San Francisco is a pedal powered city. Thousands of commuters ride wherever they go everyday. For the most part, their commutes go off without a hitch. In fact, San Francisco is actually one of the safest cities of its size for cyclists. However, bicycle accidents in San Francisco do happen and far too often. Every year nearly 600 people are taken to the hospital, some with life threatening injuries. That doesn’t even take into account the bicycle accidents in San Francisco that aren’t severe enough to warrant hospital visits or those that go unreported.
If you’re ever in a bicycle accident in San Francisco, it can be scary–especially if that accident involves an automobile. The soft bodies of bike riders weren’t meant to collide with hard objects and moving machinery. However, if at all possible, keeping your wits about you during the crisis and immediately after can have a tremendous effect on the outcome of your individual case–even if you choose not to consult with a San Francisco bicycle accident attorney or take the at fault driver to court.
Below you’ll find several tips to help you get through the trauma of your bicycle accident as easily as possible.
Tips to Safeguard Your Legal Rights After a Bicycle Accident in San Francisco
Immediately After the Accident Occurs
Keep your head and try to think clearly. The calmer and more collected you are, the better able you will be to deal with this traumatic situation.
- Immediately call 911 or, if you’re incapacitated, tell (don’t ask) someone to call 911. Use that person’s name if you know it and point directly at them if you don’t. Be forceful and say “you, [insert name or descriptive phrase] call 911 right now.” Research shows that by designating an individual you place the responsibility squarely on them and they’re less likely to assume someone else will call for help.
- When you get the 911 operator on the phone, ask for police assistance in addition to EMTs.
- Don’t let the motorist leave the scene of the accident. Most concerned citizens won’t but by asking them to wait until the police arrive (or telling them if you have to) they’re less likely to flee the scene.
- Ask for identification. This is critical and you can’t rely on the responding police officers to get this information for you. If the driver fails to or refuses to provide you with identification, make sure you or someone you trust copies down the identifying information from the vehicle (license plate number, make and model, color, etc.).
- Ask for the driver’s insurance information. If they don’t have insurance or if they refuse to give that information to you, make sure you tell the responding police officer.
- If there are any witnesses to the accident, their testimony could help you a great deal in fighting the driver’s insurance company or, if necessary, after you’ve chosen a San Francisco bicycle accident attorney to help you press your case in a court of law. Get the contact information (name, addresses, telephone numbers, etc.) for every witness at the scene. Again, if you’re too incapacitated to do so, ask someone you trust to do it. Do not rely on the responding police officers to do this for you.
When the Police Respond to Your Bicycle Accident in San Francisco
After the police arrive, you may think that they can handle things from there. However, officers are under a tremendous amount of stress and many times fail to take down critical information like witness testimony. You should take as much responsibility at the accident scene as you are able in order to minimize the risk of critical details being lost in the chaos.
- SFPD officers are required under law to file an accident report whenever there is a collision involving a motor vehicle and a bicycle when personal injury or damage to personal property is involved. However, ask the responding officer to do so while on the scene. Sometimes officers will put off writing the report until later in the day. By that time they may have forgotten some of the details if they failed to take accurate notes at the scene.
- For your own records, get the responding officer’s name and badge number. This makes tracking down your particular police report easier if it ends up misfiled or misplaced.
- If your bicycle accident in San Francisco involves dooring (being hit by an opening car door) ask the officer to issue a citation to the driver. In San Francisco, it is the automobile operator’s responsibility to ensure the path is clear while to prevent such accidents. (Dooring is one of the most common bicycle accidents in San Francisco involving cars, behind only failure to yield and turning traffic accidents.)
- You should seek medical help if you even suspect you’re injured. Not only do some injuries take days to surface but a San Francisco bicycle accident attorney will appreciate having a medical report on hand if you have to fight with the driver’s insurance company or if your case ends up in court.
In the Days Following the Accident
Of course the most important thing is your recovery. Stay in the hospital as long as necessary and follow the doctor’s instructions to the letter after you’re released. If you’re able, you should take a number of additional steps to further your case against the at fault driver.
- Contact the witnesses yourself and ask them to email you their version of what they saw that day. While the police should interview witnesses, they don’t always and they when they do it isn’t often that every witness gets interviewed.
- Take photos of your injuries and damage to your bike. Take these as soon as you are able as injuries may look dramatically better in the days after your accident though they are still painful and perhaps even debilitating.
- Don’t repair or replace your bike right away. Get an estimate first from a professional bike shop. Having an expert’s testimony on hand is a great way to add credence to your case.
- Request a copy of the incident report from the San Francisco Police Department. You may have to pay for this report and you may be surprised as to how little information is on it. Depending on the details of the accidents, the police may not be able to release certain information (such as the driver’s contact info) to you. Your bicycle accident attorney may have to request this info if you didn’t collect it at the time of your accident.
Consult with a qualified bicycle accident attorney in San Francisco. Even if you don’t plan on taking your case to court, having a lawyer on your side can help you navigate the tricky legal situation that a careless driver has put you in. Get a FREE online case evaluation today.