Lessons from an accident

An article I’ve just written for Edinburgh Triathletes fab newsletter TriBull:

I had a bike accident whilst training in April (yeah, yeah, yeah, doesn’t she go on?).  In short a driver pulled out of a junction without seeing me so I hit her at speed, with the end result that my bike sheared into three pieces at the handlebars and forks, but I was fortunately just left with mild whiplash.  If you’re interested in the full story it’s on my blog here but I just wanted to write a few notes about things I’ve learnt from the experience, in case this is helpful for others.

  • Accidents happen, and there’s little we can do to avoid them sometimes.  I’m a cautious, defensive cyclist but there was no way I could’ve pre-empted this one.
  • Police reporting in Scotland is not as thorough as you might expect.  I wasn’t expecting the CSI-treatment, but had hoped the police had collected some evidence to ascertain who was at fault.  I was surprised to find that photos aren’t usually taken at the scene, and there wasn’t any record of how the car and myself were positioned on the road, or whether there were any parked cars around to explain why the driver might have taken the line she did.  Knowing this, if I’m ever in a similar situation and am able I will make sure to take some photos or ask someone to do so.  Whilst I was lying on the road waiting for the ambulance that had been called this was not something I thought I needed to be occupying myself with.  I was ‘fortunate’ that the driver admitted 100% responsibility, but I think this is unusual.  Insurance claims can be much more tricky when it’s difficult to prove who was as fault.
  • Don’t underestimate the psychological effects of an accident, and give yourself time to recover.  I didn’t take any time off work, but my concentration was shot to pieces and the week after the accident was desperately unproductive.  In hindsight I would’ve taken a few days off to get sorted.  The shock didn’t fully hit me until four days after the accident.
  • Related to that, if you’re due a personal injury pay-out don’t forget to include any psychological repercussions.  I hadn’t realised that things like lack of concentration at work, disturbed sleep, and loss of confidence on the road can be included.  They’re difficult to prove, and I had no evidence that these things had occurred, but that didn’t seem to matter.  I was keen not to abuse the system, but did want compensation for what I’d been through.
  • If I’m hit by a driver again I hope they’re (a) insured and (b) insured with DirectLine.  DirectLine effected the transfer to cover the cost of my bike, helmet and clothing a mere three days after the accident.  They also sorted out some physio appointments very quickly and offered what even a personal injury/ambulance chasing lawyer advised me was a reasonable amount to cover physical and psychological effects.
  • Tighten the straps on your helmet more regularly.  Strangely enough I tightened mine that morning, but it had been a while.  Another stroke of luck.

All-in-all, this experience could have been much, much more serious, and the insurance wranglings could have been much more stressful.  I hope that no-one ever has to go through a bike accident, and that these pointers are therefore useless, but in case it happens to you I hope this advice is of use.

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