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.
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 in the same kind of crash.
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.
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.
- 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. These items could be useful to an attorney and should not be discarded until after speaking to one.
- 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.
Contact an Experienced 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.