The main reason that exchanging information with the driver at the scene of an accident is so vital, Fischer says, is that the extent of the damage — to the bike, the car, and (most importantly) the biker's body — is not always immediately apparent. When a biker is zipping and swerving through traffic, pedaling quickly with an increased heart rate, and then something unexpected and startling occurs — a near-death experience presents itself and thankfully passes — the rush of emotions and physical contact can lead to an overwhelming adrenaline surge.
Let's not make a deal
"A common occurrence is that after you've been knocked to the ground, you go into a state of medical shock, and not only do you not feel hurt, you feel great due to all of the adrenaline pumping through your body," says Avstreykh. "You instinctively refuse police intervention or medical treatment, but this is a big mistake because when you get home and your body winds down from the shock, you may discover you have broken bones or huge bruises."
"You don't know how many cases I've had where months later someone needs knee surgery, and they thought they were okay at the time of the accident," says Fischer. "There's a whole variety of problems that can occur."
For this reason, Fischer says, any biker involved in an accident with an automobile should avoid making an on-the-spot cash settlement with the driver for sustained injuries and damage. "You should be careful about making any kind of settlement on a personal injury until you know for sure that you're okay."
This is something that Shane Jordan, director of education and outreach for MassBike, and the brains behind bostonbiker.org — a biking blog, and round-up of bike-related Web sites — has experienced in his two years of biking in the city.
About a year ago, in Cambridge, Jordan says, "I had a green light and a lady was making a left hand turn and hit me," says Jordan. "She was looking to the right when she made a left turn. I flew off the bike and miraculously landed on my feet." The driver pulled over, Jordan says, and they assessed the damage. "My pedal looked bent, so I asked for $50. I didn't get her name or information or file a report."
Jordan took his bike to a shop, and discovered that the back wheel was bent and the chain was broken, among other damages. The total cost to restore it back to its original condition would be $300. With no contact information for the woman who had hit him, Jordan had no way of procuring the addition $250 he was owed.
"You don't think straight after getting hit by a car," he says. "If someone hits you with their car and it's their fault, they should be held accountable for that. Every time since then, I've called the cops and filed a report."
Assessing the damage
After taking the necessary post-accident action, the biker should assess whether or not it's safe to climb back on his or her bike. The MassBike guide says that bike damage can be tricky to spot. For example, many higher-quality bikes have handlebars made of lightweight aluminum alloy, which can snap without warning if it's bent of dented. Also, the bike's alignment may be out-of-whack if the fork has been compromised. The guide recommends spinning each wheel to make sure neither is out-of-true, and testing the breaks. If anything seems off, it's best not to ride the bike.