The Biking Lawyer's Personal Bike Crash Guide
Around this time last year, I was seriously injured in a bike crash, in a bike lane.
My workday had just ended. I was excited to hop on my bike for my daily post-work commute. I was heading to a medical appointment in Toronto’s East end. I rode along Dundas Street East in the bike lane. As I approached the intersection with Logan Avenue I entered green painted portion of the bike lane. The car beside me abruptly and unexpectedly turned right into me.
It was sudden and without warning. No indicator.
I could not stop or avoid him. Me and my bike slammed into his car. I then crashed hard into the pavement.
I crashed my handle bars into the car and hit the pavement. I was injured, but I was alive and thankful for that.
I share my story to help others.
Here is a step by step of what I did, did not do, and what you should do if you are involved in a bike crash:
1. Get Safe! Assess your injuries and seek medical attention.
I rose to my feet slowly, but I quickly got off the road. Once I was safe on the sidewalk I shut out all noises and voices. I breathed deeply, listened to my body, and assessed my medical condition. After a few minutes, I realized I was injured, but not immobilized. Instead of going to the hospital, I went to my medical appointment and had that treatment provider assess me. Before dawn the following morning, I attended a local Emergency Room.
It should go without saying that the most important thing to do in the aftermath of any bike crash is to tend to your health.
Either have an ambulance called or go to a hospital/walk in clinic if you are able. Even if you think you are fine, get a professional to tell you that. I was in shock but the ER later identified fractures to my wrist and elbow.
When in doubt have someone call an ambulance to the scene.
2. If you are able, take pictures and gather information.
As he is obligated to do, the driver pulled over and did not speed away. Unfortunately, hit and runs are not uncommon (I wrote about this here).
I immediately took pictures of his license plate, ID, the crash site, and damage caused by my bike to his car and damage to my helmet. We also exchanged information.
If you cannot take pictures due to you injuries ask witnesses to identify themselves and do so for you. Get their information as well.
By ensuring I got the driver's license details and insurance information, I ensured that I was able to access a variety of health care treatments and compensation for lost wages, even if I do not have my own insurance. In Ontario, we have a “no fault Accident Benefits system”, which ensures that cyclists who are involved in a motor vehicle crash, whether at fault or not, get access to medical treatment, compensation for lost wages, and more.
You do not have to have your own insurance. The insurance of the car that hit you is engaged, whether you were at fault for the crash or not.
Since the crash, I have applied for and received months Accident Benefits funding for medical treatment. This has been vital to my recovery. If treatment is available and you need it, take it!
3. A cautionary note about reporting to police.
Now late for my appointment, and wanting to feel fine/normal, I did not call the police and decided to leave the scene. I figured I could just call the local division and report the crash later.
I called the local police division the next day and was promptly directed to 1 of 2 collision reporting centres in North York or Scarborough. I live downtown and was injured, how on earth am I getting to North York?
I luckily had a friend drive me to the North York Centre (30-40 minutes by car). The reporting centre staff took all my information and issued a report that I need to access insurance benefits. However, the police said because they were not called to the scene to investigate, they could not charge the driver...
I should have called an officer to the scene.
If my injuries require me to pursue a tort/civil claim against the driver I do not need a police report, but it helps.
More importantly, as a bike safety advocate, the more I thought about it the more I realized that this driver should have faced a penalty for illegally entering the bike lane when it was clearly unsafe to do so. His negligent driving caused me injury. That ought to be punished. Now, it won't.
In hindsight, I would have and do recommend staying at the scene of the crash and calling police. For a number of reasons, this may be harder for some to do than others and police may not even show up if you call it in but push them to do their job, all of our safety is at risk if they do not.
4. Seek legal Advice.
Regardless of the severity of my injuries, I reviewed my legal rights post crash. As a lawyer for injured cyclists I know all too well that most people do not know their rights. A crash happens and through no fault of their own, they do nothing.
For any injured cyclist, province wide, I provide a free consult. I am always available and chat about your options. In fact, the day after my crash I took a call at 9:00 PM to advise another cyclist who had been hit recently of their rights. In the end, thankfully she did not need my services, but at least she knows that definitively now.
Even I reached out to a lawyer friend to ensure I had covered all my bases.
If you have been involved in crash, do not be shy. Reach out. Email me: firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a call.
To those who are concerned, I lived to ride again. I thank you for your continued support. My hope is that my story will help others in similar situations. Be safe out there friends.