For cyclists, getting hit by a car is a nightmare. Yet in many cases, the accident itself only the beginning of the nightmare, as the legal troubles that follow can be incredibly distressing.

When there’s an auto accident, local cops respond to the scene. While these officers may know how to handle a car collision, they often don’t know what to do when a cyclist is hit by a driver. In some municipalities, officers may not file a police report. A police report becomes an important piece of evidence in lawsuits as it provides independent verification of the facts by a law enforcement officer.

A worst-case scenario becomes even worse

One California cyclist, Nako Nakatsuka, found out after the fact that no police report was filed, even though she had been issued a receipt for a police report. After the accident, she and the driver traded information. When she contacted the driver’s insurance company over medical coverage, she found out the driver informed his insurance company the accident was her fault. Soon, the insurance company was sending Nakatsuka notices for bills, expecting her to cover the cost of the driver’s auto repair.

Nakatsuka hired a lawyer to represent her interests. They were able to reach a settlement where the driver’s insurance company dropped the lawsuit and paid the cyclist a nominal award, which covered twenty percent of her out-of-pocket medical costs.

Perhaps most troubling, since sharing her story, Nakatsuka has been contacted by other cyclists who were victimized by drivers who did not take responsibility for their actions in a cyclist-car collision. While cyclists are aware that accidents happen, many think it will not happen to them—and fall unprepared when it does.

Tips for cyclists

After an accident, your first thought may to tend to your injuries. While it is important to get checked out by a doctor right away, once your injuries are stabilized, seek out an experienced personal injury attorney who can advise you on your next steps. Your attorney can reach out to the police to make sure all reports are filed, or find witnesses who may have been at the scene of the accident.

By proactively arming yourself with legal assistance, you can take action to sue the driver and get damages to cover your medical care while reducing stress.