Jim Pocrass is a leading bike attorney representing people from throughout Southern California who suffer serious personal injuries – or the families who lost a loved one to a wrongful death – because of the carelessness or negligence of another. Jim is a cyclist and active in the bicycle community, supporting numerous bike-related causes. He also is on the board of directors of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition. For a free consultation, or to contact Jim, visit www.pocrass.com or call 310.550.9050.
A couple of weeks ago, Jim volunteered to answer Streetsblog reader questions about legal matters. His answers proved so detailed that we decided to break them up into a five part series (one per question) rather than one giant story.
Q: What’s the essential information to get after a collision?
A: An excellent question, and one that entails much more than most people realize.
Before answering it, let me urge each of you to take up the “buddy program.” That means, consider getting this information if you see a collision, not just if you are the victim or if you actually witnessed the collision.
The victim might not be in the emotional or physical state to be able to gather this information for themselves. If the victim is severely injured, maybe tuck your name and contact information and a note asking them to contact you to get this information from you and tuck it into their pocket or give it to an emergency responder to pass it on for you.
Whenever you have a collision – whether it’s on a bike, as a pedestrian, on a motorcycle, or with another motor vehicle, including a truck or bus – the information you want to get is the same:
- Name, address, and full contact information of driver (including email).
- Registration (make, model, year of vehicle, license state and number, VIN number – that’s the long number that identifies the vehicle – if the vehicle is a truck, get both the cab number and the trailer number and plates as they could be different).
- Driver’s license information (state, number, birth date, expiration date, address as listed, if you can, it’s not a bad idea to take a close-up photo of the license).
- Insurance (company, number, contact information).
But that’s just the beginning. As a personal injury lawyer I also urge you to:
- Wait for the police to respond. In some cities and counties law enforcement only responds to injury collisions. That means if you say you are not injured, which, of course, YOU would NEVER say that (tomorrow may be another day), the police may very likely not show up.
- If the police do not come to the scene, go to the station and file a police report as soon as possible. A police report is not admissible in court, but it does provide you with a record of the accident. Though the police reports that we see are incorrect probably 90% of the time, they tend to be wrong in the officer’s conclusions, not in the facts of the case (time, where, drivers’ information).
- NEVER, never admit fault. You can express concern for someone, but never apologize or admit fault to the other driver, to a police officer, to witnesses, or to anyone else.
- Get prompt medical attention. The surge of adrenalin may mask deeper medical issues.
- Never talk to insurance representatives. Whatever you say will be “on the record.” It is a lot easier to put something “on the record” than it is to get it off.
- Do not allow anyone (that means any person in any capacity), to photograph or videotape you.
- And you, of course, will NOT post anything on social media (that includes photos) either now or in the future about the collision or how you feel or what you are doing. It is now a matter of practice for insurance companies and defense attorneys to check out all your social media accounts.
- Preserve evidence and only give it to your personal injury lawyer. Evidence includes your clothes, bike, bike parts, photos and so on.
If possible, take photographs. Take photographs of the vehicles before they are moved. Take photos of license plates, the other vehicle, from the accident to landmarks (such as from the accident to the corner or to the curb or to the stop sign). Then take photos from the landmarks to the accident site (such as from the corner or from the stop sign). Take photos of skid marks in relation to something, such as the curb. You cannot take too many photos.
This is a lot of information to gather as your heart is racing and you are possibly injured, I know. Do the best you can. Get what you can. Never put yourself in danger, such as standing in the middle of the road or the freeway to get photographs. Put your safety and the necessity of getting medical attention first.
But what if you are hit – or witness someone – hit by a hit and run driver? The most essential piece of information you can get is the vehicle’s license plate information (state and number), followed by its make and model. If you can see anything that would identify the driver – gender, race, hair color – that helps, too.
Most important, though, is that license plate. With that one piece of information, the police or our investigator has a chance at finding the person who deserves everything they have coming to them and more.
If you believe you have a case, contact a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. A free consultation will give you the legal information you need to determine if you have a case and if you want to pursue legal action. Then you can make an educated decision and do what is right for you.