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Ask BikePortland: What are my options after a bike-on-bike collision?

Posted by on August 10th, 2010 at 10:46 am

“What are a cyclist’s options when another cyclist causes damage or injury?”
— Nick V.

[Ask BikePortland is a regular feature. See past questions and learn the answers via our esteemed commenters here.]

This week’s Ask BikePortland comes from reader Nick V. Nick wants to know how to handle the aftermath of a bike-on-bike collision:

“Yesterday I was on the Eastbank Esplanade and was climbing up the round ramp to head east onto the Hawthorne Bridge/Blvd. Another cyclist was coming east on the bridge and turned off to come down the same ramp. He was going too fast, couldn’t make a tight enough turn, and plowed into me head-on. The only real damage was a bruised knuckle on my left hand. He apologized but I was left wondering what to do if there had been more significant damage. I’ve had a few scrapes with automobiles where you can get license plate numbers or ask for ID, insurance info, etc. Not so with cyclists who might not have any documentation or ID. This “crash” could have been much worse and the other guy might not have been cooperative. What are a cyclist’s options when another cyclist causes damage or injury?

Thanks!
Nick V”

Nick’s question raises an interesting issue. As we see higher volumes of bicycle traffic, bike-on-bike collisions will increase. Without a vehicle license or insurance registration, how will people on bicycles have a formal way to account for the collisions and make sure both sides are held accountable?

Portland bike lawyer Mark Ginsberg says someone in a bike-on-bike collision still needs to exchange information such as basic contact info and driver’s license number (if they’ve got one, if not, some form of non-driver identification will do). Ginsberg also reminds us that if both involved parties have homeowners or renters insurance, damage to property and physical injuries should be covered.

Have any of you been in this situation? Any other lawyers out there care to chime in?

– Check out more in the Ask BikePortland archives.

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  • matt picio August 10, 2010 at 11:26 am

    Strictly speaking, the collision should probably also be reported to the Oregon DMV. DMV requires everyone in a car to report all collisions to the DMV, and state law burdens cyclists with the same responsibilities as motorists except in cases where it cannot be applied to a bicycle by nature of that method of travel.

    Under a strict interpretation, if you have a collision with another cyclist, and a police report is filed, and you do not report it to DMV, DMV could revoke your driver’s license.

    I highly doubt it would happen (and depending on your interpretation of the law, maybe they can’t do it), but it is, in theory, possible.

    As a side note. What’s the point now in saying “I am not a lawyer” (I’m not, and the preceeding should not be construed as legal advice) :-P

    I mean, “ignorance of the law is no excuse”, yet we’re constantly told that only lawyers may interpret the law, and only judges can say authoritatively what it means. If there are hundreds of thousands of pages of law, and the average person is neither permitted to speak on what that means, then how can the “ignorance” argument stand?

    For that matter, if there is no objective definition of the restrictions of the law, then what’s the point of having it? (leaving out the obvious deterrent it has on those who would otherwise break it if there weren’t something in writing and taught in schools as “the law”)

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  • MIndful Cyclist August 10, 2010 at 12:08 pm

    Along with exchanging info, I would recommend whipping out the cell phone (if you have it with you and assuming it has a camera feature) and taking pictures of the injuries right away. Email them to yourself. While they may seem innocuous at the time, you never know for sure. Insurance companies love to deny claims and this can serve as a bit of proof.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) August 10, 2010 at 12:13 pm

    Matt,

    I have from very good source that DMV throws out any crash reports that do not involve a motor vehicle… and who can blame them.. they are the Dept. of MOTOR Vehicles after all. That’s why I think they should either change their name or we need to create a Department of Non-Motorized Vehicles.

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  • Vinny August 10, 2010 at 12:34 pm

    @ Matt #1

    In Oregon you are only required to report crashes to the DMV and law enforcement if there is an injury/death or $1,500 damage property damage. If you have a minor collision, even in a car, that causes less than $1,500 in damage and nobody was hurt then you do not have to report it. Then again, even a scratched bumper might exceed that damage limit and there isn’t a clear definition of the injury limit. Is a bruised knuckle considered an injury by the state?

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  • RWL1776 August 10, 2010 at 12:45 pm

    Jonathan #3: But won’t that same DMV take away your drivers license if you get popped for drunken cycling on the road? Same can happen with drunken boating.

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  • GlowBoy August 10, 2010 at 12:56 pm

    For the most part, the procedure shouldn’t be that much different than car-car collisions.

    Exchange any contact/drivers license and insurance information. If you have reason to suspect any injuries, dial 911 to report a “possible injury collision” and wait for them to arrive and fill out a report.

    If you have car insurance, you will be covered by it even though you’re on a bike; same for the other party. Oh, the other guy doesn’t have insurance? Well, the procedure is still no different than a car-car collision; 30% of Oregon drivers are uninsured. File a claim with your insurance company, which will reimburse your medical expenses (up to $10k) under PIP and take care of suing the other person and/or their insurance.

    Other party doesn’t have a drivers license? Again, a large share of Oregon drivers don’t have them. No different than a “regular” car crash.

    And by the way, uninsured and unlicensed drivers get off with barely a slap on the wrist in Oregon, even if they are found to be at fault in a collision. In almost all cases the offender will keep on driving afterwards. I think one of the most bike-friendly legal changes we could make in Oregon would be to jack up the severity of these offenses so they carried serious penalties.

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  • GlowBoy August 10, 2010 at 1:01 pm

    I should add that I was involved in a bike-bike collision in Beaverton a few years ago. The other cyclist came blasting around a blind corner on a bike path and we ended up hitting nearly head-on, with the bikes tangled together and both of us flying off.

    The other guy was in his mid 20s and had neither insurance nor proof of identification. Having recently been injured in a car-car crash, I was paranoid about delayed-onset injuries, and refused to let him leave the scene. He called his mother, who arrived a few minutes later and presented positive ID. Both of them made a huge scene about how I was being the bad guy and the poster child for our “overly litigious society”. What I was really doing was demanding accountability and personal responsibility, for which I made no apologies.

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  • matt picio August 10, 2010 at 1:06 pm

    Jonathan (#3) – Oh, I believe that totally, but the way the law is written, if they chose to enforce that provision, they probably could.

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  • freeman August 10, 2010 at 1:08 pm

    Knew of a inveterate on the job drinking messenger (R.I.P. – Paige); who eventually had his bike ‘confiscated’ by the Judge at one of his many cycling while intoxicated hearings…he may have been on probation already at the time – the punishment might seem extreme, didn’t slow him down much :-(
    If only the same could be done for repeating D.U.I.’ers in auto type vehicles then the streets might be a trifle safer.

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  • matt picio August 10, 2010 at 1:10 pm

    Vinny (#4) – That’s true, but that also describes the majority of “accidents”. While $1,500 in property damage in bike on bike might be rare (or might not, depending on the bike), injuries are still fairly common.

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  • Velophile in Exile August 10, 2010 at 1:31 pm

    Matt (#1), you as a non-lawyer can interpret the law all you want, you just can’t do it under contract for someone else. Lawyers include the disclaimer that they are not providing legal advice so that a reader does not erroneously believe they are have an attorney-client relationship with the lawyer.

    The license issued by the Bar to practice law simply certifies that the holder is “minimally competent” to interpret the law. So, you’re not even that, or at least if you are the State has yet to recognize it. ;)

    But, unless you hold yourself out as a lawyer, the reader would have no reasonable basis to believe that s/he can rely on your interpretation of the law. So you do not need to include the disclaimer, but it is good that you did for clarity’s sake.

    The “ignorance of the law” principle applies in court because each person must understand the law for him/herself. As you point out, that can be pretty difficult sometimes these days. But any enforcement of the law would be impossible if ignorance were an excuse, so it is an imperfect but necessary rule.

    And there are other legal principles that can be used in defense of ignorance. For example, if a law is so vague that a reasoanble person cannot understand what it means, a judge must declare it invalid.

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  • KJ August 10, 2010 at 1:42 pm

    Follow up question: Since I am soon to be car free. What do those of us with no auto do for insurance coverage? Are there any options out there?
    I know renter’s will cover theft.

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  • matt picio August 10, 2010 at 3:27 pm

    Velophile (#11) – The first question was meant to be rhetorical, I’m aware of the legalities.

    As for the rest – it’s not difficult, it’s impossible, and even if you think you understand it, a judge can tell you that you are incorrect. “no excuse” completely ignores intent, and while without it the system could be abused, with it the system is now fairly obviously bent if not broken.

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  • matt picio August 10, 2010 at 3:29 pm

    KJ (#12) – Renter’s/Homeowners also covers damage to the bike, or to things/people you hit with the bike. Coverage varies a bit by carrier, so check with your policy holder as to the particulars of coverage.

    It does not cover medical expenses to yourself, however, and that’s the major gap that most cyclists can’t cover.

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  • 180mm_dan August 10, 2010 at 3:36 pm

    Excellent question, article, and comments!

    The odds of bike-bike collision has increased significantly in the last 10 years – one of the few negatives of more bicyclists in Portland area.

    p.s. Don’t pass on the right side!

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  • h August 10, 2010 at 3:56 pm

    Amen to 180mm_dan’s p.s. comment! I have had close calls.

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  • Paul Johnson August 10, 2010 at 4:12 pm

    This is why I, as a car-free bicyclist, wish we had compulsory registration plates and operator licensing like motorists do.

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  • Brian E. August 10, 2010 at 4:15 pm

    I was hit at an intersection by a rider that was riding the wrong way (against traffic). He took me out, broke my handlebars and gave me some serious scrapes and bruises.

    The guy only spoke Spanish so we had a difficult time communicating. He was polite and sorry for hitting me. I made a quick judgement and decided he was not going to be able to pay anyways. End of story.

    That’s life I guess.

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  • spare_wheel August 10, 2010 at 7:05 pm

    “This is why I, as a car-free bicyclist, wish we had compulsory registration plates and operator licensing like motorists do.”

    Are there any statistics to suggest that this is a meaningful problem or is this just another one of those I am angry at stop-sign blowing hipster bikers and want to rant kind of topics.

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  • Paul Johnson August 10, 2010 at 7:46 pm

    Go ride in Beaverton some time and see how many people are operating safely, much less legally. On the westside, safe, legal bicycle operation is by far the exception.

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  • Jim O'Horo August 10, 2010 at 8:59 pm

    This is a serious issue and will only become more so. If I remember correctly, a few years ago 2 Portland cyclists collided & one died. I’m also aware of an instance where 2 cyclists collided on the Marine Dr. MUP with one being hauled off to the hospital with multiple injuries including some broken bones in his face.

    Given the reckless way in which some cyclists behave, it’s surprising to me that we haven’t seen more serious injuries.

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  • Jerry_W August 10, 2010 at 9:19 pm

    How about just get up, dust off, exchange a WTF and be on your way. F*ck getting lawyers involved in every damn thing!!!

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  • Mike August 10, 2010 at 9:46 pm

    How many of those accidents have involved skinny pants wearing hipsters? I hear they tend to not follow the rules of the road.

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  • Mike August 10, 2010 at 10:31 pm

    How about bike vs. cars? There was an incident a few weeks ago where a cyclist rear ended a car. I realize this is bike oriented site but come on. It was an obvious omission.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) August 10, 2010 at 10:35 pm

    Mike,

    i wouldn’t call that minor fender bender “an obvious omission”. I actually made a phone call to the fire bureau to ask about it and I determined it wasn’t really newsworthy enough to cover. Here’s what happened… A person on a bike was following a car too closely and when the car stopped, they ran into the back of it. The person on the bike was cited.

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  • Alex_N August 10, 2010 at 11:09 pm

    A little off topic, but not really… What happens with a bike-pedestrian collision? I was commuting to work via the West Waterfront last week and got blind sided by a pedestrian who stepped into my path as I was traveling the same speed as a lady pushing a stroller. Really, anyone would have said it was her fault. I ended up severely bloody and bruised because I went down, HARD. What’s the procedure for that exactly?

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  • CaptainKarma August 11, 2010 at 1:04 am

    slow news day

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  • CaptainKarma August 11, 2010 at 1:06 am

    Wait! what about that 12, no 10 lane bridge? guess it’s probbly not newsworthy either. whatever.

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  • spare_wheel August 11, 2010 at 7:24 am

    “This is a serious issue and will only become more so. If I remember correctly, a few years ago 2 Portland cyclists collided & one died. I’m also aware of an instance where 2 cyclists collided on the Marine Dr. MUP with one being hauled off to the hospital with multiple injuries including some broken bones in his face.”

    I can’t find these incidents via google. Do you have links?

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  • earl patrick August 11, 2010 at 9:11 am

    jonathan -

    thanks for this article. very timely. i had actually planned to ask you the very same question today.

    i t-boned a fellow cyclist last night on my commute home. he was running a stop sign and making a left turn from the wrong lane. i cut up my eyelid and bruised my face and left side of my body in general, but nothing is broken and my bike seems fine.

    we didn’t exchange information. i was a bit shaken up and didn’t think to demand it. the rest of the ride home i was wondering what my recourse would have been if the damage had been more serious. hopefully i never need to know, but now i do.

    thanks again for a great website.

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  • John August 11, 2010 at 12:29 pm

    Currently, this seems like a civil matter where negligence has caused injury. If you recklessly swing a golf club around and whack someone, you’d be liable for their injuries. I don’t see how reckless use of a bicycle in a way that causes injury would be any different.

    ER visits can be very expensive. The person at fault should take the tab.

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  • SuzM August 11, 2010 at 12:55 pm

    As another person who has been injured in a bike-on-bike collision, my advice is to make sure you get the other person’s info. it might be awkward, but you know what, if your injuries end up being worse then they seemed, you will be glad you did.

    And Jerry_W (#22)? have you never paid any medical bills in your life? damn right, if someone crashes into me because they were being reckless and they seriously injure me i’m going to get a lawyer involved.

    earlier this spring i had a very similar accident to the one in this article. Someone riding downhill on a bike path came around a corner way too fast, lost control, swerved into my side, and crashed into me head on. after a few minutes of being totally dazed i left the scene thinking that i was ok. i ended up having major knee issues for months afterwards.

    get information, even if it makes you feel like a dick.

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  • Meredith August 11, 2010 at 1:05 pm

    I was in a bike-on-bike collision 2.5 years ago while I was delivering snacks. I flipped over the handlebars and scraped my face on the ground. The other guy was totally at fault (wrong way on a divided street).

    An ambulance came and took me to the hospital. But while waiting for its arrival I talked to the guy a little. He was a brother from the area whom I sure didn’t have much in the way of assets. I was an employee at the time and the company had great insurance coverage. I didn’t bother hassling the poor guy but had the situation been a little different, I would have considered it.

    Thanks for the post!

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  • steve August 11, 2010 at 2:19 pm

    what i don’t understand is why the haul ass attitude?

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  • middle of the road guy August 11, 2010 at 3:37 pm

    What are the options?

    Look for the nearest car and blame the driver.

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  • Jim O'Horo August 11, 2010 at 4:02 pm

    spare_wheel @ 29

    Sorry spare_wheel. I searched the bikeportland archives & couldn’t find the report of the fatality. As I mentioned, my memory may be faulty on this, but as I recall, the collision occurred the same year we saw a whole lot of other fatalities. I think that was 2007, and I think bikeportland was where I saw it reported. As I recall, it didn’t get a whole lot of attention or comment. I’m not very internet savvy, so I might easily have missed it in the archives. Perhaps Jonathan or someone else remembers the incident.

    I’m fairly sure the Marine Dr. MUP collision wasn’t reported anywhere. I heard of it from friends who were riding with one of the cyclists who collided. Given what I heard, I’d have been embarrassed to report it also. Sounds to me like both cyclists made mistakes. One pulled out to the left to pass a line of cyclists and didn’t look far enough ahead for clear space. The other was travelling at well over 20mph with a 20mph tailwind on that narrow, crowded path – way too fast for conditions. Given the descriptions, I’d say the closing speed of the cyclists at the time of the collision was probably over 30mph. That’s enough to have caused fatal internal injuries even if they were both wearing helmets! The one who had the broken bones in his face required reconstructive surgery.

    I also remember hearing of a 3rd serious bike-on-bike collision here in Portland. This one was on the Esplanade just under the Hawthorne Bridge. Two friends were travelling northbound when some yahoo on a MTN bike came barreling down the ramp and rode into them, knocking both of them over. The MTN biker immediately jumped back on his bike & rode off. One of the fallen cyclists suffered a broken collarbone. Hit & Run by bike!

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  • Michael M. August 11, 2010 at 4:28 pm

    @spare_wheel & Jim O’Hara

    Not sure if this is the incident you’re both talking about, but it’s the cyclist-on-cyclist death I remember.

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  • Jim O'Horo August 11, 2010 at 4:59 pm

    Michael M. @ 37

    Yep, that’s the one. Thanks Michael.

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  • Anonymous August 11, 2010 at 10:07 pm

    Hey Jerry_W, that’s a great attitude to have if you live in a country with socialized medicine. Last I checked, we DON’T and probably never will.

    You might think your own health insurance will cover you for a bike crash, but they will NOT if it’s someone else’s fault. In the USA we have to sue each other to the make the responsible party pay for our medical bills. A broken arm can cost you upwards of $30k, and it’s not too hard to end up homeless from medical bills.

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  • Jerry_W August 12, 2010 at 8:21 am

    Anonymous, Attorney at Law

    I don’t see you listed to the right under “Legal” or in a banner ad paid to Jonathan.

    Ride smart, bike on bike collision should be the easiest to avoid. Maybe even stop talking on the phone while riding, stop at stop signs, don’t ride after drinking, wear a helmet (duh!), or pay attention in general.

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  • spare_wheel August 12, 2010 at 4:48 pm

    Thanks for the links Michael (and Jim). I will take this issue more seriously.

    “stop at stop signs”
    The Idaho stop law did not increase collisions.

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  • Paul Johnson August 12, 2010 at 4:56 pm

    The Idaho stop law did not increase collisions.

    Because it’s Idaho. Nobody lives there, so who you gonna hit?

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  • Velophile in Exile August 13, 2010 at 9:14 am

    585,000 nobodies in the Boise area. About the same number of people who live in Portland proper. LOL.

    You are totally unimpeded by the thought process, huh Johnson?

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