On warm days, people like to ride bicycles for fun and as a quick, economical way to get to work. However, riders must share the road with other vehicles. In some cases, drivers do not see bicyclists, and in other cases, a bicyclist might lose control of the bike. Regardless, when the two meet, it does not bode well for the bicyclist. Even a light tap from a car can cause severe injuries to a bicyclist. Riding in a large city, like Houston, increases the risk of bicycle accidents because of the amount of traffic the roads see daily.
Bicycle Accident Stats
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), bicyclists constitute 2% of motor vehicle accident deaths. In the most recent year for which statistics exist, accidents involving both a vehicle and a bicycle caused 843 bicycle fatalities throughout the United States. Most people who died as a result of a bicycle accident were at least 20-years-old.
The IIHS also found that more men than women died in bicycle accidents. Finally, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that more bicycle deaths occurred between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. and that 78% of bicycle deaths occur in urban areas. The NHTSA also found that one in four bicyclists who died in a crash with a motor vehicle had been drinking alcohol.
Minimize the Risk of a Fatal Bicycle Accident
You can minimize the risk of a fatal bicycle accident by taking certain precautions. While motor vehicles bear responsibility for watching out for bicyclists, drivers often do not see non-automobile vehicles, so bicyclists must pay extra attention to everything happening around them.
You can minimize the risk of getting into a bicycle wreck by:
- Making sure you have the right size bicycle. A bike too big or too small may prove harder to control and gives you fewer options to avoid vehicles heading right for you.
- Making sure that your bike receives all required maintenance. Also, make sure to keep your steering and brakes in good working condition. Make sure to keep the seat tight. Finally, make sure the light, if equipped, works properly and that you have all the necessary reflectors in place.
- Making yourself visible, especially during dusk, early morning hours before the sun comes up, and at night. Do not rely on your bicycle’s reflectors and lights. Wear light clothing, and make sure that you have a jacket or a vest with reflectors on it.
- Wearing a helmet, knee and elbow pads, and other protective clothing.
- Riding solo (unless you have a two-seater) and keeping both hands on the handlebars.
- Choosing roads with less traffic. If you stay on streets with less traffic, you can significantly reduce the chances of tangling with a motor vehicle.
- Driving with the flow of traffic and staying focused and alert.
In addition, stay off sidewalks, even if the area you ride allows bicyclists on sidewalks. Always use bike lanes when available. If you have to ride on a sidewalk, have a bell on your bike so you can warn people. Remember, pedestrians have the right of way on sidewalks and in crosswalks. When passing pedestrians, call out which side you plan to pass them on by shouting out your plan.
Bicycle Accident Causes
Those bicycle accidents that don’t prove fatal still face a high chance of causing catastrophic injuries simply because of the size difference between a bicycle and a motor vehicle. Even the smallest of the sub-compact cars could cause extensive and devastating injuries.
Motor vehicles often cut bikes off when entering a road or making a right turn into the bicyclist. Rear-end accidents often happen when bicyclists attempt to pass a car parked in the bike lane. Also, parked drivers sometimes open their doors without looking and can catch a bicyclist with the door.
Sometimes, a bicyclist may cause a bicycle accident. A rider might ride on the wrong side of the road, ignore traffic signals and signs, or make unpredictable moves.
Additional causes of bike accidents include poorly maintained roads, defective bikes, animal attacks, drunkenness, debris in the road, and loss of balance.
Who Pays for Bicycle Accident Injuries or the Loss of a Loved One in a Bicycle Accident?
As long as you don’t bear full liability for your bicycle injuries, you can file a claim against the party that caused (or contributed to) the accident.
Depending on the circumstances, one or more people might share responsibility for your injuries.
- The owner of the vehicle involved in the accident.
- A driver and a vehicle owner, if the driver borrows or rents a car.
- In commercial accidents, the truck driver, trucking company, dispatcher, or auto technician.
- Vehicle manufacturers.
- Parts manufacturers.
- A city, town, county, or state if poorly maintained roads caused the accident.
- The bicycle manufacturer, repair company, and/or seller.
- A homeowner if a dog or another pet caused the accident.
- Another bicyclist or pedestrian who caused the accident.
Actions To Take After a Bicycle Accident
If you sustain injuries in a bicycle accident and you feel okay to move, here’s how you should protect your health and financial standing in a bicycle accident case:
- Make sure you get out of the way of traffic, including bicycle traffic if on a bike path.
- Call first responders, even if you believe you did not suffer severe injuries. Allowing emergency medical technicians to check you over at the scene starts a paper trail should your injuries manifest later.
- Obtain contact information, registration information, and insurance information for any drivers involved in the accident. When speaking with other drivers, never admit fault, and never say that you feel fine or seemingly accept any blame for the accident, such as saying that you should have driven more carefully.
- Obtain contact information from any witnesses, including passengers in the vehicle or vehicles involved in the accident.
- Never attempt to negotiate with others involved in the accident.
- If the vehicle that hit you leaves the scene, make sure to get the vehicle’s year, make, model, and color. If possible, write down the license plate number. Always report hit-and-run accidents to the police.
- Give the police officer your statement. Check the police report before the officer turns it in to ensure that they wrote down the facts as you presented them. Obtain the officer’s name or badge number and ask how to get a copy of the police report. Your bicycle accident lawyer will want a copy.
- Take pictures of the accident scene. If possible, take pictures before you move your bicycle. Make sure to take pictures from all angles, and include damage to the road, such as skid marks, potholes, cracks, and other issues. Include damage to surrounding property.
- Seek medical attention as soon as possible after an accident, preferably immediately.
- Do not give your version of the accident to any insurance company until you speak with a bicycle accident attorney. You can provide the insurance company your name, the date, and the location of the accident, and your attorney’s contact information.
Cooperating With Insurance Companies
You do not have to give the insurance company any information regarding your accident. Your attorney should provide the insurance company the facts about the accident. Always keep in mind that insurance companies want to maximize their profits. They will try anything to deny your claim or offer you a pittance that might not even cover your medical expenses, never mind other damages.
If the insurance adjuster tries to get you to talk about the accident, refer him to your bicycle accident attorney. Do not let the adjuster press you into giving your version of the accident. Insurance companies love to twist what injured individuals say to use it against them down the road.
In fact, if possible, allow your bicycle accident lawyer to make the initial contact with the insurance company for you. If you do, remember that insurance companies often do not give you much time to start the claim process. Some give you as little as a couple of weeks.
Bicycle Accident Injuries
Because a bicycle offers no protection from the weight of other vehicles, you could suffer catastrophic injuries or even death in an accident.
Some of the injuries you could sustain include:
- Road rash.
- Cuts, scrapes, bruises, bumps, and scratches.
- Strains and sprains.
- Pulled and torn muscles and other soft tissue injuries.
- Face and eye injuries.
- Traumatic brain injuries.
- Head, neck, and shoulder injuries.
- Simple and compound fractures.
- Crushed bones.
- Amputation of a limb or digit.
- Internal injuries.
- Back and spinal cord injuries.
You could also suffer from secondary injuries, such as infections. Any open wound, whether you sustained it in the accident or during surgery to repair an accident injury, could become infected, especially if you have underlying conditions, such as diabetes and immunodeficiencies, or if you take treatments or drugs that lower your white cell count.
Additionally, bicycle accident injuries could exacerbate existing injuries or conditions. The defendant bears responsibility for your medical expenses and extra pain and suffering for secondary injuries and the exacerbation of existing injuries because you would not have suffered the extra cost and pain if not for the defendant’s actions or inactions.
Recovering Damages After a Bicycle Accident
You can recover damages from one or more defendants in your case. Case values vary depending on the extent of your injuries. If you lost a loved one in a bicycle accident, you could also collect damages, including emotional distress and other losses.
Texas allows you to collect three types of damages: economic damages, non-economic damages, and . While you have two years to file a bicycle accident personal injury lawsuit, you should begin your case as soon as possible. Insurance companies do not give you very long to file a claim.
Special damages, or economic damages, have a monetary value. The court orders the defendant to pay special damages in an attempt to make you whole again.
Economic damages include:
- Medical Expenses. You can recover medical expenses incurred in the accident before and after a settlement or a trial award. Your bicycle accident attorney will work with expert witnesses to determine how much permanent or long-term injuries or disabilities will cost over your lifetime. Medical expenses include surgeries, doctors’ appointments, surgical follow-up appointments, physical therapy, cognitive therapy, occupational therapy, psychological therapy, and any tests you might need because of your injuries and/or disabilities. Medical expenses also include upgrades to your home and vehicle, such as ramps, grab bars, and hand controls. If you need professional care through at-home nurses or a facility, you can also collect compensation to cover those expenses.
- Wages. If your accident injuries prevent you from working, you can collect lost wages until you settle or receive a trial award. If the accident injuries cause long-term or permanent disabilities that prevent you from working or allow you to work at partial capacity, the defendant will also bear liability for your future lost earning capacity.
- Personal Property. Compensatory damages also cover personal property, such as your bicycle and items on your person, including a laptop you might have carried in a backpack, cell phones, textbooks, and other personal property.
- End-of-Life Expenses. If you lost a loved one in a bicycle accident, compensatory damages cover funeral, burial, and/or cremation expenses. Compensatory damages might also cover other expenses, such as probate filing fees.
General damages, often referred to as non-economic damages, do not have a monetary value and include:
- Pain and suffering, including emotional distress.
- Loss of quality of life.
- Loss of companionship and/or consortium.
- The inconvenience of having to hire someone to do the chores you usually do.
- Loss of use of a body part or bodily function and amputation.
- Excessive scarring and/or disfigurement.
A court will only order a defendant to pay punitive damages if the defendant engaged in grossly negligent or intentional actions and if it also awards compensatory damages in the same case. Courts award punitive damages to punish a defendant for egregious behavior, and the court uses these damages as a punishment in the hopes that the defendant does not engage in the same behavior going forward.
If you suffered injuries or lost a loved one in a bicycle accident, contact an experienced bicycle accident attorney for a free case evaluation.
Since starting his firm in 1999, Stewart J. Guss has had the honor of representing clients from all over the world, helping them recover from even the most catastrophic injuries.
Today, thanks to a strong belief in those values of compassion, respect, and approachability, the firm has grown to employ over 120 legal professionals in numerous offices across 4 states, with nationwide reach.