Biking is one of the favorite sports for people of all ages when the weather is warm and sunny. An increasing number of people also use it as a means of commuting to work or other activities. Unfortunately, as the number of cyclists increases, so does the number of accidents involving bicycles. Statistics show that accidents and fatalities have been rising steadily in Colorado during the last decade. In 2018 alone, there were 857 bicycle deaths in the USA. Accidents involving bicycles can be devastating since the rider is by definition more exposed to danger and injury than a car driver. A helmet is usually a biker’s only safety equipment, with no side impact bars or airbags to protect them in case of an accident. Bicycle accidents are even worse than motorcycle accidents, as the bicycle rider is usually the less visible and less considered of all drivers, with many vehicle drivers being careless around them. When an accident happens, insurance issues can quickly become complicated, as most bicycle riders either don’t have insurance, or have one but don’t know if they deserve compensation. In this article, we explore different types of road accidents involving bicycles, and how you can claim for personal injury in such cases.
WHAT TYPES OF INJURY CAN HAPPEN IN AN ACCIDENT INVOLVING A BICYCLE?
If you are involved in a bicycle accident and you are not at-fault for it, you can demand personal injury compensation for injuries suffered. Commonly, the most serious—and often fatal—injuries during a bike crash include head and neck injuries, even if the rider wears a head helmet. Arms and legs injuries are also very common, as are injuries caused by the bike and the rider becoming entangled during a crash: the saddle may cause genital and rectal injuries, and the handlebars can cause visceral and vascular injuries.
If your bike is damaged or totaled and needs to be replaced, you can claim compensation for repairs or replacement costs.
Bikers, especially professional athletes, may be using biking equipment of a certain value, such as a helmet, pads, clothing, sports watch, etc. If these are damaged during an accident, you can include repair and replacement costs in your claim.
BICYCLE HIT BY A CAR
A number of bicycle accidents involve a car crashing on the bicycle, usually from the rear. Such accidents are frequently the result of the car driver violating the bicycle’s right-of-way and not observing proper distance from the bike. Car drivers often claim they did not see the biker or that they did not realize the bicycle was going to slow down to turn left at an intersection, hence their failure to slow down or stop. Another common incident involves stationed car drivers opening their car door on a passing bike. When the car driver is at-fault, your claim is toward their insurance company. If the vehicle driver was at-fault, then their liability coverage under their auto insurance covers your injury and medical expenses, even though you were riding a bicycle and not driving a car. This is why you should never walk away from an accident scene without noting the driver’s car, contact, and insurance information. If you have a bicycle insurance package, things are pretty straightforward. If not, as is most often the case, it is crucial to understand that your own car insurance, if you also have a car, can cover part of the bill. Indeed, most car policies cover you even if you ride your bike: for insurance purposes, a bike vs. car accident is still considered an auto accident. So, if your automobile policy provides personal injury protection (or Med-Pay), and as long as there is a car involved in the accident—even if it is not yours—you can claim compensation from your insurance company. Your UM insurance is also important, not only when the party at-fault is not insured, but also in hit-and-run cases, which unfortunately are more common than they should be. Your UM could also contribute to paying for personal injury beyond the at-fault party’s maximum insurance coverage. These options, however, can get pretty complicated. What you are entitled to as a bicyclist is the result of interpretation of your Med-Pay and UM policies, case law, and state regulations about liability and negligence. A bike accident lawyer who has experience in insurance and personal injury can help you establish negligence and liability and claim the maximum compensation for medical bills, lost income, damaged property, etc.
BICYCLE CAUSING DAMAGES TO A CAR
Bicycle riders are not required to have insurance, making accidents involving bikes and cars complicated. This is a problem if you are liable for the accident—for example, if you lose control of your bike and crash on a car, or if you don’t respect the rules of the road and cause an accident. In this case, the car driver involved can claim compensation from you. This is again a case where, if you don’t have specific bicycle insurance, your own car insurance may cover part of the car driver’s bill, assuming that you have an automobile policy. Your own damages, though, are most probably not covered.
BICYCLE HITTING ANOTHER BIKE OR A PEDESTRIAN
Accidents involving a bicycle and one or more pedestrians are not very common but they can still happen, especially in large cities where bikes are used for commuting in the urban environment, in coexistence with large numbers of pedestrians and other bikers. Should such an accident occur, the first thing that police, insurance, and the courts typically do is determine who and to what extent is liable for the accident. Did the pedestrian enter a bike lane? Was the cyclist speeding with poorly maintained breaks? Did the rider run a stop or a red light? Did they move in a non-allowed area, like outside the bike lane? Did the pedestrian cross outside of the marked passage? Were they walking on the road instead of using the sidewalk? Was any of them under influence? Similarly, in an accident among bicycles, the liability is not always easy to establish, and often all parties involved may have breached part of their responsibilities. It is obvious that establishing negligence and liability is not easy in such cases, and this is where the role of a lawyer experienced in bike accidents is crucial. Furthermore, the lack of insurance is common in such accidents because car insurance does not come into play. When an accident results in serious personal injury and damages, the case can end up in courts, since there may be no insurance companies to settle a claim.
BE A RESPONSIBLE BIKER
There is no need for any kind of license or official training to ride a bike. However, cyclists still need to follow the rules of the road and take reasonable precautions for their safety and the safety of others. Even experienced cyclists who use their bikes every day can get involved in a road accident. The duty of care is important when liability and negligence must be established, so exercise your duty of care as a cyclist at all moments. For legal reasons, but mainly for your own safety, here are a few things you should do or know before riding your bike:
- Check your tires, breaks, lights, and your bike maintenance in general. A poorly maintained bike can become the source of accidents or transfer part of the liability of an accident to you (in states where liability can be shared).
- Always use protective gear, like a head helmet and clothing with elbow and knee pads to minimize injuries if you fall.
- Make yourself visible at all times. Use fluorescent and regular lights on your bike, and wear reflective fluorescent strips, especially if you are riding after dusk.
- Always follow the rules of the road and ride responsibly.
- Invest in a helmet camera if you are using your bicycle regularly or plan a long bicycle journey. A helmet camera can help you establish the facts in case of an accident.
- Should you have an accident, never walk away without documenting it, no matter who seems liable about it. Call the police, note the other party’s data, take pictures, get witnesses whenever possible, go for medical exams after the accident to document any injuries or pain, and track your damages and expenses.
If you wish to make a claim for a bicycle accident, schedule a free consultation by calling 970-241-0707 or by completing the online application found within the “Contact” tab at the upper right-hand corner of this page. The attorneys and the team of experienced legal professionals at Killian, Davis, Richter & Mayle are capable, polite, and understanding.