The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates a hit-and-run crash happens approximately every 43 seconds. The steadily increasing rate of hit-and-run collisions is especially troubling when considering the disproportionate dangers bicyclists face sharing our roads and highways. Because cyclists’ only protection against a serious collision is a helmet, they are far more likely to suffer debilitating injuries or death.
What should you do if the person responsible for your bicycle accident fled the scene? Below is a guide on what to do after a hit-and-run bicycle accident, followed by suggested legal resources for victims and their families. However, if you have questions about your specific claim or your eligibility to file a hit-and-run injury lawsuit, the best person to answer your questions is an experienced hit-and-run injury attorney.
What To Do at the Scene of the Accident
If you have been hit by a vehicle that suddenly flees the scene, you may feel panicked and uncertain of what to do next. However, there are certain actions victims of hit-and-run accidents can take at the accident scene that will significantly improve their chances of successfully winning compensation for their injuries later on.
Remove Yourself From Immediate Harm
The first thing to do after you are hit by a motor vehicle is to remove yourself from the road if you can. Other vehicles may not see you in time to prevent another accident, so it is best to relocate to a sidewalk or other safe area. Aside from preventing further accidents, you can also assess your initial injuries sustained in the collision.
Once you have removed yourself to a place of relative safety, you should call 911. Bicyclists involved in a collision are highly likely to sustain serious injuries such as broken bones, whiplash, internal bleeding, or concussion. All of these injuries require immediate emergency medical treatment. Even if you believe you have not sustained any serious injuries, it is still important to alert law enforcement of the accident and to have your injuries assessed by a paramedic.
Try to Capture Identifying Information
Drivers who flee the scene of an accident will do so as quickly as possible to avoid identification. However, with just a few pieces of identifying information, victims can eventually track down the person responsible for their injuries. At the scene of the accident, try to record any possible information you have regarding the vehicle or driver. Even if you do not have the chance to capture their license plate number, note the make, model, and color of the vehicle and any other identifying information.
Collect Contact Information of Witnesses
If a passerby notices a hit-and-run accident, they will likely be happy to give their testimony to hold those responsible accountable. In order to benefit from witness testimony, you will need to record their contact information so that your attorney can contact them to learn more about the circumstances of your accident. In some cases, witnesses may have noticed important identifying information that will help you track down the driver.
Take Photographic Evidence
If your injuries do not require you to be taken to the hospital, it may be helpful to take photographs of the site of your accident. Document the damage done to your person and property. At this point, it is difficult to say with certainty what may be helpful in your lawsuit, so it is best to record any detail, even if it may seem insignificant.
What To Do After Leaving the Scene of the Accident
What happens after you leave the scene of your collision depends greatly on whether or not your injuries require hospitalization. Whether or not you are hospitalized, there are specific actions that you or a loved one should take in the weeks and months to come.
Alert Your Insurer
After any injury, it is required that you make a report to your insurer. Without this report, your insurer may claim later that you were never injured or failed to provide them with sufficient documentation. Sometimes, the only compensation you will likely receive is from your insurer, so you must follow the correct procedures and inform them of your injury and any developing complications.
Keep Track of Economic and Non-Economic Losses
At this point in the process, you must keep careful documentation of anything related to your accident. It is particularly crucial that you retain all records of medical bills and anything with a specific diagnosis of injury. Try digitizing all records so you can easily share them with your attorney.
Request Security Footage
Bicycle accidents are most likely to happen at heavily trafficked intersections. These busy intersections are likely surrounded by businesses operating security cameras or red light cameras operated by the state transportation department. There is a strong possibility that these cameras recorded your collision or, at the very least, were able to capture the vehicle’s license plate. You will need to make this request relatively soon, as most businesses periodically erase their security footage.
Continue Seeing a Medical Professional
The more serious your injuries, the more likely you will require long-term medical care, surgery, or rehabilitation. It is important that you continue with any recommended medical treatments to prevent further complications and monitor any developing injuries. In some cases, insurance companies will refuse to compensate clients who neglect to keep up with their medical care.
Can I Still Recover Compensation if the Other Person Isn’t Identified?
Even if you collect as much evidence and witness testimony as possible, there is still the possibility that the person who committed the hit-and-run will not be identified. Understandably, hit-and-run victims may fear they are out of options and will never receive the assistance they require. However, in many cases, you may be able to seek compensation from your insurer. If you have an uninsured motorist policy (most insurance policies include this coverage), your insurance company will payout for your injuries. However, if your insurance policy refuses to payout for your injury or does not fully cover your costs, you may be eligible to sue with the help of a qualified injury attorney.
What Happens if the Police Find the Other Person and They Don’t Have Insurance?
Depending on your state, a driver who has committed a hit-and-run can be charged with a misdemeanor or felony. While the driver will undoubtedly face legal consequences if identified by police, how will you be compensated if they are uninsured or underinsured? The means of recovering compensation in this instance is similar to what happens if you are unable to identify the person. An uninsured or underinsured culprit will likely be able to pay the full cost of your injuries; in this case, you would also be eligible to file a claim with your uninsured motorist policy.
How to Start a Bicycle Accident Lawsuit
Filing a hit-and-run accident lawsuit may appear daunting. The following steps will simplify the process and ensure that you take the right steps toward receiving fair compensation for your bicycle accident injuries.
Consult With a Bicycle Injury Attorney
Choosing your legal representative is the most important step in the process of starting your bicycle accident lawsuit. To ensure the person responsible for your injuries is held legally and financially accountable for their actions, you will need to choose an attorney with years of experience and extensive knowledge of laws pertaining to hit-and-run collisions. When you find an attorney near you that fits these criteria, schedule your initial consultation to review your hit-and-run bicycle accident case.
Evaluate the Worth of Your Claim
Personal injury victims of all kinds of accidents have the right to seek fair compensation for their economic and non-economic damages. These damages could include injuries sustained in the accident, medical bills, lost wages, or long-term suffering. Additionally, because committing a hit-and-run is considered a crime, victims of these accidents may be eligible to seek additional punitive damages. Your attorney will carefully review all potential damages you are eligible to claim to estimate the total worth of your claim. This approximate estimate will inform the case your attorney builds against the defendant.
File Your Hit and Run Bicycle Injury Claim
Finally, once you and your attorney have made all necessary preparations, it is time to file your hit-and-run bicycle injury claim. Once you file your paperwork and pay any associated fees, your hit-and-run bicycle accident will be in progress. Throughout your lawsuit, your injury attorney will help protect your best interests and ensure you see the justice you deserve.
Legal Resources for Victims of Hit & Run Accidents
Victims of hit-and-run bicycle accidents can understandably feel overwhelmed by hopelessness; they were injured due to the negligence of another and are now forced to suffer immense pain and suffering as a result. However, some resources exist to help victims of hit-and-run bicycle accidents explore their legal options. The following resources can help connect bicycle accident victims and their families with quality legal representation and advice.
The United States Department of Justice
No hit-and-run accident victim should be without quality representation due to an inability to pay. Luckily, thousands of practicing attorneys offer free (pro bono) representation to accident victims. These attorneys may offer pro bono services as a means of charity or to gain experience. The United States Department of Justice maintains a running list of Pro Bono Legal Service Providers by state. To find a pro bono legal service provider near you, select your state on their interactive map.
LawHelp is a nonprofit organization that ensures equal access to quality representation regardless of victims’ economic status. While the Department of Justice resource is dedicated to pro bono legal resources, LawHelp helps accident victims find local pro bono and low-cost legal services. This means that you will be presented with more options for free and low-cost legal services in your area, making it more likely that you will find an attorney willing to take on your case. To use LawHelp’s database of attorneys, visit their Legal Help Finder page.
Helping Hit-and-Run Tragedies (HHART)
The above organizations can help connect you with a quality attorney to help you meet your long-term goal of receiving total compensation for your injuries. However, in the meantime, you may benefit from charitable associations that exist to financially assist victims of hit-and-run accidents. The board members of the nonprofit organization HHART have all been impacted by the tragedy of hit-and-run accidents. To help increase hit-and-run accident awareness and relief for affected families, HHART was founded to provide charitable assistance through donor contributions. To learn more about HHART’s victim support programs, fill out the Contact Form on their website.
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