Bicycling is a great way to get exercise, enjoy the outdoors, and commute to work or school. However, it’s important to be aware of the dangers of sharing the road with motor vehicles.
Unfortunately, recovering compensation after a bicycle accident can be challenging. If you or somebody you love has been injured in a bicycle crash caused by the negligent actions of another party, please reach out to an attorney as soon as possible. At GOLDLAW, we are here to help if you need a Port St. Lucie bicycle accident attorney by your side.
Common Causes of Bicycle Accidents
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration, each year approximately 850 bicyclists die, and another 47,000 are injured in roadway crashes. The most common type of bicycle accident is a collision with a motor vehicle.
Unfortunately, bicycle accidents are often caused by the careless or negligent actions of other drivers on the roadway. Some of the most common ways that bicycle accidents are caused by other drivers include the following:
- Distracted driving: Drivers operating while distracted by their phones or anything else in the vehicle are much more likely to collide with others, including bicyclists. This is especially true because bicycles take up less visual space, thus making it less likely a driver will see them if they are distracted.
- Driving while impaired: Drivers impaired by alcohol or drugs are dangerous on Florida roadways, especially for vulnerable roadway users such as bicyclists. Drivers impaired by alcohol or drugs will react slower to dangerous conditions and may not even see a bicyclist at all.
- Failure to yield: Drivers must yield the right of way to bicyclists just like they have to yield to other vehicles. For all intents and purposes, Florida law treats bicycles as vehicles, so drivers must yield the right of way appropriately at intersections, stop signs, and on the roadway itself.
- Tailgating: Following other vehicles or bicycles too closely could lead to a dangerous rear-end collision. Bicyclists who get rear-ended by vehicles often sustain severe injuries, including whiplash, spinal cord trauma, and more.
- Speeding: Speeding is the leading cause of vehicle accidents across the state of Florida year after year. Unfortunately, drivers operating too fast for conditions could cause catastrophic injuries for a bicyclist in the event a collision occurs.
Other common causes of bicycle accidents include:
Dooring: When a driver or passenger in a parked car opens their door without first checking for oncoming traffic, they may “door” a passing cyclist. This can cause cyclists to be thrown off their bikes and suffer serious injuries.
Road Hazards: Potholes, sewer grates, debris, and cracked pavement can cause cyclists to lose control of their bikes and crash.
Wrong-Way Riding: Cyclists who ride against traffic are more likely to be involved in collisions because drivers aren’t expecting them and may not be able to avoid them in time.
Who Is Liable in a Bicycle Accident?
If you were hit by a car while riding your bicycle, there are several parties who could be held liable:
The Driver of the Vehicle
The first potential defendant is the driver of the vehicle. If the driver was negligent in operating the car, they could be responsible for damages resulting from the accident. To prove negligence, you must show that the driver owed you a duty of care, breached that duty, and caused you to suffer damages due to the breach.
For example, all drivers must operate their vehicles in a reasonably safe way. If a driver breaches that duty by texting while driving and hits a bicyclist, then the driver may be held liable for any injuries or damages caused by the accident.
The Owner of The Vehicle
The second potential defendant is the owner of the vehicle. Even if someone else was driving the vehicle at the time of the accident, under certain circumstances, the owner might still be liable for any resulting damages. For example, if an owner lends their car to someone they know is not a licensed driver, and that unlicensed driver gets into an accident with a bicyclist, courts have found that the owner can be held vicariously liable.
In Florida, the owner of a car might be held liable even if they had no reason to believe the person they lent the car to would cause harm to someone else.
Another potential defendant is the municipality where the accident occurred. If there is poor lighting or signage at an intersection which contributed to the accident, the city may be liable for the existence of such poor conditions. Additionally, they could be responsible if a hazardous condition on public property (such as potholes) caused the accident.
Compensation Available After a Bicycle Crash
The no-fault insurance law in Florida does have major implications for bicycle accidents and the process of recovering compensation in the aftermath. No-fault laws can limit the legal action that a victim is able to take against an at-fault party.
In Florida, all drivers are required to carry what is known as personal injury protection (PIP) insurance, often referred to as no-fault insurance. This type of insurance means that individuals turn to their own insurance carrier for compensation, regardless of who was at-fault for the incident. Even an injured bicyclist must file a claim under their own auto insurance policy in order to recover compensation. This compensation includes:
- 80% of reasonable medical expenses. This includes doctor visits, X-rays, surgical intervention, rehabilitative services, physical therapy and rehabilitation, prescription medications, ambulance services, and more.
- 60% of lost wages if an individual is unable to work while they recover from their injuries.
- Coverage of replacement services, including lawn care, housekeeping, babysitting, etc.
However, it is not uncommon for bicyclists to not have an auto insurance policy. Bicyclists do not have to have auto insurance in order to operate a bicycle in the state, so what happens to bicyclists in these situations?
In the event a bicyclist does not have vehicle insurance, Florida law allows the cyclist to file a claim against the at-fault driver’s vehicle insurance policy. In these situations, the injured bicyclist may be able to recover compensation for their property damage, bodily injuries, and other losses.
If an injured bicyclist does have no-fault insurance of their own, they still may be able to file a claim against the at-fault driver under certain circumstances. Under Florida’s no-fault law, claims can be filed outside of the no-fault system if the injury victim has sustained significant injuries, including injuries that cause major scarring, disfigurement, or loss of a bodily function.
Because bicyclists are considered vulnerable roadway users and lack many of the safety features that shield them from injury, even a seemingly minor bicycle accident could lead to major injuries and give rise to a bicyclist filing a claim against the other driver.
Steps You Can Take to Bolster Your Bicycle Accident Claim
There are various steps individuals can take if they have been injured in a bicycle crash in Port St. Lucie. This includes, but is not limited to, the following:
- Prompt medical treatment. Regardless of the severity of the incident, bicyclists need to seek medical care as soon as possible. Sometimes, bicycle accident injury signs and symptoms do not appear for hours or even days after the initial incident, but early medical treatment can help intervene and locate hidden injuries. Additionally, seeking prompt medical treatment helps establish a good link between the incident and any injuries that do arise.
- Reporting to law enforcement. Law enforcement officials do need to come to the scene of a bicycle accident in order to conduct an investigation and fill out an accident report. The police will often note in the report who they think was responsible for the incident, and the report will be necessary when filing insurance claims.
- Gathering evidence. It may be possible to gather evidence at the scene of any bicycle accident, but this should only be done if the area is safe and if injuries are not severe. Individuals can use cell phones to take photographs of damages, injuries, possible causes of the incident, debris, and more.
- Consultation with an attorney. Bicycle accident victims should speak to an attorney fairly soon after the crash occurs. The earlier a Port St. Lucie personal injury attorney gets involved, the better. A lawyer can begin investigating the incident and gathering evidence before any evidence can get destroyed or discarded. Additionally, a bicycle accident lawyer will handle all communication with other parties, including the insurance carriers.
- Report the incident to insurance. Regardless of who files the insurance claim, whether that is you or your attorney, it must be done quickly. Insurance carriers have relatively quick reporting deadlines, which means reporting more than a day or two after the incident occurs could lead to a claim delay or denial.
Why Hire GOLDLAW For Your Florida Bicycle Accident Claim?
At GOLDLAW, we understand that no two cases are alike. That’s why we offer our clients personalized attention and tailored legal strategies. When you hire us, you can expect the following:
- A Free Case Evaluation: During your initial consultation, we’ll review your case and explain your legal options. This consultation is free, and there’s no obligation to hire us after it’s over.
- No Upfront Costs: We work on a contingency basis. If we don’t win, you don’t pay. It’s as simple as that.
- Aggressive Pursuit of Compensation: We understand the financial burden an injury can place on a family—that’s why we fight hard to get our clients the maximum compensation they deserve under the law. You can rest assured knowing that we have your best interests at heart every step of the way.
Contact us today to schedule your free consultation.