Q&A with Karen R. and Hottman Law Office – a cyclist’s perspective of the entire process from start to finish:
[Question] What was your overall experience with the process, beginning with the Officer's response to the accident, the citation he/she did or did not issue, the traffic court process (if there was any) and the behavior of the driver from start to finish?
[Answer] Having been hit by a car while riding my bicycle to work last summer i have experienced both the good and the bad of the whole process of dealing with police, insurance companies and the culpable driver. in all fairness, dealing with the driver of the vehicle was the best part of the whole process while dealing with the officer that investigated the accident was the worst part of the whole process. the accident was investigated by the Colorado state highway patrol and from my first remembered contact with him he gave the impression that i was at fault, and because there was "no witness" he wouldn't be giving any citations. however, he proceeded to write his police report in such a way as to say that it was his opinion that i had failed to yield the right of way at a three way stop and this was because i was an "inexperienced" rider. later, when my husband went to the scene of the accident to pick up my bike, the officer actually had the nerve to tell him that in just the time that he had been investigating the accident there had been at least 6 bikes that had ridden through the stop sign at the intersection, implying that i had done the same thing. in fact, i had allowed two cars to go through the stop signs and then proceeded to start into the intersection. it was at this time that the driver t-boned me in the middle of the intersection. He immediately stopped and and began apologizing profusely saying that he had not seen me.
From that point on the driver contacted my husband while i was in the hospital overnight, several times in the days following the accident, and then even came by the bike shop where i work to see how I was doing. it was while he was talking with my husband at the hospital that he admitted that he had taken the right of way from me and then again admitted it to me when he visited at the shop. After seeking legal counsel I had no further contact with the driver, but up to that point he had been very concerned about my well being.
During this time I filed a claim with his insurance company to cover the cost of replacing my bike and the medical expenses that I was incurring. because of the police report slant AGAINST me his insurance company flatly turned me down and it was then that i decided to seek legal counsel.
[Question] What was your overall impression of the civil process in dealing with the driver's insurance company from start to finish?
[Answer] From the outset of my accident, the driver's insurance company denied my claim. it was not until i had legal representation that his insurance company decided to start paying attention to my claim. they had actually told me out right that the police report cast me in a very negative light and as far as they were concerned i was to blame in the accident. at this point i requested a written copy of the police report and it was, indeed, damning to me as the rider. up to this point, i had had no intentions of seeking an attorney, even though the day after the accident a boulder attorney contacted the bike shop where i worked and offered that they had pictures of the accident and would be willing to represent me!!!! after much thought i decided to find an attorney that i was comfortable with (not one that had pictures of me at the scene of the accident!) and then proceeded to hire her. only when my legal counsel approached the insurance company with actual facts in the case, i.e. the driver admitting that he was at fault, that he wanted them to pay my damages, that i was indeed an experienced rider,that they agreed to replace my damaged bike to start with and then negotiate payment for my medical bills when we felt that i had reached maximum medical improvement. once i had my new bike, they came to pick up the "old" bike (less than a month old at the time of the accident) at the bike shop and their adjuster then informed my bike shop that he had bought my old bike and would our mechanics please strip the bike of its components and put them on his frame! the shop had been very aware of the fact that their insurance company had denied my claim right off the bat and so were none too pleased to be asked to strip and then rebuild the adjusters bike with my old components! they basically told him to take his bike and find another shop to do the work.
Needless to say, the way the drivers' insurance company handled the situation was unprofessional, but given the even more unprofessional "opinion" of the highway patrol they didn't really have much choice at the outset. unfortunately, it took hiring an attorney to put some "muscle" behind my claim and only then were we able to come to a satisfactory resolution to the whole incident, though it has taken a year to do so.
[Question] Having been through this experience, what advice would you give
[Answer]Having been through this experience i have learned a number of things:
- no matter how careful or experienced a rider you are, as a cyclist you are extremely vulnerable to inattentive drivers – pay attention!!!!!;
- around boulder, the cops (at least the highway patrol), are not big fans of cyclists and automatically assume the cyclist is at fault in an accident, so document, document, document!;
- that cops are prejudiced against cyclists BECAUSE so many cyclists flaunt the laws of the road and ride as if the rules don't pertain to them -obey the rules of the road!;
- when involved in an accident ALWAYS try to get the names of witnesses if at all possible and request a copy of the police report immediately;
- don't hesitate to hire a good "cycling" attorney - they know the ins and outs of colorado bike law and make negotiating the legal and insurance mazes so much more palatable;
-DO ride responsibly, obeying ALL the rules of the road because it could be you on the receiving end of a biased police report, due to the prejudice of the police, fostered by the actions of a handful of irresponsible riders;
- appreciate every day that you can get out on your bike and
feel the freedom that comes with pedaling!