1. Failing to Call Law Enforcement After a Crash
Why anyone would not do this is amazing, but sometimes people do not call the police after a crash. Unless, you have an MRI machine on the back of your bike (unlikely) or have the ability to self diagnoses (I don’t care if you really are a medical doctor don’t do it), this is a mistake. A Traffic Crash Report is very helpful and Florida law does require the reporting of any crash. Crash reports are privileged which means that for an individual who has been involved in a crash whatever he says to the police officer cannot be used against him or her in a civil case or hearing of any kind. But, if there is a criminal investigation, and the officer informs you of this, the privilege may not apply.
2. Failing to Preserve the Evidence
You got a cell phone? It’s got a camera. It’s got a recorder too. If you can’t take pictures, give it to your riding buddy and have her/him take the pictures. But GET THE PICTURES of the scene BEFORE the car moves or your bike is moved or your body is moved. The location and the extent of the impact to your bicycle can be significant in the resolution of your case. If you subsequently hire an attorney, let them know that you have taken photographs of the damage to your bicycle, and/or the location of your bicycle and the car. Photographs of your initial injuries especially should also be taken. If anybody was a witness, get their name, take a picture of their license, get their address. Any bit of evidence they may have is one more in your column to help win your case. One of the key reasons to contact me as soon as possible after a crash is to aid you in preserving evidence that may prove vital to your case.
3. Failing to Seek Proper Medical Help Promptly
Get checked out. Insurance companies always try to hold it against the victim if he or she does not get prompt medical attention. I know you are a tough bicyclist and do centuries or 8 hours in the swamp trail. So what? Even if you got MD after your name, get emergency care if you think you are injured especially if you struck your head on asphalt or cracked your helmet. If you hit your head, you need to go the doctor. One sure sign of a traumatic brain injury is denial of any problem after a head strike. It’s classic. “I’m fine, I’m fine.” No, you not fine. Always seek follow-up care promptly if you are not doing well. A lapse or delay of weeks or months in treatment may hurt your case.
4. Not getting the full value of your damage bike
Lots of folks don’t want to make a big fuss, they are glad to be alive and still walking. However, if you weren’t at fault the other party is liable for the replacement value of your ride, your wheels, your frame. Make sure you have all your receipts and get a price for the replacement value of what was damaged. You get new, not depreciated equipment as there is no market to buy the stuff. Maybe, if you have a Trek which has 10 million copies on the road, you get a used one, but most of the time it’s new metal. Billboard/T.V. guys want to handle only the injury, not the bills, not the property damage. I’ll help you with all of it. You get on with your life, I’ll got this.
5. Not Seeking Legal Help Promptly
How much does it cost? Nothing. My office does telephone consultations and home or hospital visits for free. There is no reason not to discuss your case with an attorney who specializes in bicycle injury matters. Any questions, you have I can answer, no charge. Focusing on healing after the crash is where your energies should be placed. Worrying about stuff you’ve never dealt with (but I have) is not where any energy should go. So, call me or somebody. Your insurance company (yes, even your health insurance company) will be in an adversarial relationship with you. A personal injury attorney is bound by ethics and confidentiality and must act in your best interest. Getting me involved reduces the pitfalls of witnesses forgetting critical information, evidence disappearing, doctors may fail to properly refer you to the appropriate specialty (they don’t listen to your complaints or are too busy) ; the sooner you hire legal counsel the better. Seek legal advice concerning how to deal with your insurance company and the opposing driver’s insurance company. Your case may involve many legal doctrines and provisions: virtually all bicycle cases have some common issues a lawyer can advise you. These include the crash report privilege and your duty to cooperate with law enforcement, why it is important to cooperate with some insurance companies and not others, handling insurance claims, getting your doctors paid, making sure your bike is properly valued and repaired or replaced. No two cases are identical and having a professional attorney review your case and give you advice specific to your concerns is the best course of action.
6. Not Selecting the Right Doctor
Once you are discharged from the emergency department at the hospital or the PCP say’s “take two and see me in a month,” it is important to be treated by a physician who has the expertise to care for bicycle injuries. Some doctors refuse to treat automobile crash victims (cause the insurance companies have twisted the laws so badly through the legislature). Some MISS common bike injuries (usually traumatic brain injury). Others tend to minimize these injuries or flat out overlook them. I can advise you about the role of any health care provider including: physiatrist (rehabilitation doctor), orthopedist, neurosurgeon, neurologist, osteopath, chiropractic physician and physical therapist as well as other treating professionals. At my office I don’t interfere with your choice of treating physician, but I will have suggestions that may be helpful in this regard. And I damn sure do read their notes as you recover to see what they are doing.
7. Settling Too Quickly
Billboard/T.V. lawyers have so many people calling them, they have settle quickly to keep up. It’s simple numbers game for them. Do not settle with the insurance company until you know the full extent of your injuries. You can’t get more money from an insurance company once you’ve released them and they won’t pay you anything until you sign the release. Sometimes an insurance company seeks a quick settlement before the crash victim has time to fully appreciate or evaluate the extent of their injuries or consult with an attorney. (Progressive/Esurance). Settling your injury case with an insurance company before you talk to an attorney or have a full assessment of your injuries is a bad idea because you may settle a case for less than it is worth.
8. Giving an Inaccurate Medical History to Your Doctor or Lawyer
This is a problem that occurs primarily when a case goes to litigation. It is almost always and simple mistake. However it can be a fatal mistake to your case. All people tend to forget things as time passes. The natural inclination is to be focused on the current problem. People often do not recall what their complaints or symptoms were when they visited a doctor many years before, like say in a previous crash. Defense attorneys take advantage of this common human mistake. They try to make it seem as though the cyclist is deliberately misleading their physician, the insurance company and the jury. To avoid this you must give an accurate medical history, both to all treating physicians, and to your attorney. If you are not entirely sure about when or where you were treated you can let the person asking know and offer to review your medical records to find out the answer. If you had some prior neck or back treatment, you need to say so. We can always distinguish new injuries from old ones and the law allows damages for the exacerbation or worsening of a preexisting condition.
9. Understating Injuries
Nobody likes a whiner, but you have to tell the truth to your lawyer and to your doctor. If it hurts or you can’t do something or you are not able to sleep or keep your balance or whatever… you got to tell your doctor. Sometimes people minimize or otherwise down play they are seriously injured. They may delay seeking medical attention: “Man, I can’t be hurt, I have a triathlon in three months. I have to train.” This can have negative results on a case as it proceeds. Be as accurate as possible with your physician, with the attorney and with yourself. Do not say that you are 100% okay if you are experiencing pain or functional problems. That is not “okay.” That is “NOT okay.” The truth is always on the side of the individual person. You cannot recover a fair amount of compensation for an injury you minimize or deny having it.