Thanks to Jim Freeman from Freeman Kevenides Law Firm, a lawyer who specializes in cases involving cycling, for providing this advice.
Bicycle/Automobile collisions are relatively rare and, even when cars do hit bicyclists, most of the time the injuries are minor. Having said that, accidents happen and road rage can be a problem; so, recognizing common hazards can go a long way towards preventing collisions.
A majority of accidents in urban areas are intersection-related. The most common collisions are the “left cross” and the “right hook.” The left cross occurs when a bicyclist and automobile approach from opposite directions and the driver makes a left turn into or in front of the cyclist. The somewhat less common right hook happens when a car and cyclist are travelling in the same direction. The car overtakes the cyclist and makes a right turn, causing the cyclist to crash.
In intersections controlled by traffic lights, most collisions occur within a few seconds before or after the light changes. About 30 percent of bicycle crashes in dense urban areas are caused by “doorings,” where someone opens the door of a car into a bicyclist.
In the unlikely event you are involved in a collision with an automobile, try to remain calm. Uncivilized behavior after the fact can turn public opinion against you. Try to treat the experience as an unanticipated business transaction. The last thing you want is for witnesses or police to focus on your bad behavior following the accident.
Always call the police. Most jurisdictions require a police report when there is an accident involving an injury. Drivers involved in a collision should also produce certain information, such as insurance and contact information.
Seek medical attention. Collisions and accidents are unplanned and inconvenient; and, it is often difficult to know immediately if you are injured. Oftentimes it takes a little while for the adrenaline to wear off and inflammation to set in. If injuries show up later, the driver may suggest that your injuries must have been caused somewhere else if you did not seek medical attention while at the scene of the accident.
Get witness and driver information. Do not depend on the police to get witness information for you. In almost every case that comes to me, the client will say: “There were lots of witnesses, but I didn’t get any information from them. It should be on the police report.” In some instances I get the police report and there are no witnesses listed. In a case where the question of fault depends on your word against the driver’s, an independent witness makes all the difference; so, be sure to get the phone numbers and addresses of any witnesses at the scene. You might want to ask someone else to collect this information for you if you are not able to at the time.
Preserve evidence. Your visible injuries, bicycle, clothing, helmet and anything else damaged in the crash is evidence and, as such, should be preserved and documented. Take pictures of any visible injuries, the scene and any damage to your bicycle or other vehicles involved.