Responding To Tragedy ± What Can You Do To Preserve Your Rights?

Excerpt from Michigan Bicycle Summit Presentation Given on March 26, 2011 By: Todd Briggs and Sarah Colegrove 1

Spring is here and outdoor cycling has started ± FINALLY! Unfortunately, it is a fact of bicycling that many of us will have an accident that involves a motor vehicle. Too often, injured bicyclists fail to get critical information or to properly preserve their rights and evidence. To assist you, we have compiled a list guidelines and things to consider in the event you involved in a motor vehicle accident while cycling. Many of these procedures and tips will also apply, if you¶ve been bitten by a dog or injured due to poor road or sidewalk conditions.

AT THE SCENE: Before the Police Arrive: y y Get out of harm¶s way and call the police/911. Ask the motorist to stay at the scene If the driver leaves, he or she is guilty of hit and run, which is a serious crime. If the motorist refuses to stay or provide ID, get the license place number and be prepared to describe the driver and the year, make and model of the car. Get the driver¶s name, phone, address, driver¶s license number, and auto insurance information as you wait for the police. Get the name of the insurance

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© 2011. Todd E. Briggs and Sarah W. Colegrove. Todd and Sarah are lawyers in private practice and committed to educating the public and helping cyclists injured in accidents. In addition to helping athletes injured in sports-related accidents, they concentrate in the areas of civil litigation, including personal injury, commercial litigation, probate and estate planning law. Todd and Sarah are competitive cyclists, triathletes and adventure racers. Each has competed in many national and state running, biking and triathlon competitions, including the Hawaii Ironman. You can contact them at the following address or telephone number: Briggs Colegrove, P.C. 660 Woodward Ave., Suite 1523 Detroit, Michigan 48226 Telephone: (313) 964-2077 Fax: (313) 961-2345 E-mail: attorneys@briggscolegrove.com

company, phone number and the policy number. If the driver does not own the car, get the owner¶s insurance information. y Witnesses? Get names, addresses and telephone numbers of all witnesses--the more the better. If there is a passenger in the vehicle, get his name and contact information. Don¶t speculate about cause of crash. It is really true - anything you say can be used against you! Never make a statement apologizing for the crash or accepting part of the blame. It is not fair for an assessment of fault to be made immediately after the accident, before the whole sequence of events has been analyzed. If another party to the crash makes a statement about his/her fault, remember this statement and write it down as soon as you can.

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When the Police Arrive: y Request that an accident report be made. Be factual and describe how the crash occurred. Do not admit liability or speculate about your injuries or any other element of the accident. Get the officer¶s contact information. Get the reporting officer¶s name and badge number, department or agency and contact telephone number so that you able to supplement the report later, if necessary, and request a copy when it is complete. Immediately seek medical treatment, if you are hurt. If you are unsure as to the extent of your injuries, it is advisable to go to a hospital in an ambulance. A doctor¶s report of your injuries is important if further legal action becomes necessary.

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AFTER THE CRASH: y Don't ignore traffic citations. It is usually advisable to contest a ticket, especially when the penalty may include points on your driver¶s license. Hire an experienced attorney to represent you. Consult an experience attorney. Bicycle accidents may have ramifications in traffic court, criminal court or civil court. There are time deadlines (statute of limitations/notice requirments) for making most civil and insurance claims that, if not met, could terminate your rights. You should always consult with an attorney to discuss your rights and responsibilities. The attorney should have expertise in bicycle and motor vehicle (no fault) law and should have handled numerous bicycle accident claims in the past. Most attorneys will meet with you free of charge. After an initial consultation, you can make an informed decision as to how to proceed or whether you need the assistance of an attorney. Notify your auto insurance company. Keep notes, ask about time lines. Comply with all requests.

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Request a copy of the accident report. You will usually have to pay a nominal fee. Don't talk about the crash. Other than as required to report the crash to the police, insurance companies or your doctors, don't talk about the crash or your injuries. If you must discuss your injuries or the accident, do not speculate about the cause of the accident or the nature and extent of your injuries. Oftentimes, your statements will become part of your medical, insurance or police reports. Never give a recorded statement to an insurance company without first consulting with an attorney. Anything you say about the accident or your injuries can be used against you later in court. On the other hand, whatever you say to your attorney is confidential and cannot be revealed to other parties or used against you.

Record Keeping to Protect Your Rights: y Document the condition of your property. Keep your bicycle and equipment in a safe place with strict instructions that its condition not be altered or disturbed. Keep your clothes, your helmet, your shoes, your gloves, your sunglasses ± EVERYTHING - just the way it was after the crash. Document your physical condition. Take photographs of your bumps, bruises, road rash and scabs. If you have a cast, use crutches, or wear a splint, keep these items, and take photographs of you using these things. Photograph the crash location. Take photographs or make a video of the place where the accident happened, even if there are no markings on the road to suggest a crash occurred. Roads are resurfaced, widened, and new signs erected all the time. The conditions of the road when you had your crash may be changed in the future as a result of road construction. Get photographs before the crash scene changes. Keep a log to record the impact of the crash on you and your everyday life. Consider writing a diary of all the activities you can't perform, and the aches and pains you feel, as a result of the accident. Months down the road you'll forget about all this.

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Many of the items in our list are self-explanatory. While the information reporting and gathering aspects are very important, probably the most important step to preserving your rights lies in this recommendation ± DO NOT SPECULATE OR ADMIT LIABILITY. While it may seem that we are asking you to hide the truth, this is not the case. When involved in any sort of accident, oftentimes you are in shock and do not know what has happened. Many times our clients are not even able to remember how the accident happened. Too often, we find that cyclists are eager to explain how the accident happened or to accept responsibility for the accident, when in reality it wasn¶t their fault at all. The

facts, once gathered, most times bear that out. That is why it is important to preserve the information and let the facts concerning the accident speak for themselves. There is no sense in assuming liability or making an explanation for the accident¶s cause when you probably only know a portion of all that occurred. Obviously, the goal is to avoid any sort of accident. If an accident should happen, these tips will help guide you should you have to file a claim with your insurance company or file a suit in court. As always, should any rider have questions or concerns, please feel free to contact us. Have a nice spring cycling season and ride safely!

DISCLAIMER: The information contained herein is supplied for information purposes only and may not apply under all circumstances. This pamphlet is not intended to serve as legal advice. When involved in a crash, consult an attorney to determine your rights.

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