Most of the time, riding a bicycle is an experience in independence, beauty, and joy. However, bicycling may turn into anxiety, frustration, or tragedy. When a bicycle accident occurs, it may result in severe and sometimes fatal injuries. To recover damages in a bicycle accident, you may have to file a personal injury lawsuit. Filing bicycle accident lawsuits have similar issues as filing auto accident lawsuits. Liabilities in bicycle accidents revolve around negligence. Bicycle accidents mainly occur due to the negligence of vehicle drivers for failing to look out for cyclists. However, a collision may also occur due to the negligence of a cyclist. If you or a loved one has suffered injuries in a bicycle accident due to the negligence of another person, Clay County Personal Injury Attorney can help you seek compensation for your injuries.
Negligence and Bicycle Accidents
While on the road, both drivers and cyclists must obey the rules of the road. The rules include exercising a due duty of care and following Florida's traffic laws. Applying duty of care enhances the driver's or the cyclist's safety and the safety of other road users. When you suffer injuries in a bicycle accident and you file a suit to seek compensation, the outcome of the lawsuit will depend on two factors. First, the court will consider whether the accident and the injuries occurred due to the negligence of a vehicle driver. The court will also consider whether the negligence of the cyclist contributed to the bicycle accident.
A vehicle driver may be negligent in various ways, including running a stop sign, speeding, and drifting into a bicycle lane. The victim has to prove that the defendant acted in a manner that violated the duty of care owed to the victim. It should also be evident that the victim suffered injuries due to the defendant's negligence.
Biking Laws in Florida
Florida is a no-fault state. Therefore, when an accident occurs, every party has to turn to his or her own insurance company to seek compensation. The state of Florida has several biking laws, which bicycle operators have to adhere to.
It is essential to understand that Florida laws treat bicycles the same way as a vehicle. A bicyclist has to obey all the traffic signals and rules just like a motorist. The law requires cyclists to have a fixed and stable regular seat while riding. If a bike can only carry one person, riders should not carry any more passengers. If an accident occurs and a biker has exceeded the bicycle's capacity, the rider may be liable.
It is illegal for parents to allow minors to operate bikes while violating the provisions of Florida laws. The law requires all bikes to have a functional and well-maintained braking system. Riders must understand that while riding on the sidewalks, they enjoy the same rights as pedestrians.
Florida laws make it a requirement for all bicycles to have a functional lamp, mainly while operating between sunset and sunrise. A lamp makes it easy for drivers to spot a bike. When a bike is not traveling at the speed of other traffic, the bike should use designated paths. At times, a biker may not be sure whether a particular biking procedure is allowable in Florida. It is advisable to avoid any process you are not sure about to avoid liability in a bicycle accident.
Bicycle Accidents and No-fault Laws in Florida
If you are involved in a bicycle accident in Florida caused by a vehicle or another factor, it is essential to understand the applicable rules. Florida's no-fault laws may limit your ability to take legal action against the party at fault. For a victim to be able to file charges against the party at fault and seek compensation, the victim must meet certain conditions.
The alternative name for Florida's no-fault law is personal injury protection (PIP). This law states that irrespective of the party at fault in an accident, victims have to file claims under their own insurance company. The victims may recover expenses and losses for medical expenses, including rehabilitative services, surgery, nursing services, x-rays, and ambulance services if necessary.
Victims may also be able to recover lost wages for the period they spend out of work. The recovery for lost wages will also be from the victim's insurance policy. Victims may also access compensation for replacement services like babysitting.
What happens if a bicycle rider does not have an insurance policy? If a cyclist does not have insurance coverage, the law allows the victim to claim the damages under the insurance policy of the party at fault. For instance, if a vehicle driver is at fault, the victim may claim compensation from the driver's insurance policy.
For an injured victim to be able to file a personal injury claim outside against the at-fault party outside the provisions of no-fault insurance law, the victim must have suffered significant injuries. Significant injuries include disfigurement, considerable scarring, and loss of a bodily function.
Why are Bicycle Accidents Often Catastrophic
Imagine going on a ride on your bicycle as you enjoy Florida's warm weather when all of a sudden, a vehicle strikes you! Riding a bicycle is enjoyable. Unfortunately, bicycle accidents are far too common, and when they occur, the resulting injuries are often detrimental. In most cases, the bicyclist sustains catastrophic life-altering injuries.
Why are bicycle accidents so catastrophic compared to other types of accidents?
Unlike a vehicle or other means of transportation, a bicycle offers the rider little or no protection at all. Riders do not have any protection other than the clothes they wear. When a vehicle driver is negligent, he/she may swerve into the bicycle lane and strike a rider. Catastrophic bicycle accidents also occur when drivers run the red light when bicycles are crossing. When a car hits a bicycle, the rider often falls on the tarmac. The lack of protection makes the rider sustain catastrophic injuries. The initial force and trauma are enough to lead to broken bones or even a broken spinal cord. The ejection of the rider from the bicycle may also lead to further injuries like road rash.
There is no universally accepted definition of a catastrophic injury. However, a catastrophic injury refers to any injury that has severe and long-term life-altering consequences. In most cases, a catastrophic injury requires surgical treatment to treat.
Any bicycle accident that involves a vehicle or another factor that forces the bicyclist to the ground will come with certain forms of injuries. The cyclist may suffer fractures, spinal cord injuries, or head and brain injuries when his/her body strikes the ground. When blunt force trauma occurs on certain parts of the body, the results can be catastrophic. A bicyclist may also experience neurological damage, facial injuries, and ruptured discs. In severe cases, the wrongful death of the victim may occur.
Like with motorcycle accidents, road rash is common in bicycle accidents, and this may leave superficial abrasions on the skin. When a road rash occurs, the victim may require debris removal from the skin. A road rash may also lead to advanced injuries, including a bone fracture commonly characterized by pain, swelling, difficulty moving, or complete lack of movement. The victim may require proper imaging to confirm if he/she has broken or injured his/her bones. Even when you think that you have not suffered injuries, it is advisable to seek the counsel of an experienced medical doctor. You should not take the advice of a massage therapist or any other person without proper training.
Wearing a helmet while riding a bicycle may help prevent head injuries in case an accident occurs. The problem with head injuries is that they are often severe and even fatal. Most people who suffer long-term disabilities from bicycle accidents have to deal with head injuries. A helmet cannot guarantee the prevention of head injuries, but it can reduce the risk significantly. Even with a helmet, a bicyclist may still suffer traumatic head and brain injury that may lead to brain damage, coma, or death.
When a vehicle hits a bicyclist and then rolls over the victim, severe injuries like broken bones, internal damage, and crush injuries may occur.
In addition to physical injuries, bicyclists may also suffer emotional trauma after a bicycle accident. For instance, a rider may be too afraid to return to his/her bicycle after an accident. It is common for riders to suffer post-traumatic stress disorders, among other psychological issues. To overcome emotional trauma, a victim may require intense therapy and medications.
After an accident, a victim may also experience mental anguish, anxiety, depression, nightmares, and insomnia, among other forms of emotional distress. The emotional pain can be more severe in case the bicyclist suffers a traumatic brain injury. Suffering brain injuries may lead to cognitive difficulties, including confusion, impairment of motor functions, memory loss, and cognitive challenges.
Evaluation after a Bicycle Accident
After involvement in a bicycle accident, you may not realize some issues immediately. For instance, some injuries may take days or weeks to suffice. Even if you feel fine after a bicycle accident, it is crucial to undergo a medical check-up to confirm that you are fine.
If you hit your head during the accident, it is essential to undergo a head examination even if you do not have symptoms of injury. Many people often ignore head injuries, but the injuries are often severe. You may have suffered internal bleeding in the brain without your knowledge. Some of the common signs of head injuries include lack of consciousness, vision changes, confusion, and a cracked skull. You can tell that the bicycle accident was serious if your helmet has a crack.
A bicycling accident may also pose a risk of puncturing your lungs or breaking your ribs. If you experience trouble breathing after a bicycle accident, it is advisable to seek emergency medical services. After the accident, you should take a deep breath and see if you experience any pain while breathing. If you happen to experience some discomfort, it is advisable to make a trip to the hospital.
During a bicycle accident, you may hit the bicycle's handlebars with your stomach leading to stomach injuries. The impact of hitting the handlebars may damage some soft tissues and some organs in the abdomen. To check for abdominal injuries, you may use your hands to palpate the stomach. Notice if some areas of the stomach are more sore and tender than others. If your belly seems distended or hard in one area, it may be a cause for alarm.
If a bicycling accident victim has suffered spine and neck injuries, it is advisable to stay still until the medical services arrive. Moving a victim with neck and spinal injuries may make the injuries more severe. Signs of the neck and spinal injuries include the inability to move toes or fingers, a tingling feeling, and numbness. If the victim has issues moving the neck, it warrants an immediate visit to the medical emergency room. Moving the victim after a neck and spinal injury may pose a risk of permanent damage to the spinal cord.
It is often easy to sport external bleeding. However, bleeding may also be internal, and this is harder to detect. Some common indicators of internal bleeding include firm and distended areas on the body. Basic first aid may come in handy for external bleeding. With external bleeding, you may also require stitches or other forms of advanced treatment.
Common Causes of Bicycle Accidents
If you are a bicycling enthusiast, Florida is a perfect place for you. Florida offers perfect warm weather, which makes it enjoyable to stay outdoors. The state features countless cyclists who depend on bicycles as an alternative mode of transportation. However, despite being a haven for bikers, numerous bicycle accidents occur every year, causing severe repercussions.
Bicycle fatality rates have been rising and every year, hundreds of cyclists die in accidents. There are many causes of bicycle accidents in Florida. Some of the leading causes include:
Distracted Riding or Driving
A bicycle accident may occur if a rider is not attentive on the road or if a vehicle driver engages in distracted driving. When you are on your bike, it is advisable to keep your eyes on the road. To avoid being liable in a bicycle accident, a cyclist should avoid looking down at iPods, smartphones, and other mobile technology while riding. It is risky for a cyclist to text, email, or engage in web surfing while in motion. On the other hand, an accident may occur due to the negligence of a vehicle driver.
If a car driver is speeding, he/she may not have time to slow down and avoid hitting a cyclist in case of an emergency. Although bicycles cannot match the speed of a car, a cyclist may be liable for riding too fast, leading to a bicycle accident.
Driving too Close to Cyclists
Motorcycle accidents also occur when drivers operate their vehicles too close to cyclists. Drivers should leave ample space of at least three feet from their vehicle and the bicycle. The state of Florida requires motorists to give bicyclists ample space. Most people operating bicycles in Florida use the shoulder lanes or sidewalks. However, even by avoiding using the main highway, bicycle accidents occur right in the sidewalks. To stay safe, a bicyclist should not assume that vehicles will leave him/her ample space.
Abrupt Lane Changes
A bicycle accident may occur when a vehicle driver changes lanes abruptly without looking out for bicycle operators. On the other hand, the bicyclists have to obey traffic lights and stop signs. When turning, cyclists should use signals to warn motorists.
What Should You Do After a Bicycle Accident
The steps you take after a bicycle accident will determine the likelihood of getting compensation in Florida. Taking the right steps immediately after the accident will help you to protect your rights. Some of the important steps to take include:
- Reporting the Bicycle Accident to the Police
Even if you suffer minor injuries and minor bike damages, it is advisable to report the accident to the police. The police will record a statement regarding the accident, and this will provide valuable evidence when filing a personal injury claim. You may assume that you have not suffered injuries only to start experiencing injuries the following day. Sometimes, bicycle damage is not obvious until you take the bike for inspection at the bike shop. It is mandatory to report a bicycle accident if it involves a motor vehicle, and the resulting personal injuries and property damages exceed $500.
Even if the law does not require you to report the accident, reporting an accident to the police helps to preserve your rights. The police report will capture essential aspects of the accident, including the road conditions, weather conditions, and eyewitnesses of the accident.
- Avoid Issuing Information to the Other Party
It is advisable to avoid issuing any statement to the other party or the insurance company about how the bicycle accident occurred. It is harmless to listen to what the other party says about the occurrence of the accident. However, ensure that you keep the comments about the accident to yourself. The other party may use any statement you make about the accident against you. Even if you think that you are partly or wholly to blame for the bicycle accident, ensure that you do not apologize to the other party or give an apology. If the other party makes a statement outlining his/her fault, you should be quick to note the statement and remember it as evidence.
- Do Not Repair the Bike Before Filing a Lawsuit
If you do not suffer extreme injuries in a bicycle accident, you may be tempted to take your bicycle to a repair shop immediately after the accident. For instance, it may seem okay to fix the bicycle's handlebars and derailleur. However, ensure that you first contact your attorney and inform him/her about the accident. You may also take clear photos of the bike, capturing all the damages that occurred during the accident.
Repairing the bicycle before filing a lawsuit may compromise your legal rights. The other party or the insurance company may demand an inspection of the bicycle before paying for the damages. If you had already repaired the bicycle, it might be hard to prove that the said damages occurred. In addition to taking pictures of the bicycle at the spot of the accident, you should have the bike shop manager inspect the bike and note down the exact nature of bike damage.
You should also retain the damaged helmet, gloves, shoes, clothes, and sunglasses just like they are after the crash.
- Document Your Physical Injuries
It is advisable to document your physical injuries after the accident. Ensure that you take photos of your bruises, road rash, bumps, and scabs. It is vital to give the photos to your attorney as soon as possible. It is common for victims to preserve photos of their injuries on their phones only to lose the phone. If you have to use crutches, you should ensure that you keep some photos of yourself using the crutches. The medical report from the hospital will also help to prove that you suffered the injuries. Therefore, for any medical procedure you undergo, it is advisable to request the doctor to provide you with copies of medical records and receipts.
- Avoid Ignoring Traffic Citations
If the police issue you with a traffic citation while riding a bicycle in Florida, it is crucial to ensure that you do not pay the ticket right away. According to Florida law, if you accept and pay a ticket without contesting it, it may serve as an indication that you are guilty of the offense. You can contest the ticket or try to work out a plea without adjudication. You may contest a ticket and win. In this case, there will be no assessment of costs or fines. It is advisable to contact your attorney to help you with the ticket. To preserve your rights to contest a ticket, you have to act within thirty days from the issuance of the ticket.
Find a Clay County Personal Injury Attorney Near Me
If you or a loved one has suffered injuries in a bicycle accident in Florida, you need an attorney to fight for your rights. Clay County Personal Injury Attorney can help you seek compensation for your damages. Contact us at 904-494-8242 and speak to one of our experienced attorneys.