What to do if you're involved in a crash?

What to do if you're involved in a crash?

Cycling is a safe way to get around, but if you are unlucky enough to be involved in a collision, it's important to know what to do to to keep yourself safe and ensure you are able to take legal action if you later choose to do so.

Are you still in danger? – make yourself safe!

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 or wave to attract assistance.

Emergency assistance

In an emergency, always telephone 999 for an ambulance if you need them; 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]. If you are injured but don’t need an ambulance, you can call 111 throughout most of the UK and they will give you advice and direct you to call 999 if necessary. For less serious injuries, or if NHS 111 isn't available in your area (some parts of Wales, and Northern Ireland) seek assistance from A&E or your GP.

Independent witnesses

If the collision was with a motor vehicle, ensure you get the driver's details and registration number. Even if you think it isn't serious, you may be more seriously injured than you realise, so ensure you have these details. 

Equally important is securing an independent witness. If someone stops to ask if you are ok, it’s very easy to say ‘yes’ and wave them on, but instead you should ask them to stop and get their details so they can become a witness.

If you’re cycling in a group, unfortunately, your pedalling pals will not count as independent witnesses, although their accounts may still be useful.

Ask all witnesses to write down their account as soon as possible and to include as much detail as they can remember, and to sign and date it. This will make it more credible, as details can be quickly forgotten.

Be assertive

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’; if possible, embarrass that driver by loudly pointing out this ploy to passers-by or take a photo of the car in its original position.

Evidence

If you are able, it’s important to gather as much evidence at the scene as possible.

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 witnesses, as this can all be decisive.

When you are able, write down a full account of the incident, date it and sign it. You will quickly forget the details if you don't write this down.

If you think there may have been any CCTV which recorded the incident, try to obtain a copy as soon as possible, as these films are often quickly deleted.

Injuries

Never shrug off any injuries, but insist on a check-up, either with your GP or via a walk-in A&E centre, 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 if you can’t get a good photo yourself. Maintain a detailed record of all expenses, e.g. for prescription charges, bus and taxi fares, hospital parking fees and painkillers.

If you aren’t injured

Even if you aren’t injured, you will likely be in shock. Once you have made yourself safe and gathered the contact details of witnesses, take some time to let the adrenaline pass, and don’t let yourself get cold. Be aware that you may be concussed. If you think you might be concussed seek medical advice as soon as possible and don’t attempt to ride.

If you are unable to get picked up and decide to continue your ride, make sure to check over your bicycle first to ensure it is safe and fully functional, especially the brakes, wheel and forks.

If there are any cracks in the wheel, forks or frame, the bike shouldn’t be ridden until looked over by a professional mechanic.

Property damage

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

Inform the police

Even if there is no emergency, for anything other than very minor collisions, you should still report the matter to the police as soon as possible, and within 24 hours at the latest. This will help with police records and keep other cyclists safe.

Keep note of any reference number they give you and note down the name of the person you speak to, the police officer's number and their duty station. Ask for a copy of their Police Collision Investigation report and their sketch diagrams and photographs, and ask them to read their notes to you, in case anything the driver has told them that you consider to be untrue. 

Follow up by polite but persistent enquiries as to the prosecution process against a 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.

Instruct a specialist solicitor

Unfortunately, not all lawyers are experts in personal injury litigation and negotiations with insurers can sometimes be protracted. If you are a Cycling UK member you should use our legal helpline to seek advice for civil compensation.

If you aren’t a member, you may wish to look for solicitors who will work on contingent fee arrangements – ‘No Win, No Fee’. For these solicitors, you will not need to pay money up front and will only ever pay anything if you are successful. Different solicitors will have different arrangements, so make you fully understand any contract before you sign it.

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.

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