With high gas prices and growing concerns about the environment and personal fitness, many people have dusted off their bicycles as a mode of transportation and recreation. Bikes are easy to ride. They are thin and slender, making it easier to weave through traffic and to get from point A to point B relatively quickly — sometimes even faster than driving or taking a bus. There are also many high quality bikes that are designed to be ridden in all types of weather, including in the winter. However, bike riding does carry dangers. Bicyclists that are involved in traffic accidents are often seriously injured or killed. So the benefits of biking are best enjoyed by also paying attention to what could go wrong and taking whatever steps you can to stay safe.
Preventing bike accidents
The most serious bicycle accidents involve motor vehicles, not other cyclists or pedestrians. So when there is a choice to take a bike path rather than a road you must share with motorists, that is a choice you should make. It is also important to wear a helmet, more than 70% of bicycle accidents involve head injuries. When riding on a street shared with motor vehicles, stay near the shoulder or ride in designated bike lanes. While most bike accidents actually happen in the daytime, it is important also to use the proper reflectors and lights on your bike in order to make it easier for motorists to see you if you are riding at night.
The Good News About Bike Accidents
Nationwide, 618 cyclists were killed in traffic accidents in 2010. This was down from 786 fatalities in 2005. Philadelphia, specifically, has also seen a drop in bike accidents even though there are actually more people riding their bikes. In 1998, there were 1,040 crashes involving bikes, and by 2010 the number had been practically cut in half with 553 accidents. It is theorized that with more bikes, drivers are more watchful and the city is encouraging even more cycling by creating more bike lanes. The goal is to more than double the percentage of cyclists by 2020, and reduce fatalities and injuries by another 50%.
When Accidents Happen
If all this comes to fruition, it will be wonderful. But even when precautions are taken, bicycle accidents still happen in Philadelphia. Those who are involved in bike accidents need to know their rights. There are many more situations where a personal injury attorney should be called than some people think. For example, a cyclist does not actually need to be struck by a car to file a claim. Often, a cyclist will not be hit, but will need to make a sudden turn or fall when trying to stay out of the way.
Some may think that getting a driver’s insurance information is enough, but generally insurance companies don’t pay accident victims what they are due without a little bit of kicking and screaming. This is why getting a personal injury attorney or wrongful death attorney on your side as soon as possible after an accident occurs. If possible, you should even contact an attorney from the actual accident scene, and you should talk to a lawyer before an insurance adjuster.
It’s human nature for people to say they are “fine” when they may actually have injuries that will make a bigger impact on their lives and health than they realize. Initial consultations are free most of the time, so there’s nothing to lose by reaching out to an attorney, and the result could very well mean a bigger, more appropriate settlement than what an insurance company would offer on their own. Attorneys with experience dealing with bike accidents remember potential expenses such as wage loss, decrease in earning potential, and long term medical care that an insurance company might conveniently forget.
What are some common defenses at-fault drivers use in bicycle accident claims?
At-fault drivers accused of causing serious injuries in Pennsylvania bicycle accident claims will try to avoid or minimize their liability. Pennsylvania follows a modified comparative negligence model in bicycle accident claims. This means that the amount of damages an injured accident victim is entitled to will be reduced by an amount that is proportionate to the victim’s own negligence.
For example, if an accident victim is found to be 30 percent responsible for the accident, and the claim is initially worth $100,000, the victim’s damages will be reduced by $30,000.
It is not surprising, therefore, that many at-fault drivers try to assign blame to the bicyclist.
Common defenses to bicycle accident claims include:
- The bicyclist was not wearing a helmet and was legally required to do so (in Pennsylvania, bicyclists under 12 years of age must wear a helmet)
- The bicyclist failed to yield the right of way
- The bicyclist was not using required safety equipment (such as a front lamp and reflectors at nighttime)
- The bicyclist was traveling in an area that prohibits bicycles (such as sidewalks in certain areas)
Experienced Pennsylvania bicycle accident attorneys are able to fight these defenses and show that the injured victim was not responsible for the crash.
How long do I have to file a bicycle accident claim?
All legal claims must be filed within the applicable statute of limitations. The statute of limitations is a deadline that limits how long potential claimants have to file their cases.
For bicycle accidents in Pennsylvania, the statute of limitations is generally two years from the date of the accident.
If an accident victim fails to file a claim before the statute of limitations has expired, the accident victim will likely be barred from ever filing a claim. The accident victim will be responsible for all medical expenses, lost wages, and other losses, even if the victim was not at fault for the accident.
What are some of the most common bicycle accident injuries?
In the United States, around half a million people are injured in bicycle accidents every year. Some of the most frequently-cited injuries include:
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Other head injuries
- Cuts and lacerations
- Broken bones
- Spinal cord injuries
- Joint injuries
If you were injured in a bicycle accident due to the negligence of another person, you may be able to file a claim to recover the cost of your medical bills and other expenses.
I was injured by a hit-and-run driver. Now what?
If you are unable to identify the driver responsible for your bicycle accident case, you are not without legal recourse.
For example, you may be able to use coverage from your own insurance policy. If you have uninsured motorist coverage, you will be able to file a claim for your losses. In Pennsylvania, those injured by hit-and-run drivers may use their uninsured motorist coverage to pay medical bills, property damage, and other expenses.
You should seek legal advice as soon as possible if you were injured in a hit-and-run bicycle accident.
Do I need an attorney in a bicycle accident claim?
It is always best to have the advice and guidance of an experienced Pennsylvania personal injury attorney in an accident claim.
Hiring an attorney allows you to focus on recovering from your injuries while your claim is being handled. Rather than trying to identify and meet deadlines and gathering evidence, you may rest at home and regain your strength.
There are numerous legal requirements that must be met to prevail in a Pennsylvania bicycle accident claim. Experienced bicycle accident attorneys have a network of experts they may consult to strengthen your claim. In addition, they know what types of evidence need to be submitted in your case–and how to obtain that evidence.
However, time is limited in bicycle accident claims, so do not delay in seeking legal advice.
An Expert on Your Side
In recent years, Pennsylvania has enacted laws that involve cyclists, and cycling accidents. Not all regulations are common knowledge, so working with bicycle accident attorneys that have access to these regulations can do wonders when it comes to building your case.
Because they are lawyers, and likely know the law better than you, they can help you work with police in cases of hit and run drivers or any other situation that presents itself at the auto accident site. They can help you get statements from witnesses in order to build your case.
If you or someone you know has been injured in a bicycle accident, or if you ride your bike often, knowing who to call in the case of an accident is important information. Keep us in mind, and we’ll be there to help keep you protected.
by Rob Boudon