On March, 2, 2013, I was hit by a car while biking on Renner Rd (DB Lt group). I was injured (surgery required for torn tendon in left wrist) and had substantial property damage. At first, I didn’t realize the extent of my injuries, and thought I could handle my own claim with the auto driver’s insurance company.
I was wrong. The process for me is frustrating and more complicated than I would have thought. I chose to hire an attorney (Bill Shirer).
After 4 mos here is some data—– and my claim is not close to full settlement. I estimate it will take about 1 yr. (Shirer says more than 1 year because the other driver is insured by AAA.)
At this point, I have had:
- 10 medical appointments (at least 4 more to go)
- 7 trips to bike store
- About 20 calls to one insurance company or the other
- Another 12+ calls with attorneys
and ………….. I have missed about 6 Saturday’s riding —- at least 6 more to go!
HERE are my thoughts on how to handle a situation such as this. Shirer’s comments and suggestions follow.
At the Scene/Police
Wilkins: Immediately CALL THE POLICE IF ANY OTHER PARTY IS INVOLVED —- even if you expect the property or medical damage to be relatively low – still call them so that they can prepare an accident report.
Shirer: When the police come, remember that his report is all important in determining liability. You want to persuade the police officer, and to persuade you must be reasonable, polite and cooperative. If you cop an attitude with the cop, he/she might just write a report that does not help you.
Scene photos are very helpful. If you are physically capable, take photos. If you are not, and you are with some buddies, have them take photos. Witness information is likewise extremely beneficial, get names and numbers.
Wilkins: Seek urgent care as appropriate — concussions can have subtle symptoms. Seek medical specialist care as appropriate – some injuries take time to reveal themselves.
Shirer: Do not delay in getting (follow-up) treatment. Sometimes people think that their injuries will get better with time. If you delay for 2 weeks or more to get treatment, that fact will be used against you by the liability insurer (i.e., you weren’t really injured). Get the treatment you should right away, even if it’s just seeing your family doc/PCP.
Also, when you first talk with any insurer (yours/theirs), there will be a question such as “Are you injured?” We Cyclists tend to minimize our injuries because (self-inflicted) pain is part of the game, and we want to get back on our bikes as soon as possible. However, your answer should always be “yes, I believe so.” If you’re only shook up, have road rash and get no medical treatment, then there is no long term problem. You (thankfully) don’t have much of a personal injury claim. But if you act tough and tell the insurer that you aren’t hurt, but later find out that the pain you thought would go away is actually a fracture or torn ligament, your initial admission will be used against you.
Wilkins: Talk to attorneys early on – before you officially file a claim with the offender’s insurance co. As you talk to attorneys – you will quickly get a feel for their style and level of experience.
Shirer: I suggest that you call an attorney before you speak to any insurance company. There is no cost, and you should be able to get some valuable information that can help you if you are not seriously injured and are attempting to handle your own case.
When you call an attorney’s office, make sure you are actually speaking with an attorney. If you are not, then that’s an indication of things to come. If the attorney is not actively involved in the initial client contact, then he/she will certainly have even less involvement on down the line.
Find a “board certified personal injury attorney.” Being board certified indicates that the attorney has the knowledge and experience to handle a personal injury case.
Also, it would be very beneficial to your case if the attorney is an experienced cyclist with the knowledge that can both help you present your claim and help you avoid potential pitfalls specific to cycling cases.
Your Auto Insurance (If you have PIP/UM):
Wilkins: If you are hit by a car – call your auto insurance co to file a preliminary report – if the offending driver is uninsured then your Uninsured Motorist coverage will come in to play!
Shirer: If you have PIP/UM (and you really, really should), set up a claim with your insurer. Confirm your limits on PIP. Your insurer (as well as the liability insurer) will probably want to take your “recorded statement.”
Just remember, when you speak with your insurance company, they don’t want to pay you either. The adjuster might be friendly, but the adjuster is not the insurance company. Just remember that everything you say to any insurance company “can and will be used against you in a court of law.”
The Auto Driver’s Insurance
Shirer: In addition to the points mentioned above, you should be aware that your dealings with the other driver’s insurance company will depend to a great extent on what company you are dealing with. The larger companies are generally more responsive. If the company is small and usually insures high risk drivers, then you will not get very far in your negotiations.
Also remember that you want to persuade someone to give you money. So be polite and responsive. Most adjusters don’t want to be difficult; they just have too many files. They just want to close files. To do this, the adjuster needs documents (accident reports, bike estimates, medical records, bills, etc.) Don’t expect them to get this information. They won’t. You, the claimant, must provide all this information. If there are documents in the file, it’s much easier for the adjuster to get your claim paid.
Wilkins: If your bike is damaged, find the person at your local bike shop who has direct experience dealing with insurance companies. Ask for a detailed estimate to repair the bike including the price to replace all unrepairable parts/frame/fork/wheels.
Shirer: Give the detailed estimate to your attorney, or if you are handling the claim yourself, give the estimate to the property damage adjuster. (There will usually be separate adjusters for property damages and personal injury damages.)
Be prepared for a variety of responses from the adjuster including disbelief as to the value of your bike. Some will seek to take depreciation from the bike.
Let the adjuster make an offer before you decide your next course of action.
Wilkins: Keep a written chronology. Take pictures of everything – bike, clothes, your body, the accident scene. Collect/save all receipts (both property and medical). Document all witness info – ask them to document info in emails to you. (Thank You Warren Casteel, Gary Croll and Pres Andrew!)
Shirer: In addition to the Bob’s statement, consider Garmin information. If you use a Garmin GPS, look at the data to determine if it is helpful or not. (I’ve not had this come up in a case yet, but I’m sure I will.)
Shirer: Usually you can settle your property damage (bike) claim first before your bodily injury claim. Do not even contemplate settling your personal injury claim until you have reached “maximum medical improvement” (you’re as good as your going to get). Take your time, get the treatment you need.
How long do I have to settle my claim? There is no hurry to settle. In general, you have 2 years from the date of the incident to either settle your claim or file suit. (Please do not wait until a month before the statute of limitations expires to begin working on your claim or finding an attorney.)
What is subrogation? What is “Paid v. Incurred?” These are terms that you might here if you try to negotiate your own personal injury claim. These subjects are too complicated to cover in this document.
What is my claim worth? That depends on many factors too numerous to discuss here. The short answer is whatever a jury in North Texas might pay. In general, juries in North Texas are like the people who live here: very conservative. Also, you know how favorably cyclists are viewed by the average North Texas motorist ……
Will the insurance company treat me fairly? No. The insurance company is not a person. It has no soul, it doesn’t go to church. Sure the adjuster that you deal with might be a fine person who would really like to help you, but that adjuster has a supervisor that simply counts $, who has a supervisor who also counts $, etc. on up the chain. (Think about the lizard and cave man. See footnote 3.)
Ultimately, the bottom line is that you and your claim are just $$$ to the insurance company, and the less the better. Ultimately, the best that you can do in handling your personal injury claim is to make the best of a bad situation and minimize your losses. Insurance companies want to minimize their losses by maximizing yours.
 If you are seriously injured, you really should have an attorney. It’s similar to the medical injury; if you can self-treat, then you can probably handle your own case. If you have a serious injury, you seek professional medical help, and should do likewise with legal help.
2 PIP is Personal Injury Protection coverage. It is a “No Fault” type of coverage. UM is Uninsured Motorist Coverage. If you are injured by a motor vehicle, then these coverages apply even if you are not in your car. Make sure you have these coverages, even if your car is a beater. PIP limits are $2,500, $5,000, $10,000 and up. Send in your bills and records to your auto insurer, and they will send you a check. PIP pays even if you were at fault.
 Think about a certain insurance company that uses a lizard and a cave man as their spokesman. When they want you to give them money, the lizard is cute and the cave man is funny. But if you want them to give you money, they revert to what they really are: a cold blooded reptile and a savage brute.