James Pocrass: What to Do if You’re Hit, Or See Someone Hit, on a Bike

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. 

James Pocrass. Photography by Dennis Trantham
James Pocrass. Photography by Dennis Trantham

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.



  • la_walker

    I am deeply concerned about any advice that advocates “Do not allow anyone (that means any person in any capacity), to photograph or videotape you.”

    Not only is it completely legal for other people to take photographs or video recordings of you in a public place, if you try to prevent them from doing so, you yourself may be breaking the law.

  • bobby

    And what to do when the hit and run is done with a car that has no plates (as so many new cars in LA do not have any visible temporary plates)?

  • calwatch

    Certainly, if I was a motorist and I hit someone, I would take pictures not just of the damaged vehicle, but also of the person. This is important due to insurance fraud concerns. With smart phone cameras so ubiquitous, in a recent fender bender I photographed the other vehicle damage, the other person’s drivers license and insurance information, and took a photo of the driver to verify that the driver matched the photo on the license. (And the other person did the same.)

    Anyone can object to be photographed, which is their right. However, I also have the right to ignore their objection in a public place. It would be incredibly douchey to photograph an injured cyclist unless you are the colliding party, but I would recommend as drivers to photograph other parties in a collision due to the prevalence of insurance fraud in this region.

  • James Pocrass

    This post was not meant to be a discussion on the legality of taking an accident victim’s photo but rather practical advice on how ensure that defendants and insurance companies do not try to take advantage of you after a bicycle collision.

    While you may not be able to stop someone from videotaping and photographing you, you can always ask them not to or try to avoid it. The reason is that the photograph or video can be used out of context or edited by a defendant or insurance company to portray something that is not true.

    Photographs also do not show the extent of injuries, particularly if they are internal. If you suffered a head injury, you may not be able to accurately describe the accident when being videotaped. It is in your best interest to not be photographed or videotaped after an accident.

    Accident victims sued television producers and others, alleging torts of publication of private facts and intrusion. The Superior Court, Los Angeles County, Case No. BC031250, Lillian M. Stevens, J., granted summary judgment for producers.

    The Court of Appeal, Godoy Perez, J., 59 Cal.Rptr.2d 434, affirmed in part and reversed in part.

    After granting petition for review, the Supreme Court, Werdegar, J., held that: (1) story of rescue was of legitimate public interest, as was victim’s appearance and words; (2) cameraman’s presence and filming of events at accident scene was not intrusion on victims’ seclusion; (3) victims may have had reasonable expectation of privacy in rescue helicopter; (4) victim was entitled to a degree of privacy in conversations with medical rescuers; and (5) recording of communications to rescuers and filming in helicopter ambulance may have been highly offensive to a reasonable person. Shulman v. Group W Productions, Inc. (1998) 18 Cal.4th 200 [74 Cal.Rptr.2d 843, 955 P.2d 469]

    The Photographers’ Guide to Privacy by The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press also may help to clarify.

    bobby: In the situation you describe, there really isn’t a lot you can do, other than get whatever information you can (make and model). And support such organizations as the LACBC and Finish the Ride that are working to change such things in order to ensure that hit and run drivers are held accountable. And please make sure to sign the LACBC’s “hit and run petition.”

  • daniel anderson

    i saw the Shulman rescue on my NBC station WYFF on september 29,1990 on “On Scene: Emergency Response”

  • daniel anderson

    i remember some of the narration was wrong for example the narrator says : “four of the patients are leaving by ground ambulance. Two are still trapped inside.” when there was just two trapped could have shulman have sued the narrator?

  • danderson600

    i wonder about the flight nurse did she have the right to wear a microphone also the narrator was Dave Forman who created and hosted and produced “On Scene”

  • danderson600

    did they do a movie of the week on the rescue? i remember they had someone play Shulman and the flight nurse


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