When a Cyclist is Hit by an Impaired Driver: Next Steps
What Should I Do if I was Hit By a Drunk Driver While Riding My Bike in Arizona?
“I was riding my bike outside of Phoenix. I was on my usual weekend route, and it was a clear afternoon. As I was riding through an intersection with the green light, I got hit from the side by a drunk driver. Well, at least that’s what I was told when I regained consciousness in the hospital. Apparently, the driver got arrested, but I don’t have a police report—or anything else from the accident—because I was taken away in an ambulance.”
“I suffered multiple fractures and internal bleeding in the accident. The doctors said my helmet almost certainly saved my life—and luckily I’m not showing any signs of significant brain trauma. But, I don’t know when I’ll be back to normal, and right now the doctors aren’t sure if I’ll ever be able to ride again. Although after what happened, it’s hard to see getting back on the road on my bike anyway.”
“I’ve never been through something like this before, but I guess I need to see about filing some sort of claim? What are my next steps?”
While we are saddened every time we hear about a case like this, unfortunately, we are not surprised. Despite the obvious and substantial dangers of driving while impaired, far too many people in Arizona still choose to drink and drive. Drunk drivers are dangers to themselves and everyone else on the road, including cyclists—who drunk drivers often don’t see until it’s too late.
You Can (and Should) Contact a Law Firm for Help After a Serious Bicycle Accident
Data from the Arizona Department of Transportation (DOT) show that alcohol-related crashes have declined significantly over the past decade. This is likely due in part to the state’s crackdown on drunk drivers. Arizona currently has some of the toughest DUI laws in the nation, and drunk drivers can face thousands of dollars in fines and jail time for a first-time offense. When they cause a serious or fatal accident, the criminal consequences become even more severe.
But, these consequences do nothing to help injured cyclists and their families recover. Instead, cyclists and their families need to assert their legal rights through Arizona’s civil justice system. This is a multi-step process; and, while it is not an easy process, cyclists and their families can recover just compensation with an experienced legal team on their side.
With this in mind, for an injured cyclist who is recovering in the hospital, the first step is simply to contact a law firm. The initial consultation is completely free, and it starts the process of building a claim for just compensation.
Preparing for Your Free Initial Consultation
“I’m nervous about talking to a lawyer. I’ve never even met a lawyer in my ‘normal’ life. I’m worried that she’ll ask questions I can’t answer, and that I will end up wasting her time. I understand that talking to a lawyer is the right thing to do, but it’s stressful, and I’m already starting to wonder if all of this is worth it.”
“What can I do to make sure my free initial consultation is as smooth (and productive) as possible?”
Almost all of our clients share these concerns. Even though we know that talking to a lawyer is no big deal, we also know that many people feel differently when they’ve never done it before. But, we can tell you definitively that you have nothing to worry about; and, rather than making you feel stressed, your lawyer will try to make sure you feel as comfortable as possible.
You don’t have to do anything before your free initial consultation. The most important thing is simply that you speak with a lawyer as soon as possible—so that your lawyer can send an investigator to the scene of your bicycle accident before any evidence disappears. But, if you want to prepare, there are two main things you can do:
1. Take Detailed Notes
When you are getting ready to meet with a lawyer about your accident involving an impaired driver, it can be helpful to take some notes. This will help you organize your thoughts, recall details you might have forgotten, and make sure you share as much information with your lawyer as possible. If you can, try to write down details such as:
- Where exactly did the accident happen?
- Did you see the drunk driver’s vehicle before it hit you?
- What do you remember from after the accident (if anything)?
- Can you remember any details about the drunk driver’s vehicle?
- Did the drunk driver say anything after the accident?
- Did the police say anything to you after the accident?
- What injuries have your doctors diagnosed? What have they said about your recovery timeline and prognosis?
2. Prepare a List of Questions
To get ready for your free initial consultation, it can also be helpful to prepare a list of questions. Even if you don’t think you have any questions, sit down and give yourself a few minutes to process your thoughts. There are no bad questions; and, if you are wondering something, you can be sure that someone else has asked about it before. Here are some examples of questions you may want to ask your lawyer:
- What is the process for filing a claim against a drunk driver?
- How long does the process usually take?
- What costs will the drunk driver’s auto insurance cover?
- Could the bar or restaurant that served the driver be liable for the accident?
- What should I do about my medical bills while my case is pending?
- Will you represent me on a contingency-fee basis?
- Can I call or text you if I think of more details to share?
Relying On Your Law Firm to Prove That the Driver was Impaired
“I was told the driver who hit me was drunk, but I guess I don’t really have any proof. Does that matter? If it does, how can I prove that the driver was drunk when he hit me?”
Filing a claim against an impaired driver requires proof that the driver was being reckless or negligent at the time of the collision. In some cases, this is relatively easy. For example, if the driver admitted to being drunk at the accident scene, or if the driver got arrested for DUI and blew above the legal limit, these are all important factors that your lawyer can use in your favor.
Under Arizona’s negligence per se law, violating a law that is intended to protect public safety is itself evidence of negligence. The state’s DUI law certainly falls into this category. So, if your lawyer can prove that the driver was impaired, your lawyer can use this to fight for the financial compensation you deserve.
But, in some cases proving that the driver was drunk can be more challenging. Maybe the driver was impaired but not over the legal limit; or, maybe the driver fled and wasn’t apprehended until after his blood alcohol concentration (BAC) returned to normal.
Even in these scenarios, lawyers will still be able to prove that the driver was drunk in many cases. However, even if there are questions about whether the driver was impaired, there generally won’t be questions about whether the driver was negligent in some way. In our hypothetical scenario, for example, the cyclist was in the middle of the intersection with the green light. This means that the driver’s light was red. Running a red light is also negligence per se in Arizona, and proving that the driver ran the light is enough on its own to support a claim for full financial compensation.
Relying On Your Law Firm to Identify Your Options
“At this point I’ve already been in the hospital for four or five days, and I’m sure my medical bills are through the roof. My doctors have talked to me a little bit about the care I’ll need in the future, and they’ve asked me if I have ‘good’ health insurance. I’m not really sure what ‘good’ health insurance means.”
“If my health insurance doesn’t cover my bills, I don’t have any idea how I’m going to afford them. What options do I have available?”
Along with relying on your law firm to prove that the driver was impaired and/or otherwise negligent, you can also rely on your law firm to identify your options for recovering just compensation. While determining your options requires a thorough investigation of your case, some potential claims include:
- The Drunk Driver’s Auto Liability Insurance – If the drunk driver has auto liability insurance (as required by Arizona law), you can file a claim under the driver’s insurance policy.
- Your Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist (UIM) Insurance – If you or a member of your household has UIM insurance, you can file a claim if: (i) the drunk driver fled the scene, (ii) the drunk driver doesn’t have auto insurance, or (iii) the drunk driver’s policy limits don’t cover all of your accident-related losses.
- A Dram Shop Liability Claim – Under Arizona’s dram shop law, victims of drunk driving accidents can file claims against bars, restaurants, liquor stores, and other establishments in many cases.
- Another “Third–Party” Claim – Along with filing a dram shop claim, your lawyer may also be able to file a claim against the drunk driver’s employer, your bicycle’s manufacturer, or any of a variety of other third parties.
Paying Your Medical Bills After a Bicycle Accident Involving an Impaired Driver
“It’s comforting to know that I have options, but I’m still worried about going into debt while my bicycle accident case is pending. Is there anything I can do in the meantime so that I don’t have to deal with bill collectors and I don’t ruin my credit?”
It’s true that filing a successful bicycle accident case takes time, and it is important not to let financial pressures cause you to make bad decisions. Fortunately, most cyclists who get hit by impaired drivers have multiple short-term options available. For example:
- Health Insurance (or Medicare or Medicaid) – If you have health insurance, you can—and should—use the full extent of your coverage. If you qualify for Medicare or Medicaid, you can use these programs to cover your medical bills as well. If you receive financial compensation, you may have an obligation to reimburse your payor, but this is something your lawyer can handle for you if and when the time comes.
- Letter of Protection – Many healthcare providers will accept a letter of protection when treating victims of drunk driving accidents. This is a letter from your law firm explaining that you have a case pending and guaranteeing that your bills will be paid out of your settlement or verdict if you receive one.
- Pre-Settlement Funding – Another option is pre-settlement funding. This is a type of short-term loan that allows you to pay your bills when they come due, but you only have to repay the loan if your case is successful.
- Arizona Victim Compensation Program – As the victim of a drunk driving accident, you may qualify to receive payment from the Arizona Victim Compensation Program. As the Arizona Criminal Justice Commission explains, “[t]he program covers expenses of physical harm, mental distress, and economic loss directly resulting from victimization.”
During your free initial consultation, your lawyer will go over your options in detail, and your lawyer will walk you through the steps you will need to take moving forward (like being sure to document your financial and non-financial losses). Your lawyer will also help you make informed decisions about what claim (or claims) to pursue; and, if you need short-term relief from your medical bills, your lawyer can help you make the right choice about how to handle this as well.
Discuss Your Impaired Driving Bicycle Accident Case with a Lawyer for Free
If you were hit by an impaired driver while riding your bicycle in Arizona, we can use our experience to help you. To get started with a free, no-obligation consultation, please call 480-634-7480 or tell us how we can reach you online today.