There are so many reasons to get out on your bicycle when you live in Gwinnett County, Georgia. Temperate year-round weather, beautiful roads, and ease of transportation all contribute to the popularity of biking in this area. While most drivers are cognizant of the traffic rules and are careful to watch for bikers on the road, unfortunately, some are unaware of their responsibility to share the road safely. Those motor vehicle drivers who ignore traffic laws and don’t look for bicycles on the road can cause incredibly dangerous accidents, where often, serious injuries occur.
Common Dangers on the Road for Bicycles
Riding a bicycle on the road with other motor vehicles is inherently more dangerous for the bike rider, simply because they are not protected by the metal shell that a car or truck provides. Even when a bike rider is wearing a helmet, they are completely exposed otherwise. For this reason, the bike rider is almost always the one who receives the most serious injuries in a collision with another motor vehicle. Sometimes these injuries are even fatal. We’ve identified a few of the common dangers that bicycle riders can watch for on the road. That said, even the most careful bike rider is still reliant on the traffic around them to act with caution as well.
- Distracted drivers. Any driver who is not fully paying attention to the task of driving can be considered “distracted.” This is both one of the most common and dangerous scenarios on the roads today. With the common use of cell phones when driving, whether the driver is using a map app or sending a text to a friend, we’ve seen a large increase in the number of distracted driving accidents in recent years. Watch for signs of distracted driving such as a vehicle that’s swerving in and out of a lane or misses a stop sign at all times. If you notice that someone is driving at night with a light illuminating from the driver’s side seat, there is a high possibility they are using their cell phone. Any time you believe someone is driving while distracted, move out of their way and let them pass.
- Night time visibility. Most have specific laws in regards to riding a bike at night, such as the requirement to have both a visible front and back light on your bicycle. In Georgia, if you are going out at night, you’re required to ride with a white light on the front of your bike that emits at least 300 feet in front of you. It is always a good idea to have a light on the back of your bike as well. The more visible you are at night, the easier it will be for cars to see you and avoid a collision. Try to wear bright clothing as well and never go out without your helmet.
- Road hazards. The unknown is especially dangerous for bike riders. Going out on a new route or taking a new road bears the risk of unseen obstacles that can inhibit your safety. Road hazards such as potholes and construction zones are risky for bike riders because they pose an increased potential of an accident. A rider can easily break bones, sustain a concussion, or experience a TBI when colliding with a misplaced construction sign that road crews did not properly illuminate at night. If you fall off your bike because of an unmarked pothole, who is to blame? This is a question that you will want to discuss with your attorney.
- Drunk drivers. There is no doubt that drunk drivers impose on the safety of themselves and everyone else on the road. It is most common for drunk drivers to be out at night, driving home after they have had too much to drink. The combination of a drunk driver and limited visibility when it’s dark out create an incredibly dangerous situation for anyone on a bicycle. It’s important to watch for the signs that a driver is drunk. If you see a car swerving all over the road or driving far above or below the speed limit, that’s a good indication that the driver is intoxicated and you should remove yourself from the scene immediately.
How an Attorney Can Help
When you have suffered injuries in a bicycle accident, there are many different pieces at play. You might wonder who the liable party is, especially if you were injured at a construction accident when no one was around. Working with the insurance companies can be a tricky business as well, especially when you’re not aware of all of your rights. An attorney can help to:
- Evaluate the viability of your claim
- Estimate the value of damages
- Work together with the insurance companies so you can be such the correct information is being communicated
- Fight for your right to full and fair compensation for your injuries
One of the unspoken advantages of working with an experienced attorney is peace of mind. When you’re going through the trauma of healing from a serious injury, you don’t need the stress of dealing with a claim as well. Your attorney is your advocate and will allow you to focus on recovery.
Gwinnett County Bicycle Accident FAQ
For years, proponents of bicycling to work to reduce traffic congestion have cited increases, often dramatic, in the number of people commuting to work via bicycle. At the same time, many cities have increased efforts to provide bike lanes on non-interstate commuter routes, as well as bike paths, an effort Gwinnett County has joined.
Bike-to-work advocates have long contended that more bike-friendly roads and non-road routes, such as dedicated bike paths, would cause those numbers to continue to grow. Recent numbers indicate that growth might have peaked. The Bike League, which tracks bicycle commuting, reports that bicycle commuting declined 4.7 percent overall from the previous year. Out of the 70 largest cities in the United States, commuting by bicycle declined in 37 percent in just one recent year.
While bike commuting numbers are largely declining, bicycle use is not. Riding bicycles used to be a recreational activity. The advent of bike-share services has created a means of using a bicycle to get places in an urban or semi-urban environment where many destinations of interest are fairly close together but not necessarily where people are likely to bring their own bicycles.
Bikeshare use has turned app-based rent-a-bikes into a significant form of urban transportation. Transportation officials report that people took 35 million bike-share trips taken in just one year, up 25 percent from the year before. In the most recent year, that number rose to 36.5 million trips, along with 38.5 million trips on scooter-share trips with electric scooters. Interestingly, dockless bike-share bicycles pretty much disappeared in 2018, while dockless bike-shares and electric scooters exploded. Gwinnett County currently has a limited bike-share availability using a network of dock station-based bicycles offered by Zagster.
Increased bicycle use, whether commuting or through bike-share services, inevitably leads to more accidents involving bicycles. Gwinnett County saw five bicyclist fatalities from in a recent four-year period. Bicycle accidents involving injuries only are not readily available for Gwinnett County, but it is clear that bicycle accidents happen in Gwinnett County, and that when bicycles are involved in accidents with motor vehicles, the bicyclist loses.
If you are in a bicycle accident on the roadways, you might have questions, including:
When I am riding a bicycle, what traffic laws am I subject to?
Under Georgia law, a bicycle is considered to be a vehicle, and the rider is considered to be a driver, subject to the same laws as the drivers of other vehicles such as cars and trucks, with certain exceptions. Basically, if you can’t do it in a car, you can’t do it on a bike, such as running a red light. In general, when riding a bike, you are required to stay as far to the right as possible except in certain circumstances, such as when you are turning left or when the right lane is right-turn only, and you aren’t turning right. All of that means, of course, that state negligence laws also apply to bicycle riders. If you run a red light and collide with another vehicle, that accident is your fault.
What should I do if I am in an accident?
First, call 911 to make sure that paramedics and the police are sent to the scene. Gather any information you can. This should first include the information for the other driver, but also contact information for any witnesses. Make sure the other driver knows you have called the police and that the driver should wait for their arrival. Second, get on-scene treatment for your injuries when the paramedics arrive. If necessary, get further treatment at the emergency room. After that, see your own doctor as soon as possible to see if you have any undiagnosed injuries. At that point, calling a Gwinnett County accident attorney is a good idea.
If I am in an accident, how can I prove fault?
As always, it depends on whether someone else was at fault. For most accidents, that depends upon which driver was negligent in their actions. Some accidents result from manufacturer liability because of a defective product, or from the outside actions of a third party not directly involved in the accident.
In most accidents, though, the finding of fault rests on the negligence of one of the drivers. This is just as true in car-bike accidents as it is in traffic accidents involving motor vehicles. The police—and you should always call the police and wait until they arrive—will take what evidence they can. This can include witness statements, physical evidence at the scene as well as other evidence such as traffic or security camera footage. The police might or might not issue a traffic citation. If the other driver receives a citation and you do not, that works heavily in your favor, although it is not the final word.
The insurance companies involved also will investigate, and their investigation often is more thorough than that conducted by the police, especially in cases where fault is not immediately clear. Ultimately, it is possible that in cases where the parties dispute fault, a court will decide.
Because of this, it is a good idea to get a lawyer on your side early in the process to protect your interests and try to obtain the best result possible for you. Even before you hire an attorney, when speaking to the police or insurance companies—even your own—do not make any statements indicating the accident was your fault in any way. Stick strictly to the facts you observe. Don’t speculate. Then get an attorney as soon as possible.
If I am not at fault, can I recover damages for my injuries?
This is an important question for bicycle riders involved in an accident with a motor vehicle. Few bicycle riders carry insurance, which normally would be your first source of recovery for your injuries. You might be forced to rely upon your health insurance at first, which likely includes a deductible amount that you have to pay out of your own pocket before your policy kicks in. Even after you meet the deductible, your policy might require copays by you and might also only pay a percentage, leaving you to satisfy out-of-pocket requirements.
All of that adds up to money you have to pay upfront or bills you have to leave unpaid. In such a case, you should file a claim against the other driver’s auto liability insurance quickly if you believe the other driver was at fault. You also should hire an attorney to help you pursue that claim. Even if fault is clearly on the other driver, an attorney is better qualified than you to negotiate with the other driver’s insurance adjuster to obtain the best possible settlement.
If the parties dispute fault, most people are not qualified to pursue a claim on their own, especially if they end up having to go to court. Further, in the early stages of the case, you won’t have your own auto insurance adjuster. Your health insurance company will simply pay claims per your policy, not investigate whether you were at fault. Unless you carry some kind of medical coverage for when you are on your bicycle, you’re on your own. If you want to recover for your damages, you likely will need help.
How soon should I contact an attorney to help with my claim?
Under Georgia law, the statute of limitations for filing a personal injury claim is two years, but you will want to contact an attorney as soon as you can. The longer you wait, the harder it can become to gather evidence, both regarding fault and in proving your injuries. Waiting can even make it harder to prove that your injuries were suffered because of the accident in question.
Delay is not your friend. Surveillance camera footage is not stored forever, and physical evidence at the scene of the accident also won’t be around for long. Skid marks fade, and even if they don’t, it may become difficult to prove that those particular skid marks have anything to do with your accident. The quicker an investigation begins, the more thorough it can be. You won’t even have an auto insurance adjuster on your side, meaning you need an attorney as quickly as possible to protect your rights.
I was in an accident when the driver of a car cut me off, and I swerved and hit a parked car. Can I still seek damages from the other driver?
Even if you didn’t actually collide with the car that was at fault, you can pursue a damages claim against the driver that forced the actions resulting in your injuries. If the driver of a motor vehicle moved into your path, cut you off in a turn, or took some other action that caused you to try and evade his vehicle, resulting in you suffering injuries through a collision with a stationary object or some other means, that driver was negligent, and you can pursue recovery of damages.
First, though, you need to establish who that driver was, which can be difficult if the driver doesn’t stop. However, if you can get information on the driver, through witnesses, you getting the driver’s license plate information, or other means, then you can pursue a damages claim against that driver just as you could had you collided with that driver’s vehicle because of that driver’s negligence.
I was in an accident while using a bike-share bicycle—can I recover damages from the bike share company? That depends upon the accident and what caused it. Accidents on a bike-share vehicle really are no different than accidents in a rental car. If the accident is because of another driver’s negligence, your claim is against the other driver. If the accident is a result of a manufacturing defect, then the action is against the manufacturer or the maker of the failed part (or both, depending), but still not against the rental company.
In general, the bike-share company could only be found liable for an accident caused by their failure to properly maintain the bicycle. Defective parts, manufacturing failures, and other flaws or faults are not the responsibility of the bike-share rental company.
If a manufacturing or part defect was so obvious that the bike-share company should have noticed it, then you could have a claim against the bike-share company. On the other hand, they could argue that you also should have noticed such an obvious defect and thus assumed the risk.
In general, you will have an uphill battle pursuing an accident claim against a bike-share company unless you are claiming that they negligently failed to properly maintain the bicycle, or that they failed to properly repair the bicycle following a previous accident.
Even then, if the bike-share company farms out its maintenance and repair activities to independent contractors, you still might be thwarted in a liability claim against the bike-share company itself. You likely would be forced to pursue a claim against the independent contractor responsible for the repair or maintenance of the particular bicycle you used when you had your accident.
I was injured in a bicycle accident that resulted from a flaw in the road. Can I pursue a claim?
As is often the case with legal questions, it depends upon the circumstances. If the flaw was a result of negligence on the part of the party responsible for maintaining, building, or repairing the road, a claim is possible. For instance, if your accident resulted from a road with a drainage grate installed so that the bars of the grate are parallel to the flow of traffic and the tire of your bicycle fell between the bars of the grate, that seems like negligence.
For naturally occurring issues, though, such as potholes or cracks in the road caused by a freeze-thaw-freeze cycle, it would be necessary to show that a person responsible for maintenance or repair knew or should have known about the condition in time to correct the condition.
Don’t Hesitate—Speak With an Experienced Gwinnett County Bicycle Accident Attorney Today
After a bicycle accident, you might be dealing with a lot of different issues. Beyond serious injuries incurred, many people struggle to manage time off work and the stress due to lost wages and expensive medical bills. This can feel like a lonely time, and it’s often difficult to figure out what you should do after a bicycle accident.
The legal team Brauns Law are here to help. We have extensive experience working with clients in Gwinnett County who have been injured and are seeking compensation for their damages. Let us take on the burden of dealing with the insurance companies and the claims process so you can focus on your recovery. Call us today at (404) 418-8244 or write to us online to schedule a free initial consultation.