What to do if you’re in a bike accident
Bicycling has surged in popularity in recent years. There are many possible reasons such as an increased focus on fitness and exercise, desire to find outdoor recreation, wanting to use bicycling instead of public transportation, and environmental concerns.
When there are more cyclists sharing the road with motorists, there are bound to be more accidents. While most bicycle injuries are related to collisions between bicycles and cars, accidents and injuries also happen because of road conditions and other situations that don’t involve cars or vehicles.
In either situation, there might be options to recover financial compensation for your medical treatment and other costs related to the injury.
Michigan road rules for bicyclists
Ride close to the right curb
All cyclists in Michigan are expected to ride as close to the right curb as possible unless:
- Passing another bicyclist or vehicle moving the same direction
- Preparing to turn left
- There are surface hazards, debris, parked cars, pedestrians, or other obstacles that would make it unsafe to ride along the right side
- You’re intending to ride straight through an intersection but there are other vehicles turning right
- You’re riding on a one-way street with 2 or more lanes. (If it is a one-way road with at least 2 lanes, you may either ride on the right side or the left side).
Riding on sidewalks
You may ride on a sidewalk as long as you yield the right-of-way to pedestrians. You must provide an audible signal before passing a pedestrian. However, there might be local laws or ordinances that prohibit riding bikes on sidewalks in some areas.
If you’re bicycling on a sidewalk or in a crosswalk, you have all the same rights and responsibilities as a pedestrian.
Riding 2 abreast on bicycles
You may not ride more than 2 abreast when bicycling.
You’re required to use the commonly accepted hand signals that indicate turning, stopping, or slowing.
If you’re riding 30 minutes after sunset or before sunrise, you’re required to use lights that include:
- A white light visible from 500 feet to the front
- A red reflector on the rear that’s visible from all distances from 100 and 600 feet when directly in front of lawful low beam headlights
- You may also use a red light visible from 500 feet away in addition a red reflector.
It’s against the law in Michigan to ride double, or to use a bicycle to carry more people than it’s designed to hold.
Required bicycle brakes
A bike must have a brake that works properly and can allow the wheels to skid on dry, level, and clean pavement.
Riding a bike while attached to a motor vehicle
You’re not permitted to attach yourself or your bike to a vehicle while in motion on the road.
Michigan bike law specifies that a person must be able to hold the handlebars with both hands. If you need to carry a parcel, you can use a backpack or other hands-free bag or a bike basket.
Limited access highways
Michigan law defines a “limited access highway” as “a highway, street, or roadway in respect to which owners or occupants of abutting lands and other persons have no legal right or access to or from except at such points only, and in such a manner, as made to be determined by the public authority having jurisdiction over such highway, street, or roadway.” (MCL 257.26)
Bicycle helmet & mobile phone laws
Michigan doesn’t have bicycle helmet laws or mobile phone laws exclusively concerning bicyclists.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t follow safe practices for bicycling, though. Helmets are recommended for all bicyclists because they can significantly reduce your likelihood of death or serious head or brain injury in a crash.
If you’re going to use your electronic device while riding, wear only 1 Air Pod or earbud so you have one ear “free” to listen to your surroundings.
Michigan bicycle offenses
You’re expected to follow the road rules that any driver would while you’re riding a bike in Michigan. Bicycling-related offenses include:
- Failure to yield the right-of-way
- Failure to yield left at an intersection
- Failure to stop, leaving the private drive
- Disobeying stop, yield, or merge sign
- Disobeying a traffic signal
- Careless driving
- Impeding traffic
Avoid common causes of Michigan bike accidents
Many bike accidents are preventable. A bicyclist is considered a “vulnerable road user” because you don’t have the same protection as you would inside a car, but you can focus on your own biking practices just as a driver would and take precautions like you would if you were driving.
Here are 5 steps you can take to make yourself a safer rider and avoid “trouble spots” on the road:
1. Put your phone away (avoid distracted bicycling).
You’re probably well aware that it’s dangerous to text and drive. Texting (or another distraction) while bicycling is just as dangerous (maybe more so). Focus on your immediate task of biking at all times, which includes watching and listening for traffic and being aware of your surroundings. As mentioned above, if you’re listening to music, a podcast, or a caller on your electronic device, use only 1 earbud or AirPod so that you have the other ear free to listen to your surroundings.
The same goes for biking while intoxicated. If you’re under the influence of a substance that would prohibit you from driving a car safely, you also should not be riding a bike. Alcohol and some drugs can dull your reflexes, alter your perception of speed and your surroundings, and generally make you an unsafe rider.
2. Follow road rules and avoid speeding.
Following road rules, including hand signals and the posted speed limit, is crucial to staying safe on your bike. Ride as though you’re driving a car. Yield when necessary and follow traffic signs and signals.
3. Maintain space between your bike and traffic.
A driver must provide 3 feet of distance between their vehicle and a bicyclist (known as the Safe Passing Law). As a bicyclist, it’s always a best practice to allow as much distance as possible in order to ride safely.
4. Remain alert while biking on or near sidewalks, parking lots and driveways.
Some drivers (and bicyclists) think that because cars tend to move more slowly in parking lots or when backing in or out of a driveway, those areas aren’t dangerous. But because these scenarios often involve backing up and unexpected movement, they can present unforeseen dangers.
5. Heed intersections and lane merges.
Bicyclists should follow the road rules just like motorists. Intersections, lane merges, and other situations where cars are turning or traveling outside of a single lane can be dangerous. It’s important for cyclists to be aware of not only where they’re going, but what the motorists around them are doing, too.
Insurance coverage for a Michigan bicycle accident
You might be aware that changes to Michigan automotive insurance laws took effect in 2020. This affects motor vehicle drivers and bicyclists, too.
These are the claims a bicyclist could make if they’re in an accident with a motor vehicle:
1. No-fault benefits claim
If a bicyclist doesn’t own a car and therefore doesn’t have car insurance, they can receive no-fault benefits if their spouse or any related household members have an insurance policy.
Under Michigan no-fault benefits laws, a bicyclist who is an accident victim may recover benefits regardless of who was at fault if they’re covered under an auto insurance policy.
The benefits you can recover through a no-fault claim include:
- Medical expenses, which include surgeries, doctor and hospital visits, rehabilitation expenses, mileage to and from medical appointments, and all other related costs.
- Lost wages for time lost from work during your recovery.
- Reimbursement for services like cooking, cleaning, child care, etc. if you’re unable to do these tasks on your own. Reimbursement is up to $20 per day for 3 years after the accident.
- Survivor benefits, which are available to family members of a person who is killed in an accident. This includes funeral and burial expenses and lost wages for 3 years.
2. Claim against the at-fault driver
If your damages exceed $250,000, you might be able to file a personal injury lawsuit against the person who is at fault for your injuries if they were negligent. You can also receive additional damages that include pain and suffering, emotional distress, and other non-economic losses.
3. Uninsured motorist claim
If you have insurance, an uninsured/underinsured motorist policy is also important. There are 2 reasons for this: First, if you’re in an accident and need to turn to the other party’s insurance, this is the only way to do so if they’re uninsured. Second, this also protects a victim of a hit-and-run accident.
4. Managed care
Since 2020, Michigan insurance companies also offer managed care no-fault insurance. A person can seek reimbursement for medical care if they are treated by physicians or providers approved by the insurance company.
However, this can be problematic. Your insurance company’s objective is to spend the least amount of money for your care, so its choice of medical provider might not be the person who’s going to treat your injuries in the most careful and conscientious way.
Fortunately, your attorney can help ensure that you are receiving proper medical care and make sure the insurance company is treating you fairly.
Michigan bicycle accident liability laws
If you can’t receive enough compensation through a settlement with your own insurance company, there will be a situation where fault needs to be determined and allocated among the parties.
The bicyclist isn’t always right.
Each party likely bears some percentage of fault. Even if the driver clearly caused the accident, it might be found that the cyclist could have braked sooner, could have swerved out of the way, or could have slowed down or sped up to avoid a collision. If that happens, it’s possible that the insurance companies or court will determine that the at-fault driver is 90% at fault and the bicyclist is 10% at fault, for example.
If that happens, the court or insurance company would reduce the amount of damages you receive by your percentage of fault. In other words, your damages would be reduced by 10% if you’re 10% at fault.
Michigan’s modified comparative fault rule says that if your percentage of fault is 51% or higher, then you can’t recover any damages in an accident.
What to do after a bike accident in Michigan
If you’re able to do so, take these steps after a bike accident:
- Call 911. A police report is an important piece of evidence. Even if your injuries are minor (or you feel uninjured), you’re entitled to (and should get) a police report at the scene.
- Obtain information from the driver. Just like you would after any motor vehicle accident, obtain the driver’s name, address, phone number, email, insurance information, license plate number, and driver’s license number. If you have your phone with you, it’s a good idea to take photos of these documents to make sure you don’t accidentally write down the wrong thing.
- Obtain witness information. Any person who observed any part of the accident (including events leading up to it or following) can be valuable as a witness. Be sure to write down these people’s names and contact information.
- Take note of the conditions at the scene. Weather, road conditions, traffic patterns, signals, and other things could all be factors in a bike accident. The police report should include some of this information, but you should take your own notes and pictures, too.
- Get a medical examination. Whether or not you think you’re injured, go to a hospital, your primary physician, or an urgent care center for a medical exam as soon as possible. Some injuries and symptoms might not appear until days or weeks after an accident. Full documentation by a medical provider can be crucial to your legal claim. If your condition isn’t documented, it can be hard to prove that your injuries were caused by the bike accident.
- Call a Michigan bike accident lawyer. A driver might try to claim that the collision was completely or partially your fault. That’s where your lawyer becomes important. A bike accident lawyer is trained and experienced in helping you avoid liability and recover damages.