What To Do When You Are In An Accident

by Andy White, www.fyxomatosis.com

I was telling Wade about my accident on the way to work this Friday past and after recalling the event to him, we both figured it’s a ‘cycling tip’ that everyone needs to know.

The Accident

No matter how good you are or think you are, the more time you spend on the road the increased  ‘exposure time’ you have and increased probability of having an accident.  Some accidents are truly unavoidable and this was one of them.

I’m riding on my way to work at about 35kph, alongside a car an the begining of an intersection. The car slows abruptly, turns sharp left with poor/no indicatation and my front wheel was level with the cars left hand front wheel as it turned. Realising the nose of the car was coming right at me, my only exit plan was a foot wide phone poll, so I attempted to turn the corner sharply with the car.  I’ve done this before with a van, placing my hand on the van and leaning against it through the corner.  Unfortunately the front wheel of the car trapped the front wheel of my bike,  stopped the bike and sent me flying across the hood, onto the deck.  I put my hand out, bang on the wrist, tumble over bang onto the shoulder, head and hip.

Once you realise you are going to crash, relax and let it happen.  This of course is easier said than done, but the more rigid you are, the more likely you are to break something.

Shaken, but nothing appearing to be broken I got up, look back at my bike.  The front wheel of the car is on top of of my bike.  The bike is lying a twisted mess on the ground, front wheel like a potato chip. As emotionally distressing as seeing your bike in pieces is, your own wellbeing is  more important and if you keep that in mind constantly, it will make the process easier.

Since I could detect no broken bones, I quickly moved off the road out of the way of more potential harm. This is critical. With all the ‘rubber necks’ driving past you can be sure if you stay there long enough you will cause another accident.

The driver reverses back and I grab the bike and remove it from the road. They move their vehicle from the intersection and down the street (with the passenger standing with me).  This is another moment when a dishonest driver might be tempted to drive away. It happens. Make sure the next thing you do is memorise (use your phone camera if necessary) the license plate.

The passenger gets out, and is calm and concerned. This can go either way. If you act calmly in return, you’ll generally get a calm response. Being aggressive or irrational will get you nowhere and only create a similiar response in the same fashion that road rage incidents quickly escalate because neither party is willing to back down.  My tactic is always be the bigger person, regardless of right or wrong and just get the required details and be on your way.  You will NEVER convince the other party they are wrong. You may however end up at the end of their club lock, knife, bumper, or hand gun. Yes, people in Australia have guns. This has happened to me on Chapel St, Prahran.

Communication

Swap contact details (drivers license, number plate, phone number) and note the time and place. I pulled out my camera for two reasons.To ensure it hadn’t been crushed, and to record the place and damage in front the the driver.  The camera  records time and date, and a photo will also show the point of collision, conditions on the day, obstructions, many things which insurance companies want to know, as opposed to two parties recollection of the event.  It is not your role to establish who was at fault, though it may be clear.  The police and/or insurance will work this out.

The driver apologised and the ‘passenger’ offered to settle the damage with cash without involving their insurance company (admission of fault). Many drivers still have the mentality that bikes are all $150, so I declined and asked for them to submit a claim with their insurance as this was not going to be cheap to repair.  Other potential issues that may arise is perhaps they don’t have insurance, or want to avoid increases in their premium by not involving insurance companies. I could see a broken front wheel, smashed record shifters, bent post, torn saddle and scratches along the frame just from an initial observation.

They offered to drive me to a bike shop, but unless you are seriously injured you probably wont feel like taking a car ride with the person who just knocked you off your bike.

Injuries

You will be in a level of shock, or state of excitement (my response) due to the adrenalin and each time this has occured I get better at recognising this. I told the driver I appeared fine and nothing appeared broken, but ‘ask me tomorrow’.

Half an hour later my wrist was sore.  I called Scooter who had broken his scaphoid (small bone in the hand) and asked what he thought.  He suggested to ice the area as soon as possible. Another hour later my shoulder and wrist were sore.  The following day my wrist, shoulder, hip and neck were sore and I had a mild headache so went to see my Osteopath.

I cannot stress highly enough that you see a doctor no matter how minor your injuries. Especially if you have landed on your head, neck or back.

Legal

To my knowledge, it is a legal requirement in Victoria for any driver who is involved in an accident where a person is injured to report it to the police. Though I had no broken bones, I was definitely injured (and went to the doctor the following day to record my injuries as well as taking photos of bruising and torn skin).  It may not be necessary to involve the police at the time, but if the driver changes their mind about fault, which if often the case when they discover the repair will be more than $150, this can be useful leverage.

The same day I went to the doctor, I went to the police station and filed a report.  Unfortunately in my state of adrenalin I got the drivers name and license number, registration, but not a contact phone number.  The driver said that I would receive a call from the insurance company later that day.  I didn’t.

Since I had no point of contact I was concerned that I might not hear from the driver so the police gave me a phone number for them after I’d filed the report.

Dealing With Insurance

Get a shop to give you a quote for repairs to all damaged articles arising from the accident. If you landed on your head, include your helmet. If you grazed your shoes, tore you bibs, include it all in the quote. Anything that has changed in condition as a result of the accident, include it in the quote for replacement. Insurance companies handle car quotes in the same fashion. This is no different. Chances are your bike if you are like me, your bike is one of your most valuable possessions.

The insurance company will establish try and establish fault, which is why witnesses are critical. If you have the time, inspect the scene, get a witness if possible.  Establish why the accident occured, and record these details.

There is a lot to remember when you are in a state of shock or excitement, but the more you do remember, the easier the process will be.

Above all, remember that you can replace a bike. You can’t replace people. From personal experience I can say a broken bike is better than a broken neck.