View Full Version : What To Do After the Collision– You Thought You Were Fine But Now Know You Are Hurt

03-16-2010, 12:46 PM
From the number of times I've seen this issue pop up in the past, I asked Ray Thomas for an article that would cover it.

What To Do After the Collision– You Thought You Were Fine But Now Know You Are Hurt (http://www.stc-law.com/delayed-symptoms.html)

By Ray Thomas
Oregon bicycle and pedestrian lawyer

Being involved in a collision is obviously a confusing and upsetting experience. When it happens, the bicyclist’s adrenaline is flowing and many people, upon realizing that they are not seriously injured, try to “shake it off” and carry on. Sometimes bicyclists’ optimism at the scene of the collision turns out to be unfounded when later they realize that, despite declaring they were fine in the excitement at the collision scene, they were in fact hurt. It is always safest to assume that you and your bicycle have sustained some damage, even if it is unclear to you precisely what it is, in the initial moments after the event, so that you can conduct a careful inventory before you wave the driver away from the scene. In our offices we have heard many times about bicyclists who did not realize until they got home that their knee or back were not working correctly, or that their bicycle frame or some component was bent or broken.

But, if you discover a problem later, hopefully you at least have retained the driver’s name and address so you can contact them to make a claim against their insurance. There is nothing wrong or illegal about believing at the scene of the collision that everything is fine, only to discover later that you were hurt or your bike was damaged. Recognize that it is a common experience for people, particularly trained athletes, to minimize symptoms of injuries until the conclusion is unavoidable that there really is something wrong.

The Bottom Line

Always assume there is probably some type of injury or damage in a collision and obtain contact information for the responsible driver at the scene.

Be sure to ask that the driver show you a valid driver’s license and insurance coverage card to reduce the likelihood that you will be provided with false information.

If the driver is reluctant to show you a driver’s license or insurance information, that it a good sign there is something wrong with their right to drive or insurance coverage and you should call 911 to summon the police to the scene immediately.

If you later realize you were hurt or suffered property damage, but did not get the information, follow the guidance in this article.

It is also important to be aware that many types of injuries do not show immediate symptoms. Concussions and bruises are frequently not detectable until the injured tissues have had a chance to develop inflammation. When a head injury is suspected, it is important to closely observe the injured person for a period of several days after the collision to make sure that no bleeding or swelling in the brain is occurring. An immediate trip to doctor or hospital emergency room is an imperative when the first symptoms of blurred vision, headache, difficulty understanding words or other symptoms of brain injury develop. Sometimes even a trip to the emergency room immediately after a collision will not result in a diagnosis of a brain injury, particularly when there are no other external signs of a hard head impact. This is frequently the case when a helmeted rider sustains a hard head strike in a collision and a helmet absorbs some of the force of the blow and protects the head from cuts or scrapes, but then it takes a few hours for swelling or bleeding in the brain to develop. Similarly, soft tissue and tendon or ligament injuries may at first seem like minor soreness, but develop into serious disabling conditions hours later.

In Oregon, motorists, drivers, or vehicle owners must complete an accident report on a Department of Transportation accident report form within 72 hours of an accident that results in injury or property damage in excess of $1,000.00. But if the driver thinks there is no injury, they are usually relieved not to have to file a report. However, if the police were called to the scene, hopefully the police officer provided to the involved parties an Exchange of Information Form containing basic contact and insurance information. Of course, if the police were waved off by the bicyclist, no form will be completed and, unless the driver was ticketed for a traffic-law violation, it may be difficult to locate the person after parties have left the scene.

One possibility is to contact responding law enforcement or fire department personnel to see if the handwritten notes or call log contains information about the driver. Another option is to check with the 911 call center and obtain a copy of the transcript for any telephone calls received relating to the collision in the hope that there will be contact information obtainable. Finally, if any witnesses provided contact information, it is possible that the witnesses scribbled a license plate number or name for the driver that can be located and used.

Even if the driver cannot be identified, the bicyclist may still make a PIP (Personal Injury Protection) claim on their own auto insurance because every Oregon Automobile insurance policy contains a no-fault coverage known as PIP to pay medical expenses, wage loss, and other out of pocket expenses. The bicyclist can make a claim against the bicyclist’s own auto policy, which is at least some compensation, even though PIP does not include payment for full damages or pain and suffering.

If all the bicyclist retains is the license plate number for the automobile, the Department of Motor Vehicles can provide information about the registered owner for the vehicle, but if law enforcement is not assisting then it may be necessary to go through the office of someone who has an account with DMV in order to obtain this information.

Just because you thought you were fine at the scene does not mean you are prevented from later making a claim. However, there are important time deadlines. If you want to make a claim against a public entity for the injury, you must provide written notice and the particulars of your claim within 180 days pursuant to the Oregon Tort Claims Act (https://www.oregonlaws.org/ors/30.275?highlight=ORS+30.275). There is also a six-month “statute of limitations” for using the citizen initiated violation (http://www.stc-law.com/citizenprosecutions.html) prosecution to cite the driver who caused the collision into court for breaking a traffic law pursuant to ORS 153.058 (https://www.oregonlaws.org/ors/153.058?highlight=ORS+153.058). Information about how to make a PIP claim, cite a motorist into traffic court and the rules that must be followed by insurance companies in the Pedal Power guide (http://www.stc-law.com/bikepower.html) (available as a .pdf file on our website at http://www.stclaw.com). And, Oregon law allows two years for an injured claimant to make a claim in court for damages (sometimes longer for juveniles or disabled people) so there should be plenty of time to make a claim and resolve it well before the statute of limitations cuts off the right to sue for injury or property damages.

So if you thought you were fine only to find out later that you were hurt, do not despair, follow these simple guidelines, and get your claim started right away.