Accidents involving cyclists are a frequent occurrence in Clay County, Florida. While it is true that a cyclist’s fault can lead to their own accident, sometimes accidents are caused by drivers who do not pay attention to cyclists as they do other vehicles. If you are a cyclist, it is only fair that if a driver or someone else was at fault for the accident you are involved in, then they should compensate you for injuries and damages caused. Clay County Personal Injury Attorney has experienced attorneys with knowledge of bicycle accident personal injury laws and will fight for your rights to ensure you are fully compensated. We serve Clay County residents who are in need of legal representation on personal injury cases.
What Rights Do You Have as a Cyclist in Florida?
In Florida, all the rights and responsibilities that apply to drivers also apply to cyclists. However, there are certain exceptions, for instance, cycling with a child less than 4-years old and wearing a bicycle helmet if you are 16-years old or younger. Otherwise, cyclists too are entitled to use the road just like any other road user governed by a few guidelines. Hypothetically, cyclists should use the bicycle lane if they are cycling slower than the usual traffic speed. If the lane is unavailable, they should keep as far right as they can when they are riding. Failure to keep to the far right could result in an accident when a driver is making a right turn across a bicycle lane and crashes into a cyclist that is not adhering to the rules and regulations. Unfortunately, most drivers in Florida do not view bicycle lanes as real traffic lanes. This does not, however, justify their negligence under the law in the state of Florida.
Common Injuries You Can Sustain in a Bicycle Accident
According to research, injuries resulting from bicycle accidents come second in seriousness after those sustained in horseback riding accidents. The most severe injury you can suffer in a bicycle accident and which you can be compensated for include a traumatic brain injury. This can result in a permanent disability depending on the severity. Also, note that what seems to be a minor accident may result in deadly injuries contingent on the intensity with which you hit the vehicle, the ground or any other object. Other injuries of bicycle accidents include the dental, face, and eye injuries, dislocations and fractures, punctured lungs and abdominal injuries like ruptures and bowel contusions.
Factors contributing to Florida bicycle accidents include weather, intoxication, gender, age, competitive and trick riding, motor vehicles, the time of the day, failure to put on safety gear, dangerous riding environments like uneven pavements and roads.
Note that apart from the driver’s negligence, you can still file for compensation if other factors also contributed to the accident. If it is the driver’s fault, you will receive compensation from his/her insurance policy.
What Should You Do After a Bicycle Accident?
What you do after being in a bicycle accident could have a huge impact on your case. For starters, you should be cautious of your behavior and anything that you say since your attorney is probably not at the scene. Here is what you should do;
Do not leave the scene of the accident
Even if you sustained only minor injuries, you shouldn’t go away or move your bicycle from the scene of the accident. Rather, you should wait for the law enforcement officers or call them to assess the situation. However, if you are severely injured you may not wait for the arrival of the police since an ambulance may ferry you to the infirmary immediately after a 911 call being made. Not leaving the scene will help you to account for the events that caused your accident in a report that you will be required to complete.
Avoid a conversation with the other involved party
You should stay quiet and wait for your personal injury attorney to arrive. Do not talk about the events that caused the accident, try to apologize or say anything unnecessary. This is because whatever you say may just give the other party ground to build a strong case against you.
Gather information or let someone else do it for you
If you are still sober after the accident, you should write down any information that relates to the accident. Or you can assign someone else the task if you are feeling unwell. If you can, verbally record anything you can remember about the accident. This includes any event that occurred immediately before and after the incident. Crucial information you should take note of includes the name of the other party, contact information, the license plate number, the model and the make of his/her car, videos or pictures of the scene of the accident and those of your injuries. You can also note down the names of any witnesses present at the scene. Note that you should not repair or modify the bicycle till your lawyer’s forensic team inspects it.
Seek medical care
Go to any hospital that is close and obtain treatment for your injuries. You should also make a follow-up with the doctor about your condition and health after the accident. It may be unnecessary but doing this helps to assure the insurance provider that you sought treatment on regular occasions. Your insurance company may decline to pay for costs of treatment if you have had inconsistent hospital visits.
Apart from that, it is good to seek medical care for your own benefit. This is because you may not notice any pain or injury immediately after the accident but you will experience them after some time. In certain situations, you might not realize that you sustained an injury during the accident. Visiting a doctor may help determine if there is any injury worth paying attention to. Your attorney may recommend for you a doctor in order to ensure all your injuries are properly treated and documented.
Note that the more you delay to seek medical care the harder it gets for your lawyer to link your injuries back to the accident and thus it becomes difficult for him/her to prove your case.
Recovering Damages and Injuries Compensation
If you suffer injuries and damages from a bicycle accident, you are entitled to compensation by the party responsible. You can seek compensation by filing a bicycle accident claim regardless of whether the person was partially or wholly at fault. In order for you to make this claim, you with the help of your attorney should prove that;
- The party/driver was negligent or was violating driving rules. It is the responsibility of drivers to be reasonably safe while using the road. When they fail to observe rules and regulations of road safety, they will be breaching their legal duty
- The accident occurred due to the driver’s breach of legal duty. For your claim to be valid, your attorney must demonstrate that the driver’s actions directly caused the bicycle accident
- Due to the accident caused by the driver, you suffered injuries and other damages for which you are demanding for compensation. This means that you will have to prove physical or financial loss to the court or that you suffered a loss because your loved one died from the injuries of the accident
Drivers are mostly to be blamed because they make negligent mistakes or bad decisions that lead to bicycle accidents. For instance, driving while under the influence, driving when distracted or drowsy, speeding or failure to yield. If your attorney can prove that the driver committed any of these mistakes, the compensation claim may be successful.
If the accident occurred because a violent driver didn’t want to share the road, you can file for compensation of your injuries as well as report the incident to the police.
The responsible driver needs to compensate you fully for your non-financial and financial losses that the accident caused. Among what she/he should pay for include;
- Treatment costs and all medical bills both current and the future
- Lost income/wages
- Damages caused by the pain and suffering
- Damages as a result of emotional distress
A personal injury attorney will help you to claim the full compensation amount that is rightfully yours by either settling the case out of court or filing a lawsuit.
Types of Damages You Can Be Compensated for in a Bicycle Accident
After an accident, you should first contact your attorney to know if you are eligible for a legal compensation claim. You are entitled to the claim if another person injured you and you incurred damages or injury. Also, try to find out the worth of your claim. In the state of Florida, non-economic and economic damages are the terms used to identify the total amount required to restore your losses.
Economic damages include future and current medical bills, out-of-pocket costs and the lost wages. Non-economic damages include the incapability of enjoying life, emotional distress, inconveniences, loss of a spousal relationship and mental anguish. Apart from non-economic and economic damages, we may also have punitive damages. However, it is rare for these to be awarded in Florida but they play a major role in punishing individuals that are to blame for the accident.
The Statute of Limitations for Seeking Compensation
This is the time limit in which a victim of a personal injury can file a case seeking compensation. Every state has its own time frame so does every form of a personal injury. In Florida, the time frame is usually four years for bicycle accident victims as stipulated Under Statute 95.11(3) (a). The punitive damages you request in a personal injury compensation claim should be equivalent to $500,000 or they should be thrice the non-economic or economic damages cost.
The Statute of limitations is important because, with a time frame, a case will be filed when the information and evidence are still fresh and reliable. In addition, the memories of the witnesses will be clear, the documentation will be readily accessible and the accident events will be more recent. It also helps the parties involved in the accident to clear their conscience and move past the incident without having to worry about a pending case.
The statute of limitations is counted from the date the accident occurs. However, in situations where you were not aware that you suffered an injury and even suspecting it was difficult. We have the discovery rule that allows you more time so that you can file for an injury claim. In this case, the time frame begins running from the date you discovered the injury.
There are also times when an accident victim can’t control the circumstances that could inhibit the case from carrying on. In this situation, the victim is allowed to toll the statute by temporarily pausing it in pursuit of justice especially for cases where the victim is not mentally capable like in the case of a minor. In addition, if for example, the state is at war or the defendant fled the state, the court will understand the situation and delay the case until all is settled.
What if You are Responsible for the Accident?
It is possible for the driver to claim that you were equally responsible for the accident and the injuries caused. Just like other drivers, it is the duty of bicyclists to be careful when using the road for their own safety and the safety of others. For instance, if you ignored a traffic sign and then got hit by a car, the driver may argue that you were partly at fault.
However, this does not bar you from claiming for compensation. The state Florida uses the no-fault system which means you are allowed to seek compensation for your injuries and damages regardless of who was at fault. This implies that you can still recover damages but the benefits will be reduced depending on the degree of your fault.
According to Statute 768.81 of the Florida State, a system of negligence recovery is used whereby your compensation amount is reduced depending on the extent of your fault in the bicycle accident. When this method is used, you should expect a certain degree of fault to be allocated to you in the process of negotiating your settlement except if the accident was a rear-end collision.
Your attorney should be present when determining the percentage of liability in a bicycle accident. As Statute 768.81(3) dictates, a court has to rule against the other involved party and you basing on your extent of fault and not depending on your combined liability. Also, it is possible that the defendant may file a motion to challenge the defenses your attorney presented in court in an effort to direct the fault to a non-party. Here, the non-party is a person or an organization that was not directly part of the accident.
Who Should you Sue if the Accident Resulted from a Poor Condition of the Road?
Unlike vehicles, bicycles cannot withstand poor conditions of the road because these conditions are amplified for bicyclists. Road conditions like uneven grounds, water leaks, wrecked road signs, potholes, loose gravel, and lifted asphalt may equally lead to bicycle accidents like drivers and other road users do.
In Florida, a property owner or a city has the obligation of repairing road conditions for the safety of the bicyclists. If the mentioned parties fail to maintain the good condition of the roads, you may sue them for damages and injuries you sustain in an accident. You can use the premises liability approach to support your claim. Premises liability is a negligence demonstrated by the parties responsible for the locale or premise of your injury. According to statute 768.0755 of the state of Florida, business owners are liable for any accident that occurs in their establishments due to their failure to address a risky situation.
People who visit a property can be licensees, trespassers or invitees. Licensees have access and their staying on the premises is at the expense of the owner. Invitees, on the other hand, are allowed to access the premises by being invited by the owner. Accessing a property without knowledge and consent of the owner makes you a trespasser.
Therefore, if you pursue a lawsuit against an owner of a property, the court usually puts into consideration how you got into the premises and the certainty of the accident. The court will look at if the property owner warned you of the poor conditions of the road and the conditions under which you accessed the property. You should, therefore, feel free to share with your attorney any kind of permission or consent you had to get into the property in order to have a strong case.
Determining the Worth of Your Injury
When you are involved in an accident due to someone else’s negligence, you need to have an idea of the total sum of money you will be compensated. Evaluating the damages on your own can be overwhelming especially if you are still recovering from the injuries. It can also be hectic to evaluate the amount at while frequently visiting the hospital.
In determining how much compensation you will receive, the court look at the comparative negligence factor otherwise referred to as a shared fault. This factor plays a role in estimating the degree at which the individuals involved in the accident were at fault. The degree then helps in calculating the economic, punitive and non-economic damages. Your lawyer will use the multiplier formula to evaluate the losses. Here are the factors that determine how much you will be compensated;
- The severity of your injuries
- Your doctor’s diagnosis
- How much your treatment will cost
- Permanent effects of the accident if any
- The type of medical treatment you are receiving
- How the accident impacted on your everyday life
When evaluating your future medical expenses, the court will put into consideration the amount you will need for possible future hospitalizations, doctor appointments and medications all through your lifetime. It also considers how much you will need for home care, rehabilitation, and medical treatment.
The court also considers the evidence on your ability to resume work, what you earned before the accident and whether your injuries will affect your future earnings. In compensating for your pain and suffering, the court looks at how severe the two are, the period you endured them and how disabling they are.
In most cases, the settlement is increased or reduced depending on the age of the victim. If the victim is younger the compensation will be high and vice versa. However, this is not always the case as other factors have to come into play as well.
The reason you should involve your attorney in all this is to help you in negotiating for the amount to be paid. Since an insurance adjuster represents the interests of the insurance company, she/he would want to settle for less as your attorney argues for more. The insurance adjuster is the one who determines the degree of liability through damage inspection, going through the hospital and police records and by interviewing the witnesses and yourself. If you have severe injuries or you suffered a permanent disability, there is a possibility that the amount would be increased.
Finding a Personal Injury Attorney Near Me
Clay County cyclists should know that they are fully protected by personal Injury laws of the state of Florida if they sustain injuries due to bicycle accidents. The laws allow you and anyone who has lost their loved one in a bicycle accident to file for compensation claims. At Clay County Personal Injury Attorney, we help the victims of these accidents get fully compensated with the appropriate amount they deserve. We will be with you in every step of the way until the case is concluded and you are compensated justly for your losses. Call our bicycle accident attorney now at 904-494-8242 to consult about your bicycle accident case.