From obscured potholes to drunk drivers, even the most experienced cyclists cannot avoid every hazard as they ride. Even though cyclists have the same general rights on the road as motor vehicle operators, over 800 cyclists are killed in traffic accidents each year.
Too many lives are hampered by disabling injuries and or cut short due to fatalities in cycling crashes. Whether injured cyclists and their families can recover damages after a bicycle accident often depends on the type of accident, location of the crash, and carelessness of another party. A local bicycle accident attorney can review the facts of your case and work with injured cyclists to obtain the compensation cyclists deserve after a crash.
Five Common Causes of Serious Bike Crashes in the United States
Inexperience, sudden storms, and even the wrong equipment often lead to cycling accidents. However, riders often sustain the most severe injuries when the crash involves the negligent, reckless, or criminal conduct of another party. Other people’s carelessness commonly results in the following types of bicycle accidents.
1. Motor Vehicle Collisions
One of the leading causes of injuries to cyclists involves collisions between a motor vehicle and a bicycle. Many car crashes involving bicycles occur due to driver distraction, drunk driving, or the driver’s failure to obey traffic laws. Many motorists mistakenly believe their cars or trucks have the right-of-way and unlawfully pass riders, cut into bike lanes, or illegally drive through crosswalks.
Types of motor vehicle negligence and traffic violations that commonly result in injuries to cyclists include:
- Failure to yield the right of way
- Illegal passing
- Driving while intoxicated
- Texting while driving
- Unlawful turns
- Traveling too close to riders
- Failing to obey traffic control devices
If a driver’s legal violation resulted in a cycling accident, a court might hold the operator liable under a legal theory called negligence per se. This theory applies in many bike crash cases, and an attorney may also argue that a driver’s general carelessness and disregard caused the crash.
The most common types of negligent driving behaviors resulting in injuries to riders include:
- Failing to see the cyclist – Drivers have a legal duty to look out for other drivers on the road, including bike riders. Many drivers will inadvertently merge into bike lanes at night, causing them to sideswipe or strike cyclists simply because they did not see them.
- Distraction – Most authorities agree that the leading cause of motor vehicle crashes involves driver distractions such as texting, eating, or talking on the phone. Distraction often contributes to failing to see a marked bike lane or the inability to stop when a cyclist crosses the street.
- Underestimating cyclists’ speed – In many neighborhoods and urban areas, cyclists travel at the same speed as motorists. Drivers unfamiliar with this fact often misjudge a cyclist’s speed while turning into a bike lane, resulting in severe T-bone collisions with bicycles or the rider thrown from their bike.
- Not giving bicycles room – Failing to leave enough room between a driver’s vehicle and the bike ahead of them could prove fatal if a cyclist should stop suddenly or unexpectedly fall off their bicycle. For example, if a driver sees a branch obstructing the bike lane, they should give the cyclist room to avoid the obstruction or create enough distance to stop if the cyclist falls into the roadway.
A lawyer might analyze the facts of a vehicle-bike crash impact to determine if a driver negligently caused or contributed to a collision. If so, a cyclist might recover compensation from a car insurance policy or direct damages from the negligent driver.
2. Poor Roadway Conditions
State and local authorities designate a substantial amount of tax dollars to highway and transportation departments. Public agencies must warn cyclists about known dangers on the road, correct those dangers promptly, and prevent bicycles from entering obstructed bike lanes. While state authorities bear no liability if a deer suddenly runs into the street, they might bear liability for failing to block off a dangerous pothole.
Every state has different laws governing the responsibility of local highway departments. Cyclists injured by hazardous and unavoidable roadway conditions, such as utility holes, construction debris, potholes, and cracked pavement, should speak with a local bicycle accident attorney.
3. Negligent Street Designs
Poorly designed crosswalks and roads commonly lead to serious bicycle crashes. Single-lane roads, sharp turns, confusing intersections, a lack of helpful signage, and bike lanes abruptly ending might each lead to damaging falls. Negligent civil engineering could contribute to fatal bicycle accidents, especially in areas designed to accommodate cyclists. Insufficient traffic control devices and dangerous roadway designs might result in partial municipal liability for a bicycle accident.
A negligence attorney may help cyclists and their families analyze each contributing cause of an accident, including poor road design and driver distraction, and hold every liable party accountable for their carelessness.
4. Bicycle Manufacturing and Equipment Defects
Bike manufacturers have the same responsibility to design safe products as car companies. This responsibility includes developing bicycles safe for their intended uses, such as on dirt trails, roadway conditions, or both. For example, road bicycles marketed to beginners should contain safety features designed to accommodate foreseeable cycling mistakes. If a bicycle’s brakes fail, chain snaps, or frame cracks while in use, this could lead to serious and fatal falls.
An attorney might hold designers, manufacturers, and sellers liable for negligently producing and marketing unsafe bicycles. This principle might also extend to optional safety equipment, such as reflectors, helmets, and clip-ins that do not function as intended.
5. Pedestrian and Bike Lane Negligence
Cyclists often enjoy the benefits of both road travel and pedestrian walkways. They might use designated bike lanes, travel on off-road paths, or safely share sidewalks with pedestrians. Unfortunately, other cyclists and walkers may cause or contribute to dangerous bicycle crashes. A cyclist might swerve to avoid a dog pulling at its leash or a child running into the street.
Reckless and aggressive cyclists might also dangerously operate their bikes in designated lanes or on mountain trails, causing a safe cyclist to fall. If another person’s careless, unlawful, or reckless behavior resulted in a bicycle crash, consider speaking with a local bicycle accident lawyer about your financial recovery options.
Multiple factors frequently contribute to bicycle accidents in the United States. Roadway debris may result in a cyclist suddenly falling before being struck by an inattentive driver. Further, a cyclist might sustain exacerbated injuries due to a poorly designed helmet or clip-in system. Experienced bicycle accident lawyers could analyze the facts of your case and demand compensation from all persons and entities that contributed to your injuries.
Most Common Injuries Sustained in Bicycle Accidents
The nature of an impact determines how it will affect the cyclist receiving it. Speed often plays a critical role in anticipating the severity of the injuries sustained in a bicycle crash. The greater the motorist or cyclist’s speed when the impact occurred, the more serious the injuries a rider might sustain. Riders’ age and fitness also play critical roles in analyzing the nature and extent of the damage.
Some of the most common conditions resulting from bicycle accidents include:
- Neck and lower back pain
- Foot, leg, and knee injuries
- Hand, wrist, and arm fractures
- Herniated discs
- Internal bleeding
- Friction burns
Cyclists often suffer from debilitating fractures after a crash, necessitating surgery and resulting in partial disabilities. Painful but rare spinal fractures may occur when a clip-in traps a cyclist’s ankle during a fall. Compression (crushing) fractures may result when a motor vehicle negligently runs over a cyclist’s arm or leg. Commuted fractures (multiple complete breaks) often occur when a car directly impacts or sideswipes a cyclist.
These types of complete fractures do not generally set on their own. Doctors often insert plates and screws to hold the bones together, and severe bone-crushing might result in amputations or neurological conditions related to compression injuries. Vital damage to nerves and blood vessels in the limb could necessitate the removal of the damaged area to prevent fatal infections or unmanageable pain.
Sometimes doctors perform multiple surgeries before recommending amputation or more invasive procedures. Bicycle accident attorneys with experience litigating these types of injury claims frequently recommend waiting to settle viable bike accident cases until getting a clear picture of your prognosis from independent medical experts.
Financial Damages Often Recoverable by Injured Cyclists
Cyclists negligently harmed by drivers, property owners, pedestrians, or product designers might claim personal injury damages from liable insurers. Alternatively, injured cyclists may file litigation against any person or entity legally responsible for causing or contributing to their injuries. Bicycle accident lawyers often recommend making an insurance claim. If an insurer contests liability or refuses to offer a reasonable settlement, filing bicycle accident litigation may follow.
Whatever the case, cyclists suffering after a bike accident might recover damages for their direct economic losses, physical pain, and emotional suffering. Any claimed financial compensation could include past losses, such as emergency room expenses, and future losses, such as anticipated surgical expenses.
Examples of commonly recoverable damages include:
- Doctor and hospital bills
- Ambulance expenses
- Medical equipment and medications
- Rehabilitation, including chiropractic care and physical therapy
- Lost income
- Lost fringe benefits and promotional opportunities
- Medical transportation costs and medical millage
- Caregiver expenses, including household help and home nursing care
- Compensation for lost enjoyment of life and past activities, such as cycling, climbing, or swimming
- Compensation for physical and emotional pain
- Reimbursement for frustrations and inconvenience, including the inability to engage in activities of daily living
Lawyers frequently retain medical, occupational, and economic experts to help clients calculate the value of their bicycle accident claims. Claimants must consider both their actual losses and future needs when requesting compensation for their injuries. Settling a bicycle accident case too early often means waiving all future claims against liable defendants.
Suppose a cyclist needs additional surgeries to correct a fracture, resulting in substantial lost wages, pain, and even amputation. In that case, they cannot recover from a defendant (or insurer on the defendant’s behalf) who already paid the demanded settlement. If you sustained even a potentially serious injury after a bicycle crash, consider retaining local bicycle accident counsel.
Requesting Compensation from Negligent Municipal and State Entities
Most states have something referred to as a “torts claims act” that allows persons injured due to a municipal employee’s negligence an opportunity to claim compensation from a public entity. Bicyclists harmed due to construction debris, malfunctioning or poorly designed traffic devices, or grossly negligent civil engineering might work with lawyers to file administrative claims.
Nearly every jurisdiction places strict time limits on filing such claims, and sometimes injured cyclists risk waiving their rights by failing to notify the agency within 30 days. Attorneys should guide cyclists through the claims process, and if the state refuses to provide the requested compensation (within the statutory limits), file a case in a specialized claims court. Failing to follow these stringent procedures may result in injured cyclists and their families inadvertently waiving their only means of recovering compensation.
If dangerous roadway defects, such as obscured potholes, traffic light malfunctions, or the overall negligent design of a biking area contributed to your injuries, connect with a local attorney immediately to preserve potential claims.
Costs of Retaining a Local Bike Accident Attorney
Bicycle accident lawyers understand that, on top of paying medical bills, navigating insurance applications, and losing income, most injured cyclists cannot afford to retain a lawyer’s services. Because of this, many attorneys accept viable bicycle accident cases on a contingency fee basis. A contingency fee agreement, as opposed to an hourly retainer, allows your attorney to take a percentage of any overall financial recovery as their fee.
If a lawyer accepts your case but cannot recover compensation, you generally do not owe the firm any legal fees. Most bicycle accident firms even front all litigation expenses, including judicial filing fees, investigation costs, expert witness charges, and medical record fees. It often costs nothing to confidentially contact a local bicycle accident lawyer about your bicycle accident.