A common question from cyclists injured in a crash or accident is, “do I need a lawyer?” Cyclists can be a tough bunch. We like to figure out things for ourselves. There are two possible scenarios: (1) If the injury is serious, the injured person often thinks, this is a no-brainer, the insurance company will just be fair and pay what they’re supposed to pay; (2) If the injury is small, the injured person often thinks it’s not significant enough to have a lawyer and that he can handle the case himself.
The person in the first scenario is almost always wrong. The greater your injuries, the greater the damages. The greater the damages, the more money the insurance company potentially has to pay. Insurance companies do not like to pay money. They are for-profit businesses, and the more money they potentially have to pay, the harder they try to get out of it.
In the second scenario, it is sometimes possible for someone with a minor injury to navigate his own case. HOWEVER, you should never attempt to do so without speaking to an experienced bicycle attorney. What do you have to lose? Consults with Bike Law attorneys are free. I personally have advised numerous North Carolina cyclists with minor injuries through multiple steps of the claim handling process, without charge. (Sometimes they bring me a bottle of wine or coffee shop gift certificate, which I happily accept! But it is not expected)
Why would Bike Law attorneys do so much work for free? One, because we’re cyclists and we care about cyclists and their rights. But it also makes us better lawyers. Every time I talk to a self-represented person, I learn something new about how the particular insurance company behaves and how they value cases; I may also learn about a particular dangerous intersection or gather information about a local traffic pattern. In the meantime, the cyclist is armed with some basic knowledge of what to expect and how to negotiate.
That said, many cases are far too complex to warrant self-representation. If any of these factors are present for you, representing yourself could be a big mistake:
- Your medical bills are more than a few thousand dollars
- You have permanent injury, even a relatively minor one
- You have health insurance, Medicaid, Medicare or other health benefit
- There is any question about who is at fault (not a question in your mind, a question in the insurance adjuster’s mind. Again, talk with a lawyer before talking with insurance adjusters)
- The driver who hit you is underinsured
Regardless of your situation, talk with a Bike Law attorney before doing anything. We’re here to help. Do not try to see if you can handle your own case and then call us in desperation months or years later. This puts us at a significant disadvantage in our representation of you – we have to scramble to learn your case and collect records. You may have made statements or dealt with insurance adjusters in seemingly innocent ways that actually harm your case.
When we handle your case from the beginning, we get to know you and what you’re going through. We see first hand the acute injury effects and how the injury has changed your life. We have plenty of time to investigate and gather information. We can talk with witnesses and law enforcement while they still remember what happened. We know you and your case, and that makes a big difference down the road in negotiations.
Insurance is a minefield. You would not perform your own appendectomy with a how-to manual and you should not try to handle your own legal case. That said, if you call us late, we will not reject you or chastise you. We will do the best we can with what you give us. And we appreciate you putting your trust in us to handle your case.
North Carolina lawyer and Bike Law founder, Ann Groninger, has advocated at the state level on behalf of bicyclists in North Carolina for over 15 years. Ann has offices in Charlotte and Durham and has helped bike accident clients in Asheville, Raleigh, Durham, Greenville, Wilmington, Fayetteville, and throughout the state. Read more about Ann on her bio page.