“I’m fine, just give me forty bucks for my wheel…”
A colleague of mine received a call from a potential client who told a sad story the other day. As his “personal injury” colleague, he told me about the situation and it brought up an interesting point.
The gentlemen who called (let’s call him “Joe”) was riding his bicycle down a hill in a metropolitan area, where he approached an intersection. He was suddenly struck by a motorist who failed to stop at a stop sign (let’s call the driver “Bob”). Joe, an athlete and avid cyclist, spoke with the driver, and stated that he thought he was okay, save for his dented front bicycle wheel. Bob quickly inquired on Joe’s condition, asking him if he was hurt. Joe said he was fine, not wanting to look “weak”, and said “just give me $40 to fix my bike.” Bob quickly reached into his wallet, paid Joe the requested amount, and left the scene. (The illegality of leaving the scene of an accident without exchanging information is not being addressed here, but is certainly an issue).
A week later, Joe called a colleague of mine saying that he could barely move, has missed multiple days of work, and doesn’t know what to do. What’s next for him?
As you can guess, pursuing any claim against Bob would be difficult, as Joe unfortunately did not get any identification information from Bob (license plate number, name, address, insurance information, etc.). So it begs the question: what should Joe have done?
It’s important to note that in cases where you may not be visibly injured, including sprains, ligament tears, whiplash and other non-fracture injuries often take several days to appear. It’s common for a victim in a car accident to feel their worst up to 72 hours after impact.
Whenever someone is in a traffic accident or is injured at the fault of a third-party, they have a potential bodily injury claim against the injury-causing party (subject to multiple factors to be assessed by an injury attorney). That claim is based off of the identification information gathered at the scene of the injury and thereafter. However, since Joe failed to get any information from Bob after the accident, it is virtually impossible to open a claim against an unidentified person. There are instances where Joe would be able to open a claim through his own insurance, but he would have to have the appropriate coverage prior to the injury.
The moral of the story? It’s always better to be safe than sorry. If an injury occurs, make sure to get all the information you can prior to leaving the scene. Use your camera phone to get some quick photos of the location, evidence or even injuries. Just as King Stallman continues to remind us, it’s better to have the information and not need it, then be Joe injured by Bob.
The author, Josh Bonnici, is the managing attorney at BONNICI LAW GROUP, who helps injured individuals with their claims. Questions? Concerns? Contact him today, at: www.bonnicilawgroup.com, or firstname.lastname@example.org.