Baltimore Personal Injury Update: For Active Riders a Bicycle Accident is not “If,” but “When” Event

When we talk about traffic-related personal injury accidents in Baltimore, Gaithersburg, Rockville or the District, it’s a good guess that most readers’ thoughts shift to that of an automobile, motorcycle or trucking-related roadway collision; however, these are just the most common types of traffic accident, not the only ones.

As Maryland personal injury attorneys, I and my legal staff are constantly hearing and reading about pedestrian and bicycle accidents thought the state. While these kinds of traffic collisions are, perhaps, less common than truck or car accidents, they nonetheless can be very serious and many times fatal.

We’ve covered numerous pedestrian-versus-car crashes over the years, but cyclists are even more at risk than pedestrians in some respects due to the fact that bike riders tend to share the road with motor vehicles much larger and more massive than themselves and their relatively flimsy aluminum and steel bicycles. Helmets and other protective gear can only help reduce injuries, because when it comes to a very serious collision with a car, truck or bus, the bicyclist is more often the loser.

This is why we were not the least surprised to catch a story aimed at cyclists, which tries to prepare frequent bike riders for that next, inevitable biking accident. Seeing as a bicycle accident can result in severe injuries to a person’s body — possibly resulting in lacerations, contusions, broken bones and even closed-head trauma — this article is probably a must-read for the active biker and even the occasional cyclist.

Planning for one’s next bike accident may seem a bit morbid (we hope it’s not fatal, by any means), but as the Boy Scouts are keen to remind everyone: “Be prepared.” If you or a loved one enjoys going out on a bicycle from time to time, consider taking some of the following points to heart. Who knows, with all the warm weather we seem to be having, more than one person might be helped by this news.

The number one thing to remember is that biking is a dangerous pastime. As a sport, or for those who cycle to work or school on a regular basis, the danger of being involved in a bicycle-related traffic collision is more or less constant, especially in densely packed cities like Baltimore or D.C.

Key to surviving any bicycle crash is to wear a helmet; followed closely by obeying traffic laws and, as the author suggests, joining a local riding group (at the very least, for the “safety in numbers” approach). In a group, if any one person is injured on the road, someone else in that group can call for help immediately. Time can sometimes make the difference between a full recovery and weeks or months in a rehabilitation facility.

Once a crash has occurred, one needs to get out of traffic, but carefully depending on one’s injuries. As the author of the article suggests, move safely away from traffic if you can, but if a rider is injured and not lying in the path of traffic, stay still and take your time to make a thorough assessment of your injuries. (It’s important to remember that initially you may not realize how injured you may be due to the extra adrenaline provided by your body — this initial dose of adrenaline can easily mask an injury.)

Don’t feel as if you have to “play through the pain” following a bicycle accident. If you are even just slightly hurt or a bit shaken up, seriously consider calling a friend to pick you and your bike up. There is little sense in risking a second accident in the same ride because the shock of the initial crash might have compromised your ability to recognize or react to another traffic threat.

If you think you can continue, assess carefully any damage to your bike. Bicycles are precision machines, but they are also rather fragile — especially when compared to a human being. You might be okay, but your bike may have serious mechanical damage that might need attention — do not assume it’s fine; check the wheels and tires, the front and rear brakes, and the handle bars and steering. If anything is loose, fix it; then test it in a safe location. If you can’t fix the bike on the roadside, call a friend or walk your bike safely home.

Of course, as the author makes quite clear, all of the foregoing information assumes that the rider is conscious and in good mental and physical shape. If not, there is one recommendation from the author that might be a life-saver — this is, wearing or carrying some kind of emergency instructions for first responders. Keeping so-called “In Case of Emergency” information visible on your person, will help you speak to rescue personnel when you, yourself cannot.

Any emergency ID should, according to the author, include your name and the name and contact phone number of someone else. There should also be medical information that might be important to a paramedic or ER doctor. Finally, never assume that the information stored in your cell or smartphone will be accessible; it may not be if you phone was broken, destroyed or otherwise lost in the crash.

By reminding oneself before each bike outing that there are risks to riding a bicycle, you can keep safety in the forefront of your mind as you head out amidst the cars, trucks, buses, pedestrians, dogs and squirrels, all of which will be vying for your undivided attention. Consider, as the author points out, thinking through each of the steps you need to take in order to avoid an accident. And, be prepared to adjust your accident plan on a regular basis as circumstances dictate. Better safe and prepared than sorry and ill-equipped to react to an emergency. Good luck and stay safe.

Planning for the Inevitable Bicycle Crash,, November 8, 2011

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