As a parent, you want to encourage your child to ride a bike. It provides a great physical activity that gets your child outside and enjoying the sunshine. Unfortunately, bike riding—especially bike riding in the street—is not without its hazards. In Pasco County, where New Port Richey is located, 434 bike accidents took place during the last three years, leaving 413 injured and 12 dead.
If your child is hit by a motor vehicle while riding a bike, do you know how to respond? Can a child be at fault? Is the driver of the car automatically considered responsible for your child’s injuries?
Read on for some tips that may help you think clearly if this emergency ever happens to you and your child.
Are You Present at the Scene of the Crash?
You don’t always go outside with your child when she’s riding her bike, especially she gets older and wants her freedom. In some cases, however, you may be present and watching when your child sustains an injury in a collision with a motor vehicle. If you observe the accident, there are several important steps you can take immediately.
Summon help. This is obvious to any parent. At the scene of the accident, it’s important to summon help as quickly as possible. Call 911 or designate a specific witness to call 911 for you. Make sure to identify that individual by name or by a defining characteristic; if you just make a vague statement of, “Someone call 911!” everyone is more likely to assume that someone else will be the one to do it. Even if you don’t believe your child is seriously injured, call the police so they can create a report of the incident.
Check your child for injuries. This, too, is obvious and something any parent will do by instinct. But, be careful. You don’t want to move your child if there is any danger that doing so would make your child’s injuries worse. Examine your kiddo carefully for any injuries. If you observed the crash, think about how your child fell. Did the motor vehicle strike part of your child’s body? How did your child land on the pavement or road shoulder? In any collision between a cyclist and a motor vehicle, particularly one involving a child, there is a serious risk of mild to traumatic brain injury, even if your child was wearing a helmet. Be aware of any signs of brain injury, including loss of consciousness, disorientation, dizziness, and nausea.
Move your child out of the road, if you can. Make the road safe if not. If it is safe to move your child off of the road, then do. You do not want to risk additional injuries to your child, yourself, or anyone else who has come to your child’s aid by remaining in the street for longer than necessary. If you cannot move your child for fear of making injuries worse, designate someone to help warn traffic in both directions to slow down.
Take pictures of the scene of the accident. After the accident, you may need evidence that will help show how your child’s injury occurred. If you can take pictures of the accident scene, or ask someone else to do so, including:
- Pictures of your child’s bicycle and helmet, especially of any damage to either
- Pictures of your child’s injuries
- Pictures of the vehicle that struck your child, including any damage caused to the vehicle by the accident
- Pictures of any features of the area that might have contributed to the accident
Of course, taking pictures of the accident scene is secondary to ensuring that your child has the help needed. If you need to take your child to the hospital or to an urgent care facility, that should take priority over other actions at the scene.
Collect information and physical evidence if you and your child are able. If your child is safe and secure and you’re able to move around the accident scene, there are several types of information and evidence it may be useful for you to collect. Try to:
- Get insurance information from the driver of the car. Snap a picture of it to make it easier for you to find it later. You can also snap a picture of their driver’s license.
- Note any witness information, including contact information from people who saw what happened during the accident. They can help collaborate your version of events for your lawyer or for the police if needed.
- Make sure your child’s bike, helmet, and any other physical evidence gets preserved and not thrown away.
Stay with your child at the scene of the accident until help arrives. Do not leave the scene of the accident until you’ve spoken with the police unless you are taking your child to receive medical attention.
If Your Child Comes Home After a Bicycle Crash
In other cases, you might not have been present when the accident occurred. Your child may come home limping, bleeding, or showing other symptoms of injury. What do you do then? Here are some suggestions:
Evaluate your child’s injuries. If needed, proceed directly to the nearest hospital emergency department or urgent care facility. If you believe that you can handle treatment at home, make sure you’re on the lookout for serious signs of injuries. Seek medical care immediately if your child:
- Shows the signs of brain injury described above.
- Is unable to bear weight on an injured limb.
- Has scrapes or lacerations that need to be cleaned.
- Has tenderness or swelling in the abdomen, which can be caused by internal injury as they strike the handlebars.
- Has blood in urine or feces.
Any time you believe that your child has been seriously injured, seeking medical attention should be your top priority.
Contact the police. If your child has been injured and you weren’t present at the scene of the accident, it may be especially important to report the accident to the police. Law enforcement may be better able to identify the individual responsible for your child’s accident. Reporting the accident will also help begin the investigation. Contact the police even if your child has left the scene of the accident and it is no longer possible to identify who the driver was.
After You Leave the Accident Scene
Time may seem to stretch out indefinitely when you’re at the scene of the accident, but eventually, you’ll be able to pick up and leave. What comes next? After you leave the scene of the accident, there are still several steps it may be helpful for you to follow to protect your child’s rights, including rights to compensation for the injuries the accident caused.
Keep track of your child’s medical records. It may be helpful to take pictures of your child’s injuries as they heal, including pictures at the hospital. Document the progression of healing, including expecting progress and your child’s actual progress throughout the healing process. Start a file containing their medical records so that later, you will be able to easily access that information. Maintaining a file will help you keep track of your child’s diagnosis, what you have spent on their medical bills, and any future treatments that have been recommended. Keeping track of all of this information can make it easier to establish your child’s expenses if you need to provide proof of them later in a lawsuit.
Contact a lawyer. Your child may be entitled to recover compensation for the expenses and pain and suffering caused by the driver of the motor vehicle. You may also have the right to compensation for emotional suffering if you witnessed your child’s accident. An experienced personal injury attorney can help you determine what rights you and your child may have, and how to go about seeking compensation.
Retaining a lawyer can also be helpful in navigating the process of recovering insurance payments for your child’s injuries. If you are a Florida driver, your child is covered by your Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance, so the first source of coverage for your child’s medical expenses will likely be your PIP carrier, even if the motor vehicle driver was “at fault” for the accident. If your child’s injuries exceed your PIP policy limits, however, you may also be entitled to seek benefits from other insurance policies, including the driver’s. An experienced personal injury attorney can help sort out when and how to file claims with insurers, and may negotiate appropriate settlements on your and your child’s behalf.
Avoid posting information about your child’s accident on social media. While it can be tempting to share your child’s injuries with your friends and family so they can gather behind you in support, it’s important to avoid posting information that could be relevant to a potential lawsuit on social media. Consult with a lawyer about what it’s safe to post and whether or not you will be able to post on social media about the accident.
Wait on the insurance company. A representative of an insurance company may call you offering a settlement of your and/or your child’s potential claims for damages, especially if the accident resulted in severe injuries for which the driver’s insurance may have liability. Speak with an attorney before you agree to any settlement. Insurance companies take advantage of vulnerable, stressful moments to get injured parties to accept unreasonably low settlements. An attorney can protect you from these tactics by handling the negotiations with any insurance company.
Get your child a new bike, and store the damaged one somewhere safe. Do not get your child’s bike repaired. After an accident with a motor vehicle, your child’s bike becomes evidence in what may be both a criminal and civil legal matter. In fact, it’s possible the police may take it with them as evidence. But, even if they don’t, you should set the bike aside and not let your child use it again, at all, ever. Fixing the bike destroys potentially critical evidence relating to how the accident happened and how your child’s injury occurred. If you cannot afford a new bike for your child, explain that for the time being your child will have to get around some other way. Fixing, throwing away, or otherwise using the bike involved in your child’s accident could have a significant, negative effect on your child’s and your legal rights. It is possible it could cost your child the ability to recover any compensation for the injuries sustained in the accident.
Listen to your child’s doctor. Your child’s doctors will give you a clear plan to help move through the process of recovering from injuries. This may include information about when your child is able to resume certain activities (but again, your child should not ride that same bike again). Listen carefully to the doctors to help your child progress through their recovery appropriately and without setbacks. You should also listen to your child’s doctor about what they will need to help make recovery easier, including medical equipment that may help with their recovery. Keep track of any expenses related to that medical care and treatment.
Give your child time. Some children may bounce back after a traumatic accident. Others may need more time before resuming normal activities. In some circumstances, it may be helpful to seek mental health counseling for your child to help in the process of coping with the emotions a traumatic event can cause. Ask your doctor for a recommendation.
Get the Legal Help You Need From the Dolman Law Group
If a motor vehicle struck your child while your child was riding a bike, your child and you may be entitled to significant compensation. The statute of limitation may already be running, however, so don’t wait to get the legal support you need. Email the Dolman Law Group today or call (727) 853-6275 to schedule a free consultation. Our team of experienced, compassionate bike accident professionals would be glad to meet with you.
Dolman Law Group
5435 Main Street
New Port Richey, FL 34652