Unlike car and truck occupants, bicyclists are at a severe disadvantage in a crash scenario. This is because, unlike motor vehicle occupants, cyclists do not have a hard outer shell surrounding them at the time of an accident. When a large vehicle hits their bicycle, it may dislodge them, causing them to fall to the ground and sustain serious injuries. In some bicycle accident cases, these injuries are permanent or fatal.
You have legal options available if you or a person you love suffered injuries in a recent bicycle accident. Your first step after a bicycle crash should be to seek follow-up medical care at a hospital emergency room or urgent care facility. Next, you should speak with an experienced bicycle accident lawyer in your area.
Your lawyer can meet with you to discuss the circumstances of your bicycle crash and your legal options for moving forward. If you are eligible to file a personal injury claim or lawsuit, your lawyer can assist you throughout the process and work to recover the total monetary damages that you need for your injuries, lost wages, and other damages.
How Do Bicycle Accidents Usually Happen?
In most situations, bicycle crashes happen when people drive their vehicles negligently, carelessly, or recklessly. Negligent driving can take many forms, but it usually involves violating a traffic law, operating a vehicle while intoxicated, engaging in distracted driving, or exhibiting road rage.
All motor vehicle drivers must operate according to prevailing traffic laws. When they fail to do so, and an accident occurs, they may be liable for the resulting injuries and other damages. Bicycle accidents typically happen when drivers exceed the speed limit, tailgate a cyclist, or fail to yield the right of way to a cyclist at the appropriate time, such as at a traffic intersection where the cyclist has the right of way.
Intoxicated driving is another common cause of bicycle accidents. A passenger vehicle driver is intoxicated if they have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent or greater. However, minor drivers who are under twenty-one years of age, along with commercial vehicle operators, must follow more stringent standards.
Alcohol intoxication on the road is especially dangerous because it may cause a driver’s vision to become distorted, preventing them from seeing a cyclist on the road. Additionally, an intoxicated driver may experience a lack of concentration and delayed reaction time. Therefore, even if the driver observes a cyclist in the vicinity, they may be unable to stop their vehicle in time to avoid hitting the cyclist.
When drivers operate their vehicles while intoxicated from alcohol or drugs and sustain a conviction, they may incur criminal penalties, such as high monetary fines and jail time. Moreover, if they caused a bicycle accident that led to injuries, the at-fault driver and their insurance company may be liable.
Another common cause of bicycle accidents is distracted driving. Drivers often become distracted when they fiddle with GPS navigation systems, text and drive, listen to loud music, or roughhouse with other vehicle occupants. Anything that takes a driver’s eyes off the road can lead to an accident. This is especially true when it comes to bicycles since these vehicles are extremely low to the ground. When a driver fails to watch the road attentively, they may not even see a cyclist approaching, causing a collision and serious injuries.
Finally, some bicycle accidents happen when drivers exhibit road rage. Road rage is a driver’s inappropriate overreaction to an actual or perceived roadway situation that arises. A motor vehicle driver may become upset that a cyclist is not moving fast enough, and they may tailgate the cyclist inappropriately. At other times, a driver might fail to use the turn signal or cut a bicycle off in traffic, negligently hitting the cyclist and causing them to fall to the ground.
If you or someone you care about suffered injuries in a bicycle crash resulting from driver negligence, you are not alone. A skilled bicycle accident lawyer can help you investigate the circumstances of your accident and file a personal injury claim on your behalf. Your lawyer can also assist you during settlement negotiations with the at-fault driver’s insurance company and work to recover favorable monetary damages on your behalf.
Proving Your Bicycle Accident Claim
Even when a negligent driver causes a bicycle accident, the injured accident victim has the sole legal burden of proof in any personal injury claim or lawsuit they file. In fact, the adult driver does not have to prove anything in the case or even testify on the witness stand at trial. Instead, the injured accident victim has to approve every legal element to recover monetary damages for their injuries.
First, the accident victim must demonstrate that another driver operated their vehicle negligently and unreasonably under the circumstances. This breach of the standard of care must have caused the accident. Moreover, the accident victim must show, often through medical testimony, that they suffered at least one injury in the accident and that their injury causally relates to the accident.
Many insurance companies will do everything they can to deny liability in a case or try to shift some or all of the blame onto the accident victim. Insurance companies, as big businesses, will do everything they can to save themselves money. After all, they only make money when they collect premium payments from their insurance. They lose money when they have to pay out large personal injury claim settlements, jury verdicts, and arbitration awards.
An expert can help you prove the legal elements of your claim and increase your chances of recovering the monetary damages you deserve. For example, an accident reconstructionist can visit the accident scene, review police documents, and speak with witnesses to piece together how your accident happened and who likely caused it.
Your lawyer may also retain a medical expert who can causally relate your claimed injuries to the bicycle accident. For example, a medical expert can testify under oath, and to a reasonable degree of medical probability, that your injuries are permanent and that they directly resulted from the bicycle crash.
Injuries That Cyclists Often Suffer in Accidents
Bicyclists can suffer severe and debilitating injuries in a crash. With the exception of their helmets, cyclists have very little protection surrounding them when an accident occurs. Even bicycle helmets may crack if the cyclist hits the ground with a significant amount of force.
The injuries that a bicycle accident victim suffers usually depend upon the force of the collision, whether the cyclist hits the ground, and how they fall to the ground. The most severe injuries usually occur when cyclists strike their neck, back, or head directly on the ground during a crash.
Typical bicycle accident injuries include traumatic head and brain damage, fractures, soft tissue contusions, road rash, cuts, bruises, spinal cord injuries, and full or partial paralysis. These injuries may require an initial medical consultation, surgical procedures, and ongoing physical therapy.
As soon as possible after a bicycle crash, accident victims should go to a hospital emergency room or urgent care facility for treatment. This is true even if the cyclist is not experiencing painful symptoms at that time. This is because symptoms of some injuries—including traumatic head injuries and soft tissue contusions—do not always appear right away. In fact, it might take weeks or even months for symptoms of these injuries to manifest. Seeking immediate medical treatment after a bicycle crash helps to ensure that these injuries do not become worse.
When a bicycle crash victim follows up at a hospital ER, the medical provider on duty can order the necessary imaging studies, including CT scans, X-rays, and MRIs, and can physically examine the cyclist to render an appropriate diagnosis. If the cyclist needs additional medical treatment, such as an orthopedic consult or physical therapy, the provider can make the necessary recommendations at the ER.
Following your initial medical visit, you should seek all of the medical care that you need to recover from your injuries. While you continue your treatment, a bicycle accident lawyer can start advocating for you. Specifically, your lawyer can begin to gather lost wage documents from employers, photographs of your injuries, and medical treatment records to date and start assembling a settlement demand package on your behalf.
Once you finish your medical treatment, your lawyer can submit this package to the insurance company adjuster handling your claim and begin settlement negotiations with that adjuster.
Damages That Injured Cyclists May Recover in a Personal Injury Claim or Lawsuit
It is difficult to put an exact monetary value on a bicycle accident claim or lawsuit, given that every bicycle accident case is different. The ultimate value of a bicycle accident claim usually rests on several important factors, including the nature and extent of the cyclist’s injuries, whether their injuries are permanent, the severity of the medical treatment that the cyclist underwent, and the pain and suffering that the cyclist endured.
Pain and suffering damages usually consist of both past and future damages. Past pain and suffering compensate accident victims for the pain and symptoms that they endured between the time of their accident and the present time.
If the accident victim suffered one or more permanent injuries in the accident, such as permanent disfigurement or impairment, they might be eligible to recover future pain and suffering damages. Those damages compensate accident victims for the inconvenience, pain, and suffering that they will likely endure for the rest of their life.
In addition to pain and suffering compensation, accident victims may also recover damages for their lost wages if they have to miss time from work. In the event they had to switch jobs and take a pay cut due to their accident-related injuries, they can make a claim for loss of earning capacity.
Depending upon the circumstances, bicycle accident victims can also pursue damages for their emotional distress, loss of the ability to use a body part, loss of life enjoyment, and loss of spousal companionship and consortium.
A knowledgeable bicycle accident lawyer can help you place a realistic settlement or verdict value on your bicycle accident case, depending upon the circumstances leading up to it after your accident. Your lawyer can then assist you during settlement negotiations with the insurance company and, if necessary, with litigating your case at a jury trial or binding arbitration proceeding.
Filing a Claim with the Insurance Company
A knowledgeable bicycle accident lawyer can help you file a personal injury claim—usually with the at-fault driver’s insurer.
The claims-filing process usually entails:
- Submitting a settlement demand letter and demand package to the adjuster
- Convincing the adjuster to accept fault for the accident
- Negotiating settlement offers with the handling adjuster
- Threatening the adjuster with litigation if they refuse to offer full and fair compensation for accident-related injuries
If the case must go to litigation, your lawyer can assist you throughout the entire process and represent you at all court proceedings.
Call a Bicycle Accident Lawyer Today
Generally speaking, the sooner you involve a bicycle accident lawyer in your case, the better off you will be. Crash victims have only two years from their accident date in which to file a personal injury claim or a lawsuit in the court system that seeks the monetary damages they deserve. If an accident victim files their claim or lawsuit belatedly, they cannot recover monetary compensation.
An experienced bicycle accident lawyer can start working on your case immediately and pursue the monetary damages you need. If the statute of limitations is running short, your lawyer can probably file a lawsuit in court on your behalf and start negotiating your claim with the insurance company.
Your lawyer will do everything possible to help you maximize your damages so that you become whole again, to the greatest extent possible.