When looking at the number of cars and trucks on the road, it’s easy to forget how many people enjoy riding a bicycle. In 2015, an estimated 36 million U.S. cyclists at least 7 years old rode a bike a minimum of six times, an increase from the preceding year. Adding younger riders and individuals who rode less than six times and the number of opportunities for bicycle accidents grows even larger.
As a cyclist, you are obligated to follow the same rules as any other motorist, and you should have the same protections after an accident. If you have been involved in an accident, it is important to meet with a bicycle accident attorney to talk about your case and learn about your options. Your injuries could be severe, medical costs and expenses could end up being very high; you may also be unable to work while you recover, thus resulting in further financial trouble.
Nature of Accidents
Around two percent of motor vehicle crash fatalities are individuals riding bicycles. Of these fatalities, 86 percent involve cyclists at least 20 years old.
A majority of these deaths are linked to serious head injuries. Experts estimate that wearing a helmet cuts the risk of a head injury during a crash by half. It also reduces the odds of experiencing face or neck injuries by a third.
Although the District of Columbia and 21 states have laws on the books regarding helmet use, none of them apply to all cyclists. Studies show that when such a law is in place, the chances that a rider will wear a helmet are four times greater.
The bottom line is that 726 individuals died (88 percent were male) in motor vehicle/bicycle crashes in 2014. That’s slightly less than two per day. The average age of those killed was 45, a number that has increased since 1988. The states with the greatest number of fatalities were California, Florida, and Texas.
The estimated 50,000 surviving cyclists involved vehicle related accidents often face a difficult, expensive path during recovery. Nearly a third of injuries occur when a car hits a cyclist. Other causes include:
- Roadway or walkway lacked proper maintenance
- Cyclist error, such as failing to pay attention
- Dog running out
Bicyclists who crash are totally unprotected from injury. Their injuries are often far more serious than those in a car accident in the same kind of crash.
Bicycle Accidents Cause Significant Injuries
Since a bicycle offers very little protection, cyclists can sustain significant injuries in an accident, particularly if a motor vehicle is involved. While every incident varies, some common injuries include:
- Injuries to the head, back and neck
- Road rash and other abrasions
- Broken bones and damage to extremities
Many of the issues in bicycle/auto accidents are the same as those in an automobile accident lawsuit. When the driver is at fault, his or her insurer typically tries to blame the cyclist. Common claims include a bicyclist who wasn’t visible, one who was speeding, or one who was riding in a lane instead of on a shoulder of the road.
In settling injury claims, states look to the doctrines of comparative or contributory negligence. They govern how much a plaintiff can be held at fault and still receive some type of damages.
For example, under comparative negligence if a driver or an insurance company demonstrates that the cyclist was 90 percent responsible for the accident, the rider can still recover 10 percent of damages. In some states following modified comparative negligence, the cyclist cannot recover damages if they are at least 51 percent at fault. In others, the figure is 50 percent. In contributory negligence states, a cyclist can’t recover anything if the driver shows the rider was at least 1 percent at fault, except under specific circumstances.
States expect both drivers and cyclists to obey traffic laws. Driver negligence can occur many ways: speeding, driving into a bike lane, or running a stop sign or light. The cyclist must prove that the driver of the vehicle violated a basic duty of care that should have been observed for everybody else on or even near the road. Being cited at the time of the accident for a traffic violation like speeding or a conviction for a criminal charge such as a DUI can be evidence of negligent behavior.
Some examples of cyclist negligence, which often determines the fate of lawsuits, include riding on a one-way street in the wrong direction, making an abrupt turn into traffic, or failing to halt for a stop sign.
If you have been injured by a motorist or other individual who harmed you with intent or because of their own negligence, then you can expect to be compensated for your injuries, medical care and more. While each individual case will vary, you can be compensated for any or all the following:
- Medical care costs, including emergency room expenses and doctor visits
- Therapy, including Physical, Occupational and other restorative therapies
- Wages from missing your job or days lost from work
- Damage to your bike and property
- Disabilities that result from your injuries
- Scars and other disfigurements caused by the accident
- Long-term care costs or future medical costs you can expect to have because of your injuries
- Adaptive equipment needed for your injuries or disabilities
- Compensation for pain and suffering arising because of the accident
Fight Back Against the Insurance Company
If you have been injured by a motorist while riding your bike, you could experience difficulties dealing with the insurance company. Insurers often attempt to assign blame to cyclists who have been struck while riding legally; it is essential that you have an attorney on your side to navigate the legal process and proceedings.
It is not uncommon for an insurer to fail to recognize the extent of your injuries or the full amount of damage done to you. They also undervalue your bike and related property and will often attempt to offer a fast – and low – settlement in an attempt to close things out quickly. If you have been offered a settlement or need to speak with an insurance company, you should contact a Washington personal injury attorney who works with bike accident cases first. Doing this protects your rights and preserves your case.
What to Do After a Bicycle Accident
It’s important for a cyclist hit by a car to take these actions:
- If physically able, get the driver’s license plate number, insurance information, and contact information. If unable, get a bystander to do this.
- Seek out medical attention right away; some injuries may not be immediately apparent, so it is important to see a doctor. Your ER or doctor visit will also help document your claim and prove the extent of your injuries.
- Even if not seriously injured, call police to the scene.
- Obtain witness contact information.
- Try to write down a license plate number or a photo of the plate if the crash is a hit and run.
- Take pictures of the scene, the bike, a helmet, and clothing in its damaged condition. Photograph or videotape the scene and fully document what happened. You should also gather contact information for anyone who witnessed the accident ad contact the police to file a report. These items could be useful to an attorney and should not be discarded until after speaking to one.
- Contact a lawyer right away after your accident; insurers are notorious for failing to fully cover the costs of an injured cyclist, they also attempt to assign blame to the rider instead of the covered motorist. A bicycle accident case is complex and requires an attorney to cover all the details and ensure you are correctly compensated for your injuries. After an accident that causes injury or claims the life of a bicycle rider, the process of getting adequate compensation for the individual or surviving family members often feels insurmountable. An attorney experienced in trial work and the negotiation of personal injury claims can make the process as painless and reassuring as possible.
Loss of a Family Member due to Bike Accident
If your family member is stuck while riding or involved in a fatal bike accident, you may be able to be financially compensated by the at fault party. While financial compensation will in no way replace your family member, it can provide security for your family moving forward and give you some closure.
Product Failure Injuries
While most bicycle accidents involve another bike, a car or even a pedestrian, a product defect can cause injuries. If your bike design leads to a failure or injures you in some way, the manufacturer can be held liable for your injuries and expenses. If your bicycle or a part of your bike fails and you are injured, you can file a personal injury suit against the manufacturer. You should keep both the bike and any components so that these pieces can be examined; you’ll need them if you file a lawsuit against the maker of your bike.
Contact an Experienced Spokane Bicycle Accident Injury Attorney
At Twyford Law Office, our team of qualified, knowledgeable, and caring attorneys and staff will help you every step of the way as you go through your accident case. Contact us today and find out how we can help you get through this troubling time and make the process a little less stressful. We care and are here to help.