What happens after a bike accident?
July 19, 2014 9:28 AM   Subscribe

My husband got doored on his bike. There was a police report, the guy who hit him stayed on the scene and was actually on the job (delivery) when he opened his door into my husband, who was in the bike lane. The driver did have insurance and presumably the company insures, too. What happens now?

Husband was hurt. His helmet saved his life.

Do we just... wait around for the driver's insurance to contact us? Is that how this works?

I was a passenger in a car accident once and didn't know how this worked, but was on a student health plan at the time, so I didn't pay anything for anything. A year later, I got a check in the mail for my pain and suffering, if I signed something saying I wouldn't make any further claims, so I signed it, and got some cash, and things were fine.

This is more complicated - we are adults, we have paid $$$ for hospitalization, he is going to lose work, and he has a concussion which could cause debilitating headaches or worse that may not show up for months.

We're hesitant to lawyer up right away. There is no ambiguity over who was at fault, the police report says it all. We literally have zero money to spare, and anything we get from the insurance company would be used to pay our bills while my husband is recovering, so we'd rather not have to pay a lawyer a cut; we're going to need it all.

Secondarily, are there any advocacy organizations in the Chicago area that can help us out with this? We are so lost and could use some hand-holding.
posted by juniperesque to Work & Money (22 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Does your husband have health insurance? If so, you need to process his medical claims normally and let their lawyers call the driver's insurance's lawyers and do their thing.

If he does not you need to call the driver's insurance. You should have been given the information to do so by the driver. You really should get a lawyer if you do not have your insurance advocating for you, and might need one anyway for a settlement, because nobody's going to come drop off bags of money at your door without you asking. They're going to offer you a baseline settlement with a take-it-or-leave-it attitude and you'll have to fight them yourself for more. If you get a lawyer, the increased settlement will pay for the lawyer.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:34 AM on July 19, 2014 [3 favorites]

No no no.

This is EXACTLY why you get a lawyer. The insurance company is not your friend, and a lawyer is the only way you can be assured you will be fully compensated.

Plus, you have to file a claim with the insurance company. Did you get the name of the insurance company? It kinda sounds like you did not.

Also, I don't know why you would assume the driver and business is insured. That's not definite. People cut corners. You just don't know.

Injury lawyer, stat.
posted by jbenben at 9:35 AM on July 19, 2014 [10 favorites]

Contact the driver's insurance. Anytime a vehicle is involved it needs to go through the car insurance company first. At least that is what I was told when my health insurance denied my ER visit after a bike accident. I didn't get my driver's info, so my case involved my car insurance and health plan kicking it back and forth, although it eventually did get paid. So if you have the driver's insurance info start there. If not, lawyer.
posted by weathergal at 9:40 AM on July 19, 2014

I was hit on a scooter by a man who ran a red light. Clear cut, right?

Please trust me when I say "get a lawyer". A good lawyer will work on contingency (they will get paid out of your settlement). If there are injuries and time lost from work you're talking about a huge claim here. Be prepared that this may drag on -- possibly for a year or more -- but only with an attorney will you get a fair settlement.

Please trust me on this.
posted by anastasiav at 9:58 AM on July 19, 2014 [14 favorites]

If I was writing a book about when to get a lawyer, I would definitely include your story as one of my marquee case studies. Please get a lawyer. Your lawyer is the only person in this whole scenario who will truly advocate for you.
posted by Silvertree at 10:23 AM on July 19, 2014 [3 favorites]

I got hit by a car on my bike and waited for the other guy's insurance company to contact me. I also had a police report, it was also clear that the other guy was at fault, and I was hurt pretty bad too. Three years later I got offered some money for pain and suffering from their insurance, and a lawyer friend of the family told me the offer was ridiculously low.

Then I got a lawyer, and everything was so much better. I didn't have to talk on the phone to the guy's insurance going "uh-huh" to words I didn't understand, I didn't have to do hours of research figuring out how medical billing works, and I didn't have to pay the lawyer until after the settlement. Which, even after lawyer fees, was much higher than the initial offer.

The lawyer was awesome and saved the day. I recommend getting a lawyer so much. I wish I had gotten mine right away.
posted by middlethird at 10:26 AM on July 19, 2014 [10 favorites]

Do NOT contact the driver's insurance company before you contact an attorney, you do not want to say a SINGLE word to them. Do NOT contact ANYONE before you talk to an attorney.

In other words, contact an attorney.
posted by HuronBob at 10:27 AM on July 19, 2014 [6 favorites]

Like most everyone else responding, my advice is lawyer up.

Remember, engaging an attorney is not a hostile act. Engaging an attorney is gaining an advocate and a counselor who had dealt with situations like this one many times before, knows your rights under the law, and can make sure you're given the redress you are entitled to.
posted by ocherdraco at 10:41 AM on July 19, 2014 [5 favorites]

For a recent accident involving my husband's finger, a tailgate, and an oblivious drummer, we couldn't use the health insurance provided by my job, we had to have the insurance of the vehicle for everything. Checking in a with a lawyer isn't a bad idea, this may be the case in your jurisdiction as well.
posted by kellyblah at 10:56 AM on July 19, 2014

In the Bay Area, there are attorneys who specialize in representing injured cyclists and pedestrians, at least one of whose ads talks about working at no up front cost for you.
posted by slidell at 11:37 AM on July 19, 2014

Chicago has attorneys that specialize in cyclist clients as well. I haven't had any personal experience with them (thank goodness) but I know that Brendan Kevenides is one such lawyer who runs a cycling advocacy blog.
posted by theodolite at 12:10 PM on July 19, 2014 [2 favorites]

I was hit on a scooter by a man who ran a red light. Clear cut, right?

Please trust me when I say "get a lawyer".

Yes, this. My mom was in a very similar situation to your husband. And to top it off, it involved a drunk driver and a stolen car. Sounds like a slam dunk right?

It took literally years to sort out, WITH a lawyer. Without, she would have gotten totally fucked over since the medical bills got unexpectedly large and involved stuff that didn't seem necessary immediately after the accident.

You need a lawyer right now, and you need to start working on this right now. It's not going to take a week to solve, but it just won't be solved if you don't get one. You'll get some pittance amount and be out of pocket a ton of money from lost work and whatever.
posted by emptythought at 12:31 PM on July 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

You need a lawyer. Most work on contingency so you don't need to give them any money up front. You can negotiate the percentage, but it's generally in the neighborhood of 30-33%.

Ask friends if they can recommend one, or go with the one that advertises the most during the Maury show.

Keep records of every DIME that's spent or lost due to the accident. Any prescriptions or OTC pain relievers, ice bags, etc. Every bill from the hospital, doctors, radiologists, etc. Miles between home and doctor or work and doctor or work and Physical Therapy. Every hour of work missed to go to appointments, or home nursing a headache. Keep a daily/hourly journal of issues and symptoms associated with the injury. Any work YOU'VE missed, any plans you couldn't keep due to illness. Anything and everything associated with this accident. It all counts.

Your lawyer will pro-actively pursue the driver's insurance company and act as an intermediary with any doctor's bills, so you're not out any money for these things while you're case is pending.

You will also want to wait before settling. This allows you to confirm that your husband is 100% healed and/or if he's in some way disabled, he can be evaluated for percentage of disability and receive proper compensation.

My Mom at the age of 75 is still feeling the effects of an accident that happened 50 years ago. It took me 3 years between my accident and settling. FWIW I got a total of $35,000 of which about $11,000 went to the lawyer for fees and expenses. I didn't pay a dime of medical bills out of my share. So that was $24,000 straight to me.

So slow your roll. See what you can do to give your husband space to heal properly and to have a considered settlement when the time comes. Hire a lawyer and know that he will have your (and her) interests at heart.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:16 PM on July 19, 2014 [3 favorites]

I got hit as a pedestrian once while crossing the street in a crosswalk where the driver had a stop sign. Contacted a lawyer afterwards just to ask if I even needed legal assistance, and that person was kind enough to tell me that since I didn't suffer any injuries to speak of (just had a hospital bill from going to get checked out the day after) I would save money by just contacting the person's insurance company myself. That is what I did and it worked out fine. All of this to say, even if you contact someone just for an initial inquiry, they may well give you a measured appraisal of the situation and whether you need legal assistance.
posted by thesnowyslaps at 1:21 PM on July 19, 2014 [2 favorites]

Contact your local cycling advocacy group and ask for a referral to personal injury attorneys that specialize in cycling. You need a lawyer, this is a brain injury.

If there were witnesses, you really need a lawyer ASAP to work with them.

Start a spreadsheet with a list of appointments, expenses, etc. Save your hospital parking stubs and receipts for ice packs. Take photos of the bike and helmet, keep receipts for replacing helmet and fixing bike. Don't bother organizing receipts if you can't deal with it now - there's plenty of time later.

For reference I had a cycling accident in November and my first meeting with insurance adjuster is at my lawyer's office in August. This process takes forever and you need an advocate.
posted by crazycanuck at 2:45 PM on July 19, 2014

Oh, and there are good people over on The Chainlink. You might get more specific recommendations if you ask there.
posted by theodolite at 3:20 PM on July 19, 2014

Dooring is an offense in Chicago and the fines have recently been doubled. The driver should be charged and fined as well.
posted by srboisvert at 3:40 PM on July 19, 2014

As someone who has worked as a home and auto insurance analyst I can tell that a lawyer will not cost you money. They will make you money. Insurance companies hate it when claimants lawyer up because the payouts are always much larger. It was one of the reasons that insurance companies historically discriminated against immigrants - because they know they don't know what they are doing and lawyer up while native residents have a foolish belief in their own abilities and what is 'fair'.

In my opinion fair is getting 100% of what you are entitled to and the only way that will ever happen is with the help of an expert in insurance claims.

Also getting a lawyer means you can offload most of the stress of worrying about your claim and dealing with bureaucracy and instead focus on getting better.
posted by srboisvert at 3:48 PM on July 19, 2014 [3 favorites]

This is EXACTLY why you get a lawyer. The insurance company is not your friend, and a lawyer is the only way you can be assured you will be fully compensated

This. The driver's insurance company will move heaven and earth to avoid paying you; they will only properly compensate you if they are forced to. You cannot under any circumstances trust them. Find a lawyer.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 3:57 PM on July 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Call the Chicago Active Transportation Alliance's crash support hotline. This is the relevant local advocacy org. They'll be able to talk you through your options and may be a good way to find Chicago legal support that is familiar with this specific situation.
posted by pullayup at 4:14 PM on July 19, 2014

Take photos of the bike and helmet, keep receipts for replacing helmet and fixing bike.

Better yet, call around and find a bike shop that can do a crash assessment. Most will know exactly what you mean if you ask for one. This is basically an estimate of what it would cost to bring the bike back to it's pre-crash state, and should be free/implies no obligation (the bike shop would love it if you spend some of your settlement fixing the bike, of course).
posted by pullayup at 6:15 PM on July 19, 2014

Mod note: One comment deleted; it's better just to link to the article rather than include the entire text in a comment.
posted by taz (staff) at 1:28 AM on July 21, 2014

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