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What to Do After a Bike Accident in North Carolina

Bicycling has seen a surge in popularity in North Carolina in recent years—particularly as cars and gas get more expensive, and cities and counties slowly start to build out better (and safer) bike infrastructure. It’s a great choice for exercise, fresh air, and getting around town.

But it can also be dangerous, particularly when bikes share the road with cars. Due to the lack of protection for the rider and massive differences in weight and momentum, almost every car-bike crash results in some kind of injury, and serious injuries or death can occur even at relatively slow speeds.

And the danger for cyclists doesn’t end after the bicycle accident. Because of North Carolina’s contributory negligence laws, our state is one of the hardest for injured cyclists to get compensation from an at-fault driver, potentially leaving them on their own to pay for their medical bills, lost wages, and more.

In this blog, we’ll go over what riders should do after a bike accident to give themselves the best chance at a successful medical and financial recovery, and how a bicycle accident attorney can help.

Call 911

close up of a bike rider leaning on his handlebars

Even if you don’t believe you’ve been seriously hurt, it’s always a wise idea to remain calm, contact the police, and file an accident report. This can serve as a crucial piece of evidence if you later wish to pursue a legal claim.

Your first priority should be to get medical help if you need it. If basic first aid is offered at the scene, take it. And of course, if you have been seriously injured, you should seek medical attention right away.

RELATED POST: The 5 Most Common Causes of Bike Crashes and How to Avoid Them

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Collect Evidence at the Accident Scene

a bent bicycle tire from a crash with a car

Don’t rely on a police report to provide all the necessary details. They are often incomplete and may even contain errors, particularly if the police officer is under the pressure of a complex accident scene or hasn’t reported on many bike accidents.

Just as you would after any other kind of auto accident, gather any evidence and info that might be relevant to a personal injury claim, including:

  • Name, address, phone number, and insurance information from the driver who hit you
  • Contact information and statements from any eyewitnesses
  • Photos of your injuries
  • Photos of damage to your bicycle and the other vehicle
  • Photos of the scene, including the road and weather conditions at the time of the crash
  • Notes about any nearby businesses or homes that might have security camera footage of the bike crash

Do not throw away any gear or equipment that may have been damaged in the accident, such as bike parts, your helmet, or your clothing. These can serve as evidence as well.

Do Not Apologize or Admit Fault

a man calling the police after a bike accident

For reasons we’ll explain in a moment, North Carolina is a difficult state for bicycle accident cases. In the immediate aftermath of a bike crash, it’s normal to want to pre-emptively apologize, particularly if you’re worried about defusing a tense situation—even if you don’t think you’ve done anything wrong. However, the insurance company could potentially use this as an excuse to deny you any compensation for your injuries.

To be clear, we are not telling you to lie or hide the truth. We are simply saying not to take the blame before a full investigation can take place and all the facts are known. The evidence will ultimately determine who was responsible.

RELATED POST: Who’s Right, Part 2: North Carolina Right-of-Way Laws for Bicycles

Seek Medical Attention Promptly

Even if it seems like you’re one of the lucky ones able to walk away from a bike crash with only minor injuries, you should always get a full medical evaluation if you’re experiencing any pain whatsoever or notice any other visible signs of injury.

It’s not uncommon for symptoms of head injuries, neck and back injuries, pulled muscles, internal bleeding, and other injuries to take days or even weeks to fully emerge. You might also expect dull aches to go away after a few days but discover that they only get worse.

By going to urgent care or the emergency room right away, you not only have a better chance of catching and treating a serious injury promptly, but you also establish solid medical records linking those injuries to your bike accident.

A Word About Bike Accidents and Contributory Negligence in North Carolina

a bike rider cycling to work

North Carolina is one of just four states in the United States that follow a pure contributory negligence standard when determining who can receive compensation from a personal injury lawsuit.

Under contributory negligence, anyone who shares at least some of the fault for an accident—even if it’s only 1%—is ineligible to receive any compensation. This is a harsh standard that frequently leads to injury victims being left to deal with mounting medical bills and lost wages on their own, with no help whatsoever from drivers whose negligence played a much greater role in their accident.

Because of this standard, insurance companies will look for any possible argument they can use to pin at least a small part of the blame on you. Unfortunately, they are often successful.

Adding to the challenge, many people carry negative stereotypes about cyclists: for example, that they are reckless, and either don’t understand or don’t care about the rules of the road.

Of course, these stereotypes are unfair—while there are certainly “bad bicyclists” out there, the vast majority are careful about their own safety and following the rules. (In this way, they’re no different from car drivers.) But when the evidence is unavailable or unclear, anti-bicycle bias from the responding police officer, insurance company, or jury can be a significant obstacle that injury victims must overcome in order to win their case.

RELATED POST: Why Contributory Negligence Matters for Your North Carolina Personal Injury Claim

Contact a Bicycle Accident Attorney as Soon as Possible After Your Crash

Bicycle accident cases are rarely straightforward. Injuries are often severe and life-altering, with extensive medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

The burden of proof when it comes to establishing negligence is often high, since police and juries tend to assume cyclists are at fault unless there is strong evidence to the contrary. And with contributory negligence threatening to wipe out your entire claim if you’re held even 1% at fault, the stakes—and the risks—could not be higher.

In order to protect yourself and your legal rights, we strongly recommend working with a personal injury attorney with extensive bicycle accident experience. Among other things, your attorney can:

  • Give you an honest, impartial assessment of your legal options and whether or not you have a case.
  • Fully investigate the circumstances of the crash to clearly establish fault. This may include things most people without legal experience are unlikely to be able to handle on their own, such as obtaining cell phone and security camera records or consulting with accident scene reconstructionists.
  • Ensure you get the medical care you need.
  • Accurately estimate your damages so you know how much your case is worth (and whether or not the insurance company is offering you a fair deal).
  • Handle settlement negotiations on your behalf.
  • Give you the time and space you need to focus on getting better, not your legal case.

Myers Law Firm: Experienced Bicycle Accident Lawyers in Charlotte, NC

If you or a loved one have been hurt or killed in a bike accident, we can help. Our lawyers understand the medical, emotional, financial, and legal challenges riders face after bicycle accidents, and we are committed to aggressively defending their legal rights.

We offer free initial consultations for all personal injury cases, including bicycle accidents, and do not get paid unless we win your case. The sooner you contact an attorney, the easier it may be to preserve and gather critical evidence, and the more time we will have to prepare a comprehensive legal strategy before reaching the statute of limitation.

To schedule your free consultation, please call our Charlotte office toll-free at 1-888-376-ATTY (2889) or fill out and submit our online contact form.

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.

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