BY GENE RICHARDS
You know the ads: TV, billboards, everywhere. You’d think that personal injury law was a booming business. For me, yes and yes. I did call, but not to someone who advertises like this.
Brief background: a little more than a year ago, I was hit on my bike just around the corner from my house, broad daylight, morning after a rain but good visibility. I had the right-of-way at a stop sign on the residential street, a driver was stopped, but I, not wanting to take chances, moved to the other side of the street and crossed in front of her—I had to be directly in front of her so surely she sees me, right?! Nope, she came on off the stop and clipped my back wheel and sent me sprawling and bouncing onto the frame and the street—geez.
You know it’s going to hurt but you’re not sure what’s going to give. I lay in the street for a few moments, in shock, trying to gain my senses, before I crawled to my feet, trying to see what part of my body was going to pay.
I was actually banged up worse than I’d realized—large edema on my leg, abrasions all over and serious pain in my right hand, which broke my fall. I walked home after refusing a ride to Kaiser from the EMTs, but the swelling in my shin made me change my mind—you know, bravado, right?
I guess I was “fortunate” as the driver, an older woman in an SUV, stopped to check on me. Very fortunately, there was a witness standing about 10 yards away, just getting ready to go to work, and he immediately called 9-1-1. The ambulance got there quickly, but the cops didn’t arrive for about 45 minutes, and they didn’t even bother to take a report even when they did arrive! Nope, not done anymore, HC! (I later got an “incident number” from a traffic cop I know).
Also fortunate, the driver took responsibility and wrote down her personal info and insurance company, which accepted liability. So, who to get as my “hired gun” to go after a settlement?
Anyway, long story short, I got several attorney recommendations. First to an attorney who spoke to the Fresno County Bicycle Coalition (FCBC) back about a year or two ago (see notes below), but that person completely fell down in even getting back to me despite my trying a few times. Then I got a recommendation from a friend of the Fresno Cycling Club—and he was good.
It took about a year for his office to get the settlement, which was more than I’d expected because the medical costs were not that great, so mainly “pain and suffering,” of which there was a lot, and ongoing joint damage to my primary hand. He has a paralegal, Ruby, who is a bulldog dealing with insurance companies. She once told them to stop being p**** (I could not get away with that). And yes, I rewarded the witness.
What did I learn from this experience, because if you’re not learning from life’s negatives, you’re wasting your time, right? I do not pass cars stopped at stop signs, even when I have the right-of-way, without looking carefully to see if they are looking at me, and I pass very slowly now. And, if I see anyone creeping up, I yell at them to knock it off…or worse—that has got to stop!
I’ve heard drivers say some nonsense like, “I saw you!” Oh yeah?! How do I know you’ve seen me?! Idiots. In fact, I’m even more vocal with other miscreants on the roadway, considering myself an ambassador for all cyclists. And I think all of us should be.
I’m equally concerned with polite cycling etiquette, like signaling and thanking drivers for looking out for us—slowing down and making wide passes, or letting us take the right-of-way when they could turn in front of us—cutting us off with right hooks (car turns right directly in front of you) and left crosses (car turns in front of you, across your right-of-way).
Anyway, don’t call it an accident—it was a collision, which I’m calling 100% the driver’s fault.
Gene Richards is a long-time cyclist and cycling advocate in Fresno. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Lie on the ground and take a deep breath and think about your injuries
- Check to see if the perp is still around
- Check to see if there are any witnesses
- Call the police—tell them you’re hurt and need assistance and an ambulance
- Get appropriate medical treatment
- Give police salient info and make a statement for yourself, but be careful how much to divulge
- Take a picture of the perp’s license plate
- See if there is any surveillance video
- If you go to the ER, be brief in explanation of what happened; no details are necessary, but go into detail on your injuries
- Don’t post to social media
- Don’t talk to an insurance company or an investigator
- Get the best lawyer you can find—a lawyer who specializes in trials
- BTW, it’s OK to ride the wrong way in a crosswalk
- It’s perfectly OK to sue for pain and suffering, PTSD, emotional trauma, etc.; we should be compensated for this