Riding a bike is generally about beauty, joy, and being environment-friendly. However, in rare cases, bicycling may result in anxiety or even tragedy. To be true, bicyclists are the most at-risk individuals on the roads. They ride, generally unprotected, except for the helmets – and sometimes protective clothing – with the belief that drivers will operate their automobiles safely with bicyclists in mind.
If a bicyclist is involved in an accident with a motorist, it is crucial for them to be ready to protect their rights. More often than not, a qualified accident lawyer in Clermont, Florida and the legal system offer compensation to accident victims for their personal injuries, medical bills, loss of income, property damage, and even pain and suffering.
So, how can you protect your rights soon after an accident? Continue reading as the experienced personal injury attorneys in Clermont, Florida at Mangal, PLLC discuss some extremely important steps to take after a crash.
1. Report the Crash:
The crash must be reported to the police. Report even if you believe that you haven’t suffered injuries or your bike hasn’t sustained any damage. In many cases, victims don’t feel they are injured right after the crash, but they start feeling pain later the same day or the next day. This pain may last for weeks or even months. Many times, damage to the bike is not apparent until it is inspected by a bike mechanic. If you were involved in an accident with an automobile that resulted in personal injuries or property damage exceeding $500, Florida law requires you to report the crash. Having said that, even if it is not required by law, you must report the crash to protect your rights. This report will include crucial facts about the accident, such as the eye witnesses, weather, road conditions, along with a diagram of the accident scene. If the other party involved in the accident failed to act properly, reporting the incident will possibly cause the other party to get a traffic citation. Get the names, contact numbers, and addresses of the witnesses. If possible, try to find out the identity of eyewitnesses to your crash. Police officers usually do not perform in-depth investigations, and don’t take the names of all the witnesses. So, don’t depend on them completely! Remember that you may never see any of the witnesses, once they leave the scene.
2. Take Note of What the Other Party Says about the Crash, but Only Share Your Comments about the Incident with the Police:
Never discuss anything related to the crash with the other party. Chances are your statements can be used against you later on. Never apologize for the accident or accept the blame. It is unfair to make an assessment of fault without analyzing the entire array of events. If the other party involved gives a statement about their fault, pen down their statement immediately.
3. Preserve the Condition of Your Property:
If you have not sustained serious injuries, you might think to head right away to the bike shop for the necessary repair. But, you should never do that before discussing your rights with a personal injury attorney in Florida. Remember that any such step might compromise your right to compensation. The damage to your property may act as proof of how the accident occurred and why the other part is responsible. Moreover, the insurer of the other party may need to inspect the bike before they agree to pay anything to you for replacement or repair. Instead of getting your bike fixed, photograph the bike and the damage quickly after the crash, and ask the bike shop owner to record the type of damage. Avoid leaving your damaged bike outside or any other place, where its condition may deteriorate. Also, keep the clothes you were wearing at the time of the crash, as well as your shoes, helmet, gloves, etc., just the way these items were after the accident.
4. Report the Accident to Your Insurance, But Not to the At-Fault Party’s Insurance:
If your bicycle accident involved a car or a truck, you may be eligible to get specific benefits from your own automobile insurance. Now you may be thinking: “Why would your insurance company owe you any benefits when you were not there in the vehicle at the time of your crash? Well, this is because of Florida’s no-fault law, which obligates auto insurance to pay you “PIP” (personal injury protection) benefits that cover for your medical expenses, or lost wages due to your temporary inability to work. Your auto insurance may also need to provide you with “uninsured motorist” benefits. However, it is better to have a skilled lawyer to talk to your auto insurance on your behalf. Your accident attorney in Florida will first request for a copy of your insurance policy to make sure you get all the potential benefits you are eligible for. Remember that you should never talk to the insurance company of the other party about the crash or your losses. This is because any statements given to the other party’s insurance can be used against you.
5. Ask Your Doctor or Hospital to Submit Your Medical Bills to Your Auto Insurer:
Your auto insurance is “primary” under Florida law, which means that they must pay your medical expenses first, and then your health insurance policy will pay. You may be surprised to know this, but neither the party at fault nor their auto insurance needs to pay your medical expenses initially. There is a compensating feature to it – your auto insurance company can’t deny your claim or increase your premium since you were involved in a crash in which you were not at fault. This is just fair since you have paid hefty premium amounts to them to get such benefits.
6. Give the Crash Documentation, Provided by the Police, to Your Attorney:
The investigating police officer in a bicycle/car accident generally gathers information from the other party to identify their auto insurance. This information is then included in the written accident report. If the accident involved a pet, you should have knowledge about its owner as well as information about the homeowners insurance of the pet’s owner. If
the crash happened due to a hazardous condition, like a loose drainage cover or bridge grating, you may require finding out who is responsible for such a condition, and report the same to your accident lawyer in Florida.
7. Document Your Injuries and Overall Physical Condition:
Take pictures of your bruises, bumps, and scabs, and give them to your lawyer. If you are having a cast, wear a splint or use crutches – and take photographs of you using these items. Consider maintaining a record of all the activities you are unable to perform after the accident as well as the pains and aches you feel, since you will likely forget about all this in the next few months.
8. Photograph the Site of the Crash:
Take photographs or video of the site where the incident occurred – even when there are no signs on the road, suggesting an accident. Roads are regularly widened, and resurfaced, and new signposts are installed every now and then. The road conditions when the crash occurred might change after the incident by road construction. So, take pictures before the accident scene changes. If you find debris or marks left due to the crash, photograph them as well.
9. Never Ignore Traffic Citations:
If a traffic citation was issued to you while riding a bicycle, know that you may have other options than just paying the citation. Under Florida law, if you pay a citation without any counter-argument, your traffic record will show that you were actually guilty of the said offense. If you contest your citation and win, there will be no fine or cost assessment. If you manage to reach a “withhold adjudication” agreement, you will be required to pay court fees, but without any record of you being guilty. It is to be noted that the deadline to contest can be as short as 30 days or even less, so contact your lawyer as soon as possible after getting a ticket.
10. Consult with an Experienced Lawyer:
Accidents often have consequences in criminal court, civil court, or traffic court. There can be deadlines on your claims you must comply with – otherwise, you may lose your rights. Ideally, you should discuss your case with a skilled lawyer as soon as possible. Your lawyer in Florida should have expertise in handling not only personal injury cases, but bicycle crashes also. Most of the established law firms in Florida, including MANGAL, PLLC, offer the initial consultation for free. This means, you can contact a seasoned lawyer to understand your rights and legal options, without paying anything upfront.