What To Do After a Crash
In the event of a bike crash, it’s important to stay calm, take care of yourself, and gather as much information about the crash as possible. WABA understands that this is a huge responsibility, especially in the event of physical or property damage.
We encourage you to keep a copy of our crash form so that you have an easier time collecting necessary information following a crash. If you’re able, please report your data to us through our crash tracker so that we can make recommendations to elected officials and police on how to make roads better for bicyclists.
Read the following to understand how the events after a crash might unfold, and what you can do should you be in a crash. For an abbreviated list of tips, see this blog post.
What do I do immediately after a crash?
Stay calm and assess yourself. If there’s a possibility of serious injury, stay still and wait to be examined by EMTs or a doctor. High-stress situations spike adrenaline and endorphin levels so you don’t feel pain, so you may be more hurt than you think.
Don’t ride away. You may not realize the extent of your injuries until you leave the crash site.
I’m physically OK. What’s next?
If no one has, call the police—even if everything seems fine. An officer can help create an objective account of what happened, which is critically important if you develop injuries later or if insurance companies have to be involved.
And, in order for WABA to make cycling safer, crashes need to be reported as accurately as possible. By reporting your crash, you may save lives in the future. Some crashes without injuries or property damage will not generate an official crash report document but will be recorded as a reported crash.
The cops are here. Now what?
Gather information to ensure that you aren’t taken advantage of in the proceedings after a crash. You should know the following:
- The names, driver’s license numbers, addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses of any other drivers, bicyclists, or pedestrians involved in the crash. This means vehicle operators, not passengers.
- The insurance companies and policy numbers of those people
- The makes, models, and license plate numbers of any vehicles involved in the crash.
- The names and contact info of at least two witnesses, if there were any. Passengers of drivers in a crash are not witnesses.
- The police report number. Make sure the officer takes a cyclist statement from you. Not just the driver or witnesses.
- The name and badge number of at least one police officer who responded to the scene. Most police officers carry business cards; ask for one.
If you have a camera or smartphone, take pictures of any damage to bikes or cars. Make sure you take pictures of all damage, not just damage to your property. If fighting an insurance claim, you want to have your own documentation.
As soon as you feel calm enough, and have time, write a description of the events before, during, and after the crash. Try to use objective, descriptive language and avoid assigning blame.
Our crash form is a helpful tool for recording this information and putting together descriptions. If you’re able, consider filling out our crash tracker. We use data submitted through the crash tracker to make recommendations to elected officials and police, and it’s important to capture data not recorded by official collection methods.
DC Families for Safe Streets provides peer support for victims of traffic violence in Washington DC, and Montgomery County Families for Safe Streets does the same for victims of traffic violence in Montgomery County, MD.
Alexandria Families for Safe Streets – https://www.alxffss.org
Arlington Families for Safe Streets – https://arl.novasafestreets.org
(Note: Alexandria and Arlington are currently not providing peer support programming for crash victims)
I’ve recorded all information I know of. Now what?
If you have questions, call WABA at (202) 964-5265. Leave a message if calling after normal business hours and we’ll follow up with you.
WABA can’t dispense legal advice but, should you need one, we can suggest a local lawyer with experience representing bicyclists involved in traffic crashes. The following lawyers are part of WABA’s Supporting Attorney Program:
- Allan M. Siegel, firstname.lastname@example.org; 202.659.8600; www.chaikinandsherman.com
- Bruce Deming, email@example.com, 703.528.4669, www.thebikelawyer.com
- Cory Bilton, firstname.lastname@example.org; 202.347.0303; www.biltonlaw.com
Note: WABA does not endorse companies, products or services. Advertising revenue supports our nonprofit mission.