How Being on a Bicycle Affects Your Accident Claim
People across the globe enjoy cycling for the same reasons: health, exercise, transportation, sport and going green. However, cycling can be dangerous when it comes to another person behind the wheel.
Accidents caused by torn-up roads and sidewalks can also lead to significant injuries. Cycling accidents can be nasty, and cyclists should know they are able to recover compensation in more ways than one – even through auto insurance.
Types of accidents
Bicycle accidents can take many forms.
Cyclists may collide with one another. They may get thrown from their bikes because of road hazards like potholes or small animals.
However, the most dangerous type of accident is usually a collision with a motor vehicle. Cyclists who were hurt in an accident may be able to pursue an accident claim against someone else’s insurance policy or file a personal injury lawsuit to recover damages for the injuries they have suffered.
Cycling injuries can often be severe because bicycles don't offer much in the way of protection against a steel machine or the road. Even if the cyclist is wearing protective gear like a helmet and knee pads, this will only minimize the damage, not preclude it from happening. Some serious injuries that can result from a cycling accident include:
Some of these conditions can last for months or even years with no possibility of complete recovery. In the case of paralysis, a person may be permanently affected by an accident.
Damages for cycling accidents
These car-biker interludes usually result in significant damages to cycling accident victims and not the other way around. Cycling accident victims may be able to recover compensation for the following:
- Current medical expenses
- Future medical expenses
- Lost wages from time off work
- Lost earning capacity
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
Because of the significant damages involved in cycling accident cases, many cases quickly become complex.
Insurance companies are invested in limiting the amount of damages that are paid out and will try to deny as many claims as possible or offer as little money as possible to make them go away.
It often requires the use of an experienced personal injury attorney to ensure that a claim is settled for a fair amount. In some instances, the case may need to proceed to trial where a jury will determine a fair award.
Liability for cycling accidents
Before a cyclist can collect damages, he must be able to show that someone else is legally responsible for the accident. Simply because someone was hurt does not necessarily mean that another person should have to pay damages.
Whether a party is liable depends on the surrounding circumstances.
If the accident involved another cyclist who was not paying attention and crashed into the victim, the other cyclist may be the defending party. If the sidewalk was torn up because potholes hadn't been fixed after a winter frost heave, the city may be responsible for the accident. If a motorist crashed into the cyclist, he or she may be responsible.
The legal standard in determining whether someone was at fault for the accident is negligence. This means that someone’s duty of care was below a reasonable standard and this caused the victim to suffer damages.
Some states and cities have laws that explain how motorists and others are to act toward cyclists. If the defendant violated one of these laws, this may be negligence per se (negligence that occurs because of the violation of something meant to protect the public, like a building code or other regulation).
For example, cyclists are to ride on the right side of the roadways as close to the curb as reasonable. Cyclists are prohibited from riding on the sidewalk and are required to use arm signals when turning. Motorists are required to look for cyclists when opening their doors onto the roadway. General rules require bicyclists to act similarly to motorists and obey traffic signs and signals.
Additional complexities arise when a municipality is sued for its involvement in a cycling accident. A city may be liable for accidents because of factors such as:
- Dangerous roadways with potholes and cracks
- Failing to repair damaged roads as required by law
- Failing to add warning signs around construction zones
- Failing to provide safeguards when aware of accidents continuing to occur in a certain area
Contributory and comparative negligence
In some cases, a cyclist can be held partially responsible for the accident. In most states, this is taken into consideration by decreasing the amount of any settlement or award by the percentage of blame the court places on the cyclist in his own injuries.
Contributory negligence has been mostly abolished, because it is considered far too harsh; if a plaintiff were considered even 1 percent responsible for his injuries, he could not collect any damages. However, a few states still follow this common law rule.
Comparative negligence is different. For example, if a cyclist was 30 percent responsible for his own injuries that resulted in damages of $100,000, his settlement may be reduced by $30,000. Some states do not permit an accident victim to recover if he or she was responsible for 50 or more percent of the accident.
Read more on shared fault, contributory negligence, and comparative negligence here.
How to contact a personal injury lawyer
If you've been injured in a cycling accident, it can be extremely helpful to contact a personal injury attorney. He or she can provide immediate assistance in ways you might not have thought of and help protect your legal rights.
In many states, the statute of limitations is less than three years from the date of the accident, so your time to file a claim can be very limited. A personal injury attorney can tell you how long you have to file, whether there are damage caps in your state and the damages that you are entitled to receive.
If you're not sure where to begin, the Enjuris law firm directory can help you.
- The claims process and how long a personal injury lawsuit takes
- Negotiating lawyers fees - how do accident lawyers charge? Are there any hidden costs?
- Personal injury myths - what you need to know
- Choosing a personal injury attorney – interview questions
- Preparing to meet with a personal injury attorney
- When do you NOT need an attorney after an accident?