What to Do After a Bicycle Accident
This column appeared in the Charles River Wheelers' newsletter Wheelpeople in September 2020.
My column this month is focused on practical tips concerning what to do in the event of a bicycle accident, who pays what, and relevant statutes related to use of roadways. In addition, you will find a great deal of information, links included, that I hope you will find helpful as a member of the cycling community. That information is being provided by my friend and fellow attorney Mike Chinitz, whom I represented in a bike accident case in 2019. Mike was seriously injured when he was hit by an out of control driver but has made a good recovery. As a passionate cyclist and Pan Mass Challenge veteran, Mike has found this information helpful and he asked me if he could share it with the cycling community through my column. I am happy to oblige. Thanks, Mike!
What to do/not to do at the accident scene?
- Have someone call the Police if you cannot;
- Accept medical treatment and an ambulance to the hospital if you are injured;
- Obtain the names and contact information of witnesses if you are able to do so;
- Avoid discussing issues of fault if you are unsure of what may have caused the accident or if you have suffered a head injury; But if you are able to clearly tell police what happened tell the police how the driver caused the incident.
- Obtain the driver’s ID and insurance information;
- Take photos of the car and bike if you are able to do so.
When in an accident, who pays what?
Personal Injury Protection (PIP) benefits:
- The first $2,000 of medical bills are paid by the driver's insurance company. There is an additional $6,000 available for payment of lost wages, co-pays for medical treatment and health insurance deductibles.
- The remainder of medical bills are paid by the cyclist's health insurance company. The cyclist’s health insurer is then typically entitled to reimbursement for what they have actually paid for bills from any settlement that the cyclist receives from the driver's liability insurance company.
- Health insurance: If the cyclist’s health insurer is Medicare, Mass Health or an employer sponsored ERISA Plan then the driver’s insurance company must pay the first $8,000 in Medical bills which can be coordinated to account for co-pays and health insurance deductibles.
- Property damage: An at fault driver’s auto insurer is responsible for reimbursing the cyclist for property damage if the driver is deemed at fault in the collision. Property damage includes the bicycle and any damaged clothing, safety equipment and GPS equipment.
- Injuries: The driver’s auto insurer will ultimately make an offer of settlement for all injuries and damages suffered by the cyclist assuming the driver is found to be at fault for the collision. Sometimes there is shared fault between the cyclist and the driver and the cyclist’s monetary recovery will be reduced by his or her percentage of fault. If the cyclist’s fault exceeds 50% then the cyclist will not recover for damages other than the previously described PIP benefits which are paid independent of fault. The amount that the auto insurance will pay is capped at the amount of insurance that the driver purchased.
- Underinsured motorist insurance: Any cyclist who owns a motor vehicle has the opportunity to purchase excess UIM coverage which provides additional coverage for his or her damages if the at fault driver in the bicycle collision has inadequate liability insurance to pay for all of the cyclist’s damages. So, even though your car may be sitting in your driveway, when you or members of your household go out for a bike ride and get hurt due to another driver's negligence, your auto insurance company will provide you with very important protection. This insurance is invaluable to carry and is highly recommended.
Relevant MA Statutes
Your Rights and Responsibilities on the Road, MassBike.org
M.G.L. ch 90 sec 14 - No person operating a vehicle that overtakes and passes a bicyclist proceeding in the same direction shall make a right turn at an intersection or driveway unless the turn can be made at a safe distance from the bicyclist at a speed that is reasonable and proper.
M.G.L ch 90 sec 14 - No person shall open a door of a motor vehicle unless it is reasonably safe to do so without interfering with the movement of other traffic, including bicyclists and pedestrians.
M.G.L. ch 85 sec 11B - Sets forth rules for lawful operation of bicycles in Massachusetts including use of helmets, proper passing, use of sidewalks and more.
Read more on the Charles River Wheelers' Website:
Read the full article on the Charles River Wheelers' website, including from Mike Chinitz, "Bicycle Safety- Resources Every Cyclist Should Have"