The summer weather and the flat roads in Florida make bicycling an excellent option for many commuters. But due to the vulnerability of bicyclists on the street, sustaining catastrophic injuries is possible primarily because bicycles do not provide protection. At Clay County Personal Injury Attorney, we have highlighted bicycle laws regarding personal injury to make it easier to recover damages for bicycle accidents.
Overview of Bicycle Laws in Florida
A bicycle, as per Florida law, is a vehicle propelled by human power or a motorized bicycle propelled by both human power and electric motor with the ability to drive the car at a speed of 20mph on a flat ground upon which an individual can ride. Various laws have been put in place to ensure riders using bicycles are safe when using the road. If everyone observes these laws, the number of injuries or deaths will reduce significantly. The problem is that most people in Florida don’t understand the various regulations that cyclists should observe. Below are some of these laws:
- Rules of the Road
In Florida, bicycles are treated the same way as vehicles. Florida law 316.2065 is the statute that provides the various rights and responsibilities of bicyclists while using the road. The law demands that:
- Bicyclists should adhere to traffic signs and lights
- One hand of the rider should always be on the handlebar when cycling
- A bicycle rider should signal within a hundred feet of the desired turn
- When indicating a left-turn, the cyclist should stretch his or her right arm outward
- To show a right turn, the bicyclist should lift his or her left arm upwards
- All cyclists should stick to bicycle lanes
- When cycling on sidewalks and crossways, cyclists should yield the right of way to pedestrians
Failure to adhere to these rules will result in penalties. But the worst thing that could happen after failing to respect these rules is a bicycle accident, especially one involving a car.
- Requirements for Bicycle Equipment
Florida laws also have standards that bicycle equipment must meet to ensure drivers can easily see bicyclists on the road. The gear is also intended to ensure the safety of the rider. The legal requirements for bicycle equipment include:
- A cyclist must use a fixed seat for riding
- A bicycle shouldn’t carry more than one passenger unless it has a unique design to do so
- At night, a bicycle should have a white light noticeable from five hundred feet in front and a red light observable from 600 feet in the rear end
- When riding, cyclists should not wear headphones, earbuds, or headsets
- A bicycle must have brakes that let the rider stop within twenty-five feet at 10 miles per hour
- Bicyclists below 16 years must put on bicycle helmets fitted and fastened securely upon the head by a strap that meets the ANSI (American National Standards Institute) standards
- Safety Tips for Bicycle Riders
Apart from the laws governing cyclists, there are safety tips that riders should observe. These are:
- Always putting on a helmet even if you are above 16 years
- Always conduct a bicycle inspection before riding to ensure the brakes, tires, and gears are in good condition
- Put on bright and reflective clothing to make you visible to drivers on the road
- Be predictable and let other road users know your intentions
- Safety Pointers for Drivers
You might observe all the bicycle laws and safety tips, but because of the negligence of a driver, you end up in an accident. Remember, bicyclists are not easy to see, especially at night, and have no protection, which exposes them to a high risk of being hit by cars. As such, drivers should understand the safety measures they should take when driving around cyclists. Some of the safety pointers include:
- Being patient and understand the limitations of bicycles
- Drivers should always yield the right of way
- Drivers should allow cyclists ample space to ride and stop
- Motorists should pay attention to turning bikes because most bicycle accidents occur on turns
- Drivers should be predictable and communicate their intentions
Note that although these laws help promote safety and prevent injuries, even the most experienced cyclists get involved in accidents.
Causes of Bicycle Accidents
Although every time you get on the road with your bicycle, you are at risk of getting involved in an accident, many accidents occur because of violation of Florida bicycle laws. Bicycle accidents occur when:
- A motorist opens the door on the way of a cyclist
- Recklessness by other cyclists
- Right or left crossing at an intersection in front of a bicycle
- Motorists driving under the influence
- Cyclists riding under the influence
- Unintentional rear-ending of a bike by a motorist
Note that the majority of these causes of bicycle accidents are preventable if bicyclists observe the various bicycle laws. Besides, drivers should also exercise caution when cyclists are on the road to improve safety. If all road users understand their rights and responsibilities when using the roadways, accidents will reduce significantly.
Action to Take after a Bicycle Accident
It is essential to understand that even if the crash occurred as a result of a violation of bicycle laws by a motorist or another cyclist, if you don’t act quickly after the crash, you might be unable to prove the liability for the accident. The action you take after the collision will have a considerable impact on the outcome of your injury claim. Because your attorney might not be present at the scene, it’s wise that you do the following things:
Stay at the Scene
Immediately after the accident, don’t leave the scene or move your bicycle. The mistake many cyclists make after a crash where they sustain minor injuries is removing the bike from the scene, especially if it is in the middle of the road. Instead of moving, stay put until the police arrive at the scene. But where the injuries are severe, you might want to seek medical attention once you have called 911. Staying at the location of the accident allows you to fill a report detailing the things that happened, leading to the accident.
Avoid Chats with the Involved Parties
Not all bicycle accidents occur due to negligence by a driver. Bicyclists violate bicycle laws, too, causing accidents. Even if you are the person at fault, do not apologize or say anything that might be incriminating. You might feel as if you are the reason for the accident, whereas, in the real sense, you are not. Saying unnecessary things might strengthen the case against you.
Collect Information or Let Another Person do it on Your Behalf
If you feel okay after the accident, begin collecting information from other parties involved in the crash. In case the accident involves a car, you might want to get the name of the driver, contact information, license plate numbers, model, and the make of the vehicle. If you are not sober, you can assign someone the responsibility to get this information.
Aside from exchanging information, you might want to begin gathering evidence to build your case. Take pictures or a video of the scene of the accident and any injuries that you might have sustained. Also, you can capture the damage that has been done on your bicycle because the insurance adjuster will need evidence when deciding the amount to compensate you for the losses done on your bike.
Speak to the witnesses at the scene, too and collect statements from them about the events that unfolded, resulting in the crash. Do not forget to take the names and contact information of these witnesses because you might need to track them down later.
Seek Medical Attention
Whether you have sustained injuries or not, it’s advisable to visit the nearest hospital to seek medical care. Even after you have been discharged to go home, it’s essential to do some follow-up on your health condition with your doctor. Although follow-ups might not appear necessary where you didn’t suffer significant injuries, it helps show your insurance provider that you sought treatment regularly. The reason for demonstrating that you made regular visits to the doctor is because some insurers decline to compensate patients who are inconsistent in terms of hospital visits.
Visiting the hospital after an accident will help prevent delayed symptoms. Some injuries don’t show signs immediately, making you think that you have no injuries. They begin to manifest later, and at this time, the injuries might have become worse. So, visit the hospital, whether you have any damages or not.
Remember not to wait for long before seeking treatment because, during a claim, the insurance company might claim the injuries occurred later after the accident, meaning a bicycle accident did not unswervingly cause them.
Florida Bicycle Laws and Personal Injury Claims
Whenever you sustain injuries after observing all bicycle laws, you must pursue benefits from your insurer. You can also opt for a traditional negligent claim whereby you can claim compensation for the percentage of fault to blame on the party you were involved in the crash with. Note that even if you are to blame for over 51% of the accident, you can still recover damage to the percentage of negligence by the other party. The reason it is advisable to pursue this claim is that your insurance company will only pay benefits for medical bills and lost wages. Where medical expenses and lost income are more than ten thousand dollars, you will have to file a personal injury lawsuit. The lawsuit can also be submitted where you have sustained permanent injuries, disfigurement, loss of a bodily function, or even death.
Keep in mind that bicycle laws will significantly affect your compensation. If you file a claim after sustaining injuries from a bicycle accident, the insurance company of the party you are blaming for the accident will try to reduce the number of benefits to be awarded by the portion of your negligence. Any violation of the bicycle laws stated above is considered negligence and will significantly affect the benefits you recover.
During an injury claim, if you have sustained head or brain injuries after an accident and you were not wearing a helmet, the number of benefits to be awarded will be significantly reduced if you are under the age of 16. But since it is not a legal requirement for persons over 16 years to wear a helmet when riding a bicycle, claiming a person was not wearing a helmet will not act as a defense. The decision by the court will not be based on the fact that you, as the claimant, was helmetless. A person defending the claim will use other reasons aside from being helmetless to have the benefits reduced. This is possible because Florida uses the pure comparative negligence rule.
Recovering Damages in a Bicycle Accident
After suffering injuries after a bicycle accident, you should recover benefits from the party responsible for the crash. Often, in Florida, one should turn to the insurer for compensation. If that isn’t enough, you can bring a lawsuit against the other party in the accident, whether he or she was partly or wholly responsible for the crash. To receive the benefits, you must prove the following:
- The Party at Fault was Violating Traffic Rules
Every motorist or road user should exercise due care when using a road to ensure his or her safety and that of other people. When a cyclist violates bicycle laws or a motorist disregards traffic rules, he or she should be held liable for breaching their legal duty of ordinary care.
- The Accident Occurred Due to the Breach of Legal Duty
For you to receive compensation, your personal injury attorney must demonstrate that the bicycle accident was directly caused by the failure to exercise due care.
- You Sustained Injuries and Other Damages Due to the Accident
Your claim will be valid if you can demonstrate the injuries sustained or death was because of the bicycle accident.
Common Injuries in a Bicycle Accident Personal Injury Claim
Whatever reason you have for cycling, whether you are doing it for fun, exercising, or for transport, you are exposed to the enormous possibility of injuries or death. Although adhering to bicycle laws can be a measure to improve the safety of bicycling, there is still the risk of an accident. Some of the injuries that you might suffer after a bicycle accident include:
In the event of a bicycle accident and you are hit on the head, you are likely to suffer severe head injuries. The injuries would be even worse if you were helmetless when the collision occurs. If you are wearing a helmet, you might not suffer significant head injuries, but it’s wise that you visit a doctor for further examination. Some of the signs that can tell if you have sustained head injuries are:
- A cracked or broken helmet
- Chronic headache
- Loss of consciousness
- Blurred vision
After suffering head injuries, you might end up with severe health conditions like:
- Speech difficulties
- Personality and emotional changes
- Loss of motor function
- Traumatic brain injuries
The effects of these injuries make you dependent on your loved ones or friends for a lot of things, which consequently affects your quality of life.
After an accident, if you experience any of the above symptoms or think that you have suffered head injuries, visit a doctor immediately.
Bicycles, just like motorcycles, lack a protective body. Your body acts as the barrier between you and the road, which results in fractured bones when the impact is high. Your collarbone, the ribs, hip, skull, face, back, feet, wrists, and ankles, are the most exposed to bone fractures. The bones might break but stay aligned, and on other times, they misalign after fracturing. Also, you might suffer simple fractures, transverse fractures, or compound fractures based on the nature of the collision and the position of your bicycle at the time of the accident.
The type of fracture that you suffer after the crash will play a massive role in the recovery period, type of treatment, and the cost of treatment. Some bone fractures might even result in permanent disability.
Seeking medical attention immediately after sustaining the injuries might help prevent not only permanent disability but also reduce the cost of treatment and the duration. The worst fracture of the bone that you can suffer is on the spinal cord. You might become paralyzed or lose mobility permanently. For you to prevent ending up with paralysis because of a bone fracture, there are sure signs you can look out for and visit a doctor immediately when you experience them. These are:
- Troubles walking
- Changes in bladder
- Back or neck pain
- Muscle spasms
- Inability to move the legs and arms
If you experience any of these signs, seek medical attention so that the spinal fracture is addressed before it gets out of hand.
Fractured ribs can also pose a significant danger to the surrounding blood vessels and organs. Some of the problems that might arise after a broken rib include:
- Torn aorta
- Lacerations of the liver or kidney
Although broken ribs usually heal on their own, it’s wise to go for an evaluation so that in case a blood vessel or organ is at risk of being punctured; the problem can be addressed. In case you are wondering how you can tell when you have broken ribs, look out for the following signs:
- Tenderness close to the ribs
- Pain when breathing
- Pain near the ribs
Skull fracture after a bike crash can also pose a considerable risk on your life if the problem is not discovered and treated on time. Cracked or fractured skull occurs when the impact after a bicycle accident is too high. If your scalp is fractured and you fail to seek treatment on time, you are likely to end up with brain injuries. Some of the signs that can tell you have a crack in your skull include:
- Facial weakness
- Breathing difficulties
- Loss of bladder control
- Slurred speech
- Headaches at the point where there is a crack on the skull
- Blood or transparent liquid flow in the nose, eyes, or ears
An emergency room should be your next stop once you or a close family member is involved in an accident to enhance the chances of recovery.
When a bicycle accident occurs, and you are forced off the bike, face first, you will sustain physical trauma on parts of your face like the nose, jaw, and soft tissues. The injuries that will result from facial trauma are lacerations, eye injuries, jaw fractures, and bruises. Some of the symptoms of facial trauma are:
- Prolific nose bleeding
- Numbness of the lip or chin
- Deformity of the nose
Note that despite facial injury not being life-threatening, it can lower your self-esteem, thus resulting in social anxiety.
If you fall from your bicycle, your knees, fingers, or shoulder might experience abnormal dislocation of joints. The symptoms of these injuries include:
- Weak muscles
- Deformity around the joints
- Difficulties moving the joints
- Severe pain
Joint dislocations can affect soft tissues, nerves, and blood vessels, which is why seeking medical attention from a doctor is advisable. However, anyone can help you return the joint to its position. After treatment, dislocated joints will take weeks or months to recover.
The majority of riders who fall off their bikes end up with scrapes on the arms, hands, face, and legs. Minor road rashes like scrapes or redness in the skin are classified as a first degree. Second-degree road rash includes scratches that open the skin resulting in wounds. To prevent the wounds from getting worse due to exposure to bacteria, you should visit your doctor for cleaning and dressing. Third-degree road rash is more severe because they damage the muscles and nerves after penetrating all the layers of your skin. Their treatment takes longer and leaves you with permanent scars.
Other injuries that might be sustained after a bicycle accident include:
- Neck injuries
- Pelvic trauma
- Internal injuries
Find a Personal Injury Attorney Near Me
If you have any concerns or questions on bicycle accidents or bicycle laws regarding personal injury, call Clay County Personal Injury Attorney at 904-494-8242. Our attorneys will help you receive benefits for your loss.