If you’ve ever witnessed an accident – particularly one involving a motorcycle – you know that the people involved can tend to act abnormally. Victims jump up from seemingly destructive impacts, witnesses shrug and move on, guilty parties split the scene. In this chapter, we want to share some things that you should keep in mind if you’re in an accident, or if you’re with a buddy who’s in an accident.
This chapter covers the following:
What is a Typical Motorcycle Accident?
If You Witness a Friend in an Accident, What Do You Do?
If You’re in an Accident, What Do You Do?
Why are Witnesses So Important?
What Is a Typical Motorcycle Accident?
Believe it or not, there is a typical motorcycle accident. This scenario happens so often that it’s almost predictable: A motorcyclist is traveling one direction on a road and a car is heading the other direction, sitting in the left-turn lane. The driver turns in front of oncoming traffic and hits the motorcycle rider.
Usually, the motorcyclist collides with the front, passenger-side corner of the car, becomes airborne, hits the windshield and flies over the car.
What would you do if the motorcycle rider were you? What if it was a friend?
If You Witness a Friend in an Accident, What Do You Do?
These are the steps to take when your buddy has been hurt in an accident:
Do not move the victim.
Do not move his head or neck and don’t remove his helmet.
Make the area safe. Get other people to block the intersection and lanes of traffic. Secure the scene with the help of other witnesses.
When the paramedics arrive, let them do their job.
Find as many witnesses as possible. Get each witness’s name, telephone number, mailing address and email address. Also try to get a brief understanding of what they saw.
Get pictures. Use your phone’s camera and take as many pictures as possible. Take shots of the intersection, damage to the motorcycle, witnesses, the location of the bike, the location of the car, debris on the road – anything in or around the scene of the accident.
Try to get the other driver’s insurance information. Get his or her name, telephone number, email address, mailing address, and insurance information including policy number and insurance company name. You can use your phone to take pictures of the other driver’s insurance card – front and back – as well as the license plates on their vehicle.
Here’s a strange fact about accident victims: Often, they exhibit the “flight instinct.” The motorcyclist gets hit, flies off the bike, hits the ground and then is up and running! This is because his adrenaline takes over. If you witness this behavior, get your friend to sit down, calm down, and to stop standing up. Protect your friend from running into traffic.
If You’re In an Accident, What do You Do?
Let’s say that you’re in an accident and you’re coherent enough to take action. These are the steps you should take:
Move to a safe position off to the side of the road.
Exchange insurance information with the other party. Get his or her name, telephone number, email address, mailing address, and insurance information including policy number and insurance company name. You can use your phone to take pictures of the other driver’s insurance card – front and back – as well as the license plates on their vehicle.
Even if it is a minor accident and you don’t think you’re hurt, don’t let the other person leave. At a minimum, get his or her driver’s license number.
If the other party drives away, you stay right there and call the cops.
Get pictures. Use your phone’s camera and take as many pictures as possible. Take shots of the intersection, damage to your bike, witnesses, the location of bike, the location of car, debris on the road – anything in or around the scene of the accident.
If you’re taken to the hospital, use your health insurance. (See Chapter 5 for more on this issue.)
Also, if you were wearing a helmet while riding, make sure the cops know it.
And speaking of cops, it’s unfortunate, but cops sometimes don’t get it right and ticket the wrong party. Even in cases like the typical accident that we outlined above – in which the motorcyclist has the right-of-way and the other driver was at-fault – the motorcyclist is often given the ticket. Yet another reason to collect as many witnesses as possible.
Why Are Witnesses So Important?
In order to illustrate this point, consider the following real-life story from the O’Sullivan Law files.
Patrick was riding southbound on a busy, four-lane road. A northbound driver turned left in front of him and Patrick barely had time to hit the brakes. The momentum of his bike was so powerful that after Patrick and the bike hit the side of the car the bike’s tail came up, tossing Patrick into the car, and then the bike itself hit Patrick again.
Patrick sustained a shattered left collarbone, broken ribs, torn ligaments in his knee, and other injuries. Fortunately, he was wearing a full-face helmet so his head and jaw were ok.
The police arrived. Because Patrick had no traumatic head injury, he was able to explain the accident. However, one witness told the police that she had seen Patrick earlier riding in between cars or “splitting lanes,” which is illegal in Colorado. She did not see the accident. Two other witnesses saw the accident and said Patrick was not splitting lanes and that he had the right-of-way.
The police officer gave Patrick the ticket.
Patrick asked the O’Sullivan Law Firm to represent him and we visited the scene of the accident. We were able to collect witness statements from people who worked in a nearby restaurant. These witnesses also said that Patrick was driving legally and had the right-of-way. We took those statements to the prosecutors who promptly dropped the case against Patrick.
And yet, the at-fault driver’s insurance company continued to deny responsibility until we filed a lawsuit and took the witnesses’ depositions. Finally, the insurance company dropped their defense and accepted full responsibility.
Clearly, in Patrick’s case, witnesses made all of the difference.