Top ten tips for after a crash

1. Self Defence

Remember that, as a cyclist, you are vulnerable in a collision with vehicles, particularly left-turning Heavy Goods Vehicles. Having the ‘right of way’ is no use when you are crushed. Cycle intelligently and safely.

2. Are you still in danger?

When toppled from your bicycle, your first priority is to avert further danger to yourself. If unable to move out of harm’s way, then shout, wave or whistle to attract assistance.

3. Independent witnesses

Unless a ‘hit and run’ incident, a vehicle driver will generally stay around. Get their registration number immediately, perhaps by writing it on your hand. However, your main concern must be to acquire independent witnesses. If you are injured and struggling, and anyone appears remotely sympathetic, then ask that ‘Good Samaritan’ to collect contact details and stop the driver or potential witnesses from leaving.

4. Beware tactics

If involved in a collision, never say ‘sorry’ as a polite courtesy, or engage in unguarded casual conversation, as this may be used against you later as an admission of liability. Be assertive. Beware too the ‘professional delinquent driver’, who will quickly reposition their vehicle so its new location appears innocent, often on the pretext of ‘moving it out of the way’; embarrass that driver by loudly pointing out this ploy to passers-by.

It is a legal requirement to supply details after a collision, but watch out for bogus personal details, so note down the number plate, make, model and colour of any vehicles involved.

5. Emergency assistance

Always telephone 999 for Police (and Ambulance if you need them), indicating you have been the victim of a ‘running down’; this call will be logged and can be very useful evidence subsequently [Note too the European-wide, and increasingly international standard emergency number 112, which can be placed on your mobile contacts list]. Never assume a road incident is ‘too trivial’ to call in, because the research based on these records is critical for road design and the future safety of cyclists.

6. Evidence

Photographs and sketch diagrams with measurements are vital. If you have a camera, even one on your mobile, take as many shots as you can of the scenario, number plates, drivers involved, and passers-by, even if you are lying on the ground. Key components will be parked cars, as they can be moved inadvertently, sometimes by the Police, but also kerbs, drains, painted lines, lamp posts to ‘fix’ distance, skid marks, road scratchings, direction of travel, ‘approaches’, etc.

See if you can get assistance for this pictorial and diagrammatic display from any passing allies, as this can all be decisive.

Sign, date and put a time on your account, and keep it safe.

7. Injuries

Never shrug off any injuries, but insist on a full hospital check up, and seek medical attention for any subsequent twinges, as too often injured cyclists ‘soldier on’ and take even longer to heal up. Get good photographs of bruises and lacerations; do not be shy about this, and get a friend to take them showing change over days and weeks. Maintain a detailed record of all expenses, e.g. for prescription charges, bus and taxi fares, hospital parking fees and painkillers.

8. Property damage

Do not forget potential compensation for your mangled bike, panniers and clothing. Get good photographs of the damage and keep all receipts for any repairs. If the cost is going to be above £100, get two quotes.

9. Police liaison

Get the number of the attending police officer and their current duty station, the police reference number, and ask for a copy of their Police Collision Investigation report and their sketch diagrams and photographs. Stay calm, and remember that police officers are invariably motorists and may have heard a different version of events from the uninjured and calm motorist who has just run you over. Make sure the officer writes down the correct version by asking them to read over their notes to you.

Follow up by polite but persistent inquiries as to the prosecution process against a guilty driver, as sadly some police officers still treat cycling injuries as relatively minor matters, even when the research shows that negligent drivers are often repeat offenders. Remember that even where the driver cannot be traced or is uninsured, you may be able to make a claim for compensation from the Motor Insurers Bureau, but prompt reporting to the Police is a vital pre-requisite.

10. Instruct a specialist solicitor

Unfortunately, not all lawyers are experts in personal injury litigation and negotiations with insurers can sometimes be protracted. With membership of a cycling organisation you will find lawyers who are not just sympathetic but knowledgeable.

Remember that with contingent fee arrangements – ‘No Win, No Fee’ – you will not need to pay money up front and you will get 100% of a successful damages claim. Help your solicitor by keeping a ‘Pain Diary’ of your symptoms or an ‘Experience Diary’ detailing any pain, irritation or annoyance resulting from your injuries. Work with these Top Ten Tips to gather the evidence together in partnership with them.

Author information

These ‘top ten tips for after a crash’ were compiled by Dr. Julian Fulbrook (Barrister, Doughty Street Chambers) and Paul Kitson (Solicitor, Slater and Gordon Lawyers) in 2008. The aim is to support any injured cyclist, or anyone giving advice to them. We would welcome suggestions of additions to these tips.

Please contact CDF if you require further information or assistance

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