Brace Yourself: What You Need to Know About Bike Accidents

By Jim Moore
Special to The Oregonian
February 5, 2011

Although no one wants to dwell on the possibility of a serious bike accident, you should still be prepared for one.

Bob Mionske, a former national-champion road racer and Portland attorney whose practice focuses on bicycle issues, says one of the biggest problems is riders not having enough insurance to cover medical bills and damages. Mionske is the author of “Bicycling and the Law” and has a regular bike-law column in Bicycling magazine.

“It’s quite affordable to increase insurance limits,” Mionske says, “but that decision has to come before a collision with a vehicle.”

Your auto insurance coverage is actually a key to your cycling protection. “Have a talk with your insurer about coverage from a cycling perspective,” Mionske advises.

But it’s not just about coverage limits. Mionske, who has dealt with just about every type of cycling accident — including a few of his own — offers some advice and perspective:

Before an accident happens:

“First of all, ride with a mirror,” he says. “I’m the only guy racing at PIR (Portland International Raceway) with a mirror, but no matter where I am, it lets me know what’s happening behind me.” And, of course, wear a helmet.

Always have your medical insurance card with you and some form of ID.

Never ride under the influence of intoxicants. Nearly one-third of bicycling fatalities involve a bicyclist who was alcohol-impaired, according to a Johns Hopkins University study. DUI laws apply to cyclists, too; the penalties are nearly identical to those that drivers face for DUI.

If you’re in an accident: 

The majority of bike accidents are relatively minor. But even if you’re not hauled off in an ambulance, you should be cautious about your reactions. It’s common for injured cyclists to believe they haven’t been injured, only to discover later that they actually have.

“A lot of riders, we’re used to toughing out a little pain,” Mionske says. “So some people will go home and curl up on the couch and try to heal themselves.”

Visit a doctor so you have proof of your injuries — vital information if an insurance claim or legal action become necessary.

Other tips:
Don’t discuss any aspect of the accident, including who might be at fault, with the driver.

At the scene, collect full info from the driver and contact info from witnesses. If you’re too injured to do that, ask a witness to do it. Write down the license plate number, and don’t let the driver leave the scene without providing you with his/her driver’s license and proof of insurance. If the driver refuses to provide these, call the police immediately.

Don’t assume the police will prepare an accident report. They are required to prepare a report only if the cyclist’s injuries require medical transport.

If the police don’t do this, take photos and skid-mark measurements at the scene, if possible. If you’re not able to do it, ask someone to document the accident scene for you.

Read more…

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