of us think we know the protocol to follow if we are involved
in a traffic accident but when you are actually involved in an
accident your adrenaline starts pumping, you may be injured, and
your ability to think can be clouded. It is important to understand
what needs to be accomplished, not just at the accident scene,
but in the following hours and days, including preserving your
version of the accident.
Take Care of Your Health
The most important thing to do is to address
the health of the involved parties. If there is any doubt whatsoever
that the parties have received anything other than minor injuries,
call 911 so that they can dispatch paramedics to the scene or,
if you are unable to, enlist the aid of someone else to call for
Even if you believe that you only sustained minor
injuries, it is a good idea to be examined by a healthcare professional
within 24 hours of the accident. Injuries often turn out to be
worse than initially thought. Riders often think they have just
bruised or scraped their knee or shoulder when actually they have
torn ligaments, which require further treatment. Without proper
treatment in the initial stages, the original injury and symptoms
may be exacerbated.
Get Information from All Involved Parties and
Don't wait for the police to get this information.
Parties and witnesses can leave the scene before the police arrive.
If you can't get the information ask someone else to help. Get
all phone numbers and addresses, business and home, and all insurance
information. Carry paper and a pencil.
The Police Report - Check for Accuracy
Assuming the police arrive at the scene, it is
important to make sure that they take your statement correctly.
Police officers are not infallible. Sometimes a police report
slightly changes a party's version which ultimately can cause
problems in resolving the claim against the offending driver.
If the police indicate to you that they do not
intend to make a report, ask them to reconsider, although some
police agencies will not make a formal written report if no one
is injured. Monitor the preparation of the report and review it
once it is finished to determine if there are any errors. If there
are mistakes, it is generally advisable to contact the police
agency immediately and file a supplemental report with the appropriate
If you eventually file a claim and you have had
an opportunity to review the police report but do not request
corrections, any assertion by you months later that the report
is wrong will raise a big question mark. The obvious question
you will be faced with is: "Why didn't you tell the police
that the report was wrong as soon as you read it?"
In that regard, make sure that the police report
has the appropriate location of the accident scene if it impacts
your version at all. For example, a motorcyclist was injured when
the offending driver crossed over the double solid lines of the
car pool lane into the fast lane striking the motorcyclist. A
big issue that eventually had to be overcome was whether or not
the other driver actually crossed over double lines or whether
the lines were broken.
If your bike is towed from the scene, make arrangements
as soon as you can to move it to a location where you are not
going to incur storage charges. If your bike sits at the tow yard,
it may get sold in a lien sale to pay for the storage fees. Not
only have you lost your motorcycle and its value, but you may
have lost valuable evidence in pursuing your claim.
If you intend to make a claim against the offending
driver through an attorney, it is generally advisable not to speak
with that driver's insurance company. Frequently, an insurance
company will try to obtain a recorded statement at the early stages.
You may still be in pain or under the influence of medication
and your thoughts may not be clear. The statement may be used
against you later to try to show that you are not fully sure how
the accident happened - this can happen even if you were thinking
straight at the time of the original statement, as most people's
versions will vary somewhat each time the facts are relayed.
Generally, you have a contractual duty to timely
notify your own insurance company of the accident, especially
if you are going to make a claim under your own policy for the
damage to your motorcycle or an uninsured/underinsured claim.
Failing to timely notify your insurance company may give rise
to a claim by the insurance company that it did not have sufficient
notice to investigate the accident; and therefore, you may run
into difficulty settling any claims with your own insurance company.
Photographs - Preservation
Photographs are very important. Photographs should include all
of the property damage (including the damage to your motorcycle
and gear), visible injuries and the accident scene (if practical).
Photographs of the motorcycle are important to
show the nature and extent of the impact and damage and may be
helpful to an accident reconstructionist if one becomes necessary
at some point to help you prove your claim. Pictures may also
be helpful in evaluating the damage for reimbursement purposes.
Photograph your damaged gear, as the nature of
the damage may be pertinent evidence to show how the accident
happened and to establish that your injuries are indeed related
to the accident. At the very least, if the other party is at fault,
you can request reimbursement.
Photographs of your visible injuries are extremely helpful in
conveying the full nature and extent of your injuries and the
accompanying pain and suffering.
As noted above, if the exact location of the
accident is important, photographs taken right at the scene are
likely to put any ambiguities to rest. Photographs of skid marks,
road conditions and debris may also be helpful later, although
taking scene photographs immediately after the accident may not
always be practical.
In some states (such as California) you are required
by law to notify the Department of Motor Vehicles within a relatively
short period of time of your involvement in an accident if the
accident involved injuries or if the property damage reaches a
certain dollar value. (In California, the parameters are ten days
In some states, if the police do not arrive at
the scene and someone is injured, you must report the accident
to the appropriate police agency as well (within 24 hours in California).
In the early stages following an accident it
is often difficult to think clearly. Enlist the aid of a friend
or a bystander to help you with any information you may need on
the scene, and be careful what you say to whom. Follow through
as indicated above to ensure that you have covered all of your
Russ Brown & Chuck Koro can be reached at
(800) 4-BIKERS; firstname.lastname@example.org