements; also, at times the responding officer may decide to ticket the driver, and this can be useful when trying to settle the case with the insurance company.
4. The police accident report should also include the bicyclist’s statement; unfortunately, law enforcement officers don’t always take a statement from the cyclist before completing their finalized report. In these cases, the officer may have been biased on fault and he or she already decided that the bicyclist is at fault for the accident, without even talking to the cyclist. This also happens even though the office did not witness the accident (which is usually the case). If you are able following the accident, make sure you give your statement to the officer.
5. Regardless of whether a police accident report is written, make sure that you have the driver’s name and contact info, as well as the names and contact info of any witnesses. If you are physically unable to gather this information, ask a witness to do it for you. Sometimes this is difficult or impossible if you are, for example, taken via ambulance.
6. The bicycle accident scene should be investigated for information about how the accident occurred. Remember, many times liability on bicycle accident cases center on who had the right-of-way. The investigation should include obtaining skid mark measurements, photographing the accident scene, speaking with additional witnesses, and measuring and diagramming the accident scene. If you have a cell phone with a camera or video mode, you should take video, and of course, pictures.
7. Do not be "stoic" about your injuries; you should seek prompt medical treatment for your injuries. This is proof that you were in fact injured, and the medical records generated by the medical provider will help establish the extent of your injuries. Any gap in care arguments can be used against your bicycle injury case.
8. You should have several photos taken, from different angles and under different lighting, as soon as possible after your accident. This is important for any bruising or abrasion marks on your body. Also photograph and damaged clothing (bike riding gear). Keep a journal (injury/pain diary) of your physical symptoms, starting immediately after the accident, and make entries every couple of days. Feel free to use a pain scale of 1-10.
9. You need to leave your bike and other damaged property in the same state it was after the accident. Take photos of all your damaged equipment and accessories as mentioned in item 8 above. The damaged bike is evidence and should not be altered, and you should speak with a bike injury attorney before settling up on your property damage.
10. It is important to not communicate with the at-fault insurance company before consulting with a California bike injury attorney. Most injured cyclists only want to be fair and reasonable with the insurance company; but, unfortunately, when you communicate with the insurance company, they are gathering information to be used against you later.