What to do if you are in a bike crash.
The first thing you need to do is stay calm and assess yourself. Are you hurt? Badly? If there's even a small possibility that you might be seriously injured, don't do anything. Stay still and wait to be examined by EMTs or a doctor.
Even if you appear to be unhurt, that may not be the case. High-stress situations have a tendency to spike your adrenaline and endorphin levels specifically so that you won't feel pain. You may be more seriously hurt than you suspect, and what's worse, you may not realize it until you've left the scene of the accident. Which brings us to:
DON'T ride away! Taking the time to deal with a crash is worth it, trust us. Whatever you were planning to do with that time can wait.
If nobody has done it yet, call the police. Especially if there are injuries or property damage to be dealt with, but even if everything seems fine. There are two major reasons for involving the police: first, to create an objective account of what happened. If injuries develop later (see the answer above) and/or insurance companies have to be involved, having a police report will be invaluable. Second, in order for WABA to make bicycling safer, we need accurate crash reporting statistics, and in order to have those, you have to report your crashes. Yes, it can be a hassle when all you want to do is get out of an uncomfortable situation, but it WILL help save lives down the road. Some crashes without injuries or property damage will not generate an official crash report (i.e. a document) but will be recorded as a reported crash.
Now, you need to sharpen your pencil. A big part of making sure that you don't get taken advantage of in a post-crash situation is gathering information. In no particular order, you need to write down the following:
Download this form we created to keep track of all this info. Print it out, fold it up, and keep it in your wallet or saddle bag, just in case.
If you have a camera (or camera phone), take pictures of any damage to property/vehicles. Make sure you take pictures of all damage, not just damage to your property. If it comes down to fighting an insurance claim, you want to have your own documentation available.
As soon as you feel calm enough, and have the time to do so, write out a description of the events before, during, and after the crash. Try to use objective, descriptive language and avoid assigning blame.
If you're unsure of anything, or have any questions about your accident and what happens
afterwards, please call us at 202-518-0524 and we'd be happy to help you out. If you call after normal business hours, leave a message and we'll get back to you as soon as we can.
Additionally, should you need one, we can recommend a lawyer with experience representing bicyclists who have been involved in traffic crashes.
We're glad you asked. If you're up to it, please consider helping us out by filling out our crash report questionnaire. We want to gather and collate crash data that either isn’t captured by official methods or is difficult for WABA, as an outside organization, to obtain. But we still can’t get anywhere without your help.