In 2016, a study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found on average, one hit-and-run crash occurs every minute in the U.S. This is worrisome enough on its own—no one wants to have to deal with the aftermath of an accident with an unknown perpetrator. However, hit-and-runs aren’t just frowned on because the at-fault party denies their victim the right to an insurance claim. They are also more dangerous than other types of collisions. When a driver leaves the scene of an accident rather than stopping and calling for help, their victims may be left alone in a dangerous or life-threatening situation.
Unfortunately, this is not just a hypothetical worry for bicyclists, and even motorcyclists. For example, KSDK reported that Missouri State Highway Patrol is in the middle of investigating a fatal hit-and-run crash that occurred on southbound Interstate 55 between Butler Hill and Meramec Bottom Road. This is just the tip of the iceberg: Hit-and-runs caused over 2,000 deaths in 2016 which was, at the time, the highest annual fatality count. Nearly two-thirds of those killed by hit-and-run drivers were pedestrians or bicyclists.
Our nation needs to find a way to fight back against the increasing number of hit-and-runs, but individuals should also know their options if they are involved in a collision where the other driver doesn’t stick around. Here’s how you can take steps to protect your safety and right to compensation after a hit-and-run.
Right After the Accident: Get Safe, Get Help
After any accident, your safety is the most important thing. Get yourself and your bike safely to the side of the road, or off the road entirely. Once you’re in a safe place, you should absolutely report the accident—it’s important to get it on record that someone else hit you and then left the scene. If anyone saw the accident and stopped to help, make sure you get their name and contact information, as well as any information they have about what happened. They may be able to confirm the color of the car, describe the individual they saw driving, or share other important details police can use to track down the at-fault individual.
You should also visit a doctor or an urgent care clinic for a check-up. Even if you’re not in pain at the moment, the adrenaline rushing through your body can delay the signs of injury. If you are in pain, it could be a sign of serious internal injuries that need prompt medical attention.
Once you’ve gotten the okay (or a follow-up appointment) from a doctor, it’s time to call a lawyer.
How a Lawyer Can Help in a Hit-and-Run Case
There are multiple steps an experienced bicycle accident attorney can take to help you pursue compensation after an accident, starting with trying to find the at-fault driver. If you reported the incident to the police, they should already be investigating; our team can partner with them to look into potential clues and make sure your case keeps moving forward. There are multiple ways to find a driver involved in a hit-and-run, from analyzing witness statements to pulling surveillance footage from nearby businesses that may have caught the at-fault individual.
At the same time, we’ll start exploring other ways for you to recover compensation. Damage to your bike may be covered by a homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy. If you carry uninsured/underinsured coverage as part of your auto policy, we can help you file a claim there as well. Proving a hit-and-run can be difficult, with insurers more likely to accuse you of fraud. Our lawyers know how to make a strong claim and defend you against any challenges to its veracity.
What You Can Do to Avoid Hit-and-Runs
While we would never blame someone for being involved in a hit-and-run, the increase in frequency of these accidents means it can pay to be prepared. Anything you can do to ensure a reckless driver doesn’t get away from ditching the scene of the accident matters.
One approach you can (and should) take is making yourself more visible to reduce the risk of a collision. Nighttime or other dark conditions make fatal accidents more likely, including hit-and-runs. Anything you can do to stand out can make a difference in your safety.
No matter when you ride, you should have:
- Bright, neon, or reflective clothing
- A flashing white headlight and red taillight on your bike, the brighter the better
- Reflectors on the front, rear, pedals, and spokes of your bike
- A horn or bell to alert others of your presence
Ride during the day whenever you can, but if you must ride after dark, do everything you can to make yourself easy to see. Bicycles without lights can be nearly invisible on a dark road, making riders likely victims in an accident.
You should also consider investing in a bicycle or helmet camera to record your ride. While you may not be able to see many details during a hit-and-run, a camera might capture the vehicle’s license plate in full, which makes it easy to track down the car’s driver. For less than $100, you can get a decent quality camera to record your ride. If you’re ever in an accident, having video evidence of what happened can be almost priceless.
Bicyclists Deserve Safe Roads
For as long as bicycles have been popular in cities, the mantra “share the roads” has been drilled into everyone’s minds. However, many drivers believe it’s up to bicyclists to do the sharing, which is incorrect. All of us are responsible for making the roads safe for motorcycles, bicycles, and pedestrians as well as cars.
For bicycle safety month, our team would like to remind you to do your part, no matter what sort of vehicle you’re driving. For bicyclists, make sure you know and follow the rules of the road every time you ride. For drivers, remember not every road user has a car. You’re responsible for spotting smaller vehicles and, yes, yielding to them when they have the right-of-way.
If you do have the misfortune to be involved in a bicycle accident, our team can help you secure the compensation you need to cover expenses like damage to your bicycle, missed work, and medical bills. The at-fault driver should be held accountable—and you deserve help as you face the recovery process.
Ask The Tapella & Eberspacher Law Firm how we can help you if you’ve been injured. Schedule a free consultation with one of our bicycle accident attorneys today by calling (217) 394-5885.