1. About this guide
2. What to do before an accident
3. At the scene of an accident
4. After an accident:
b. Criminal -v- Civil law
c. Civil case
5. Where to get help
1. About this guide
The aim of this thread is to educate cyclists what to do in an accident. Roxy (www.roxyerickson.com) started this guide to share her frustrating experiences with the police and to help cyclists in similar situations. Oliver Jeffcott is an experienced solicitor, helping recover damages for injured cyclists – you can read his blog on cycle law here: www.thecyclingsolicitor.blogspot.co.uk
2. What to do before an accident
- Save your local work/home police station number and save the non-emergency police number 0300 123 1212 in your phone.
- Know your route, so if you have to call your own ambulance or police you can tell them where you are.
- Program someone into your phone as your “ICE” person (in case of emergency). Should you be unconscious, the emergency services should look in your phone for a person to contact and are advised to look for “ICE” (obviously this wont work if you have a passcode).
3. At the scene of an accident
- Move to a safe position.
- Call the police and an ambulance:
a. if you are injured;
b. if you think you may be in shock; or
c. if you think the other party involved in the accident is giving you false contact details.
- When the police arrive, co-operate. Stay calm and make sure you give them your side of the story. Take down the name of the officer and ask for the police case reference number. This officer is responsible for investigating your case so it is a good idea to keep them on your side.
- Even if you have a very minor injury, go to hospital or your GP as soon as possible. Tell the doctor they should take detailed notes.
- Take pictures of your injuries at their worst to show their full extent.
- Get the contact details of any witnesses to the accident – the more the better. Do not leave this to the police. Do not hand your only copy of witness details over to the police but do give them a copy of the witness details. The courts rely heavily on witness statements.
- Beware of accepting money from the other person in the accident as that may be seen as you agreeing to settle your case.
- If you are badly injured, do not be scared to ask for help from bystanders with the above (i.e. getting witness info, registrations details, taking photos, etc). You may be surprised at how helpful others are willing to be if asked.
CCTV (Closed-Circuit Television)
This deserves a special mention, as it is vital to look for CCTV cameras.
Public CCTV – tell the police to call the local CCTV office to make sure any footage is preserved there and then. Do not let them wait as the footage will not be in real-time if the police do not get in contact with them immediately. Public CCTV is often saved with a continual degradation system i.e. every day that goes by means the footage gets degraded.
Private CCTV – this data may be deleted within 24 hours. You do not have much time to get a copy of it and neither do the police. You or the police need to contact the business immediately to preserve the footage.
Accidents with a motorised vehicle
If you can only get one piece of information following the accident, make sure you get the driver’s vehicle registration – this is usually enough to trace the driver.
If possible, take the driver’s name, address, registration and insurance details. Also, keep a note of the time and date of the accident.
Do not get into a discussion about whose fault the accident was.
Take photographs of the vehicles and it’s position in the road, along with any damage to your bike.
Accidents with pedestrians or other cyclists
If you would like to be insured for this eventuality (i.e. if you injure another cyclist or pedestrian) then it is possible to get insurance for this. Cycling organisations such as British Cycling or the LCC offer cyclists insurance for a variety of different situations
If the person causing the accident is acting in the course of their employment (e.g. a refuse collector, Deliveroo riders etc) you may be able to take action against their employers.
Accident from a defect in the road
If you are in an accident caused by a pothole or other defect in the road, it is important to take photographs of the defect as it looked at the time of the accident. Put an item in the shot (a shoe or notebook, etc) that shows the size and depth of the pothole. These photos are just in case it gets repaired the next day.
You still must go back to the scene ASAP with a proper tape measure to record the size of the defect. Retake the photographs with the tape measure so you can accurately show how deep and wide it is.
Cases for defects in the road are challenging. Even if you can show that the defect was a dangerous hazard, the highway authority need only show that they had a reasonable system of inspection in place to avoid blame. The frequency of inspections required will often be once every 3-6 months, depending on the type of road. If the highway authority can show that they inspected the road within that timescale then you would need to show that they missed the defect or that they should have been aware of the defect in any event, such as if people had complained about the defect since the inspection.
Hit and Run accidents
If the driver does not stop at the scene of the accident, you may still be able to get compensation through the Motor Insurance Bureau (MIB). All motor insurance policies contribute to this fund which covers hit and run accidents and also accidents caused by uninsured drivers.
There are strict time limits for these claims, including having to report the accident to the Police within 5 days if you want to claim for damage to personal property. The time limits can be found here, along with details on how to apply for compensation:
4. After an accident
If there is another road user at fault for your accident, it is important to involve the police and push for a prosecution if you can. It is easy to get disheartened and give up when the police are unhelpful or inactive in getting drivers convicted for offences against cyclists. Cycling accidents tend not to be treated as priorities by the police and by the public in general. By pushing for the highest punishments, we can help change the motor-centric attitude towards cyclists and raise awareness of the real frequency of these crimes.
When reporting the accident, it is useful to have a basic understanding of the difference between ‘criminal’ and ‘civil’ law, explained below. There are two sets of paperwork and you need to make sure that you are filling out the correct set.
Trying to prosecute a driver can be a gruelling and lengthy process. If possible, have a ‘without obligation’ meeting with a criminal lawyer, which may give you an idea of how the process will work. This doesn’t mean you need to stick with that lawyer, but they can talk through probabilities, time frame, and punishments with you.
Note from Roxy: I went through the process on my own and it was horrible. I did get results after a about a year and I would do it all over again if the same thing happened again but I would definitely start by going to a lawyer the next time!
Follow all the court procedures, and make sure to stick to deadlines.
4b. Criminal -v- Civil law
It is important to know the difference between criminal law and civil law. Criminal law is where the state punishes someone for breaking the law. It is dealt with by the police and cases are heard in the Magistrate’s Court, or the Crown Court if it is more serious.
Civil law (in this context) is where the cyclist sues for a wrong committed against them by another road user. You can get compensation for your financial losses, including damage to your bike, and for the injuries you have suffered. The defendants will also be liable to pay your legal costs.
4c. Civil law
If your bike or personal possessions are damaged, or you are injured following an accident, you have a few choices:
- Do nothing
- Make a deal with the driver or insurers
- Instruct a solicitor
1. Do nothing
In general, cyclists feel very sheepish following an accident, and many will hobble off after an accident without doing anything about it. If this is an informed decision then fine, but in our view, for cyclists to be treated like road users they need to treat themselves in the same way. Also, adding yourself to the count for that year’s statistics will help future cyclists and cycle lobbyists fight for our rights.
2. Make a deal with the driver or insurers
If you make a deal with the other person, make sure you go in with your eyes open. If you accept payment from the defendant then this will probably be all you can get. In which case, even if your injuries persist longer than you thought, you cannot go back and get more money.
3. Instruct a solicitor
Who to choose
If you go down this route, make sure the solicitor specialises in cycling cases and is a member of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL). All lawyers have at least some knowledge of the law. *However if you have been knocked off a bicycle, it is obvious that of two similarly qualified lawyers the one with cycling experience will be better able to conduct your case. They will be very used to insurers who contend that, for example, you should have been wearing a helmet and other cycling specific issues.
Nobody should be deterred from seeking access to justice on the grounds of cost.
You have three years from the date of the accident (or your 21st birthday if you are under 18 at the time of the accident) to issue the case in the court otherwise your case will be time barred.
Keep records/receipts for any money you spend as a result of the accident e.g. paracetamol; bike repairs; replacing your helmet/clothing/cleats/etc; travel costs for taking public transport instead of cycling.
Once you have a solicitor acting for you, they should do the majority of the work that needs to be done to get you compensation. This process can take time – usually anywhere between 6 months and 2 years.
The steps involved will vary depending on the case, but in general a solicitor will do the following:
- Notify the driver of the accident and, if necessary, write to the police to request a copy of the accident report.
- Instruct an independent medical expert to meet with you and report on the extent of your injuries and how long they will last.
- Once the medical evidence has been finalised, and the driver has admitted liability, the claim should be ready to settle. It may take some time to get to this stage, depending on the complexity of the case and how serious your injuries are.
- Where the driver does not admit liability, or the insurers undervalue the case, it may be necessary to issue court proceedings to encourage settlement. However, only around 1% of cases actually go to trial.
5. Where to get help
A non-profit organisation that help support people following bereavement or serious injury as the result of a road traffic incident.
Independent Police Complaints Commission
For complaints about the police.
Transport for London
Contact TFL if you have a complaint about a bus.
Public Carriage Office
Contact the Public Carriage Office at TFL if you have a complaint about a black cab.
Fill That Hole
Use this site to report potholes and road defects and to check if other complaints have been made.
If the other party is driving a company vehicle, complain to that company. They will often be receptive to complaints.
Thank you to Oliver Jeffcott for putting together this comprehensive guide.