Today marks the beginning of the new sponsor-supported BikinginLA.
In addition to advertising on this site, our first sponsor, Jim Pocrass of the law firm Pocrass & De Los Reyes, has agreed to write a semi-regular Wednesday column on the legal rights of bicyclists.
After talking bike law with him on several occasions, I can assure you he knows his stuff. In fact, the column below matches my own experience, when a bad police report resulted in the insurance company rejecting my claim when I was injured by a road raging driver.
So I hope you’ll join me in welcoming Jim to BikinginLA. And take his advice to heart — if it could happen to me, it could happen to anyone.
Police Reports: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
By James L. Pocrass, Esq.Pocrass & De Los Reyes LLP
I recently took a Malibu bike accident case in which the driver of a motor vehicle made a left turn into the cyclist. The accident happened at dusk; it was not dark out yet. The police report states that the cyclist was cited for “unsafe speed conditions” because he was wearing all black.
Police blaming the cyclist for the accident is not unusual. I don’t think I have ever had a bike accident case – and I have represented hundreds of cyclists – in which the police report did not blame the bicyclist. Nevertheless, it is important that you file a police report if you are in a bike accident.
Though police officers are often biased against cyclists, they usually get the facts of an accident correct. Such details of the accident: the time, place, weather, what direction each participant was going and where they were located when the accident happened, contact information for witnesses, confirmation of insurance, and any physical evidence at the scene, is usually recorded correctly.
It is the police officer’s conclusion that is typically wrong. Though I would much rather police officers would lose their cyclist bias, filing a police report is still beneficial to your legal case and to your insurance claim because it sets out in writing the basic facts.
Police reports with tainted conclusions may make the handling of your case or insurance claim more difficult, but the police report and the opinions and conclusions of the police officer are not admissible in court. They are all considered hearsay.
The problem comes in when the insurance company reads the police report and accepts the officer’s conclusions. They may refuse to settle your case or offer you much less compensation than which you are entitled. The result is that we have to file a lawsuit, gather evidence, and take the police officer’s deposition to prove the officer was wrong. Frequently it is during or after the deposition stage that the insurance company will offer to settle the case to avoid going to court.
So if you are in a bike collision, file a police report. In quite a few cities – including the City of Los Angeles – if you say you are not injured (and you should NEVER comment on injuries or guilt), a police officer will not come to the scene. In that situation, you need to go to the police station at your earliest opportunity (even sooner than that), and file a police report. Get the facts on the record.
Remember, filing a police report does not mean you have to file a legal case. It can assist you in collecting compensation for damages you incurred in the bike collision and, should you decide to take legal action later, it will be an important tool to give your bike accident lawyer as he is pursuing your case.
*California Vehicle Code 21200: A person riding a bicycle or operating a pedicab upon a highway has all the rights and is subject to all the provisions applicable to the driver of a vehicle. . .
………For more than 25 years, Jim Pocrass has represented people who were seriously injured, or families who lost a loved one in a wrongful death, due to the carelessness or negligence of another. Jim is repeatedly named to Best Lawyers in America and to Southern California Super Lawyers lists for the outstanding results he consistently achieves for his clients. Having represented hundreds of cyclists during his career, and Jim’s own interest in cycling, have resulted in him becoming a bicycle advocate. He is a board member of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition. For a free, no-obligation consultation, contact Jim Pocrass at 310.550.9050 or at email@example.com.