Modern times have blessed us with various modes of transportation, all of which empower us to travel on the roads, no matter how far our destinations may be. Although the age of cars and other public transportation vehicles has taken over the road, centuries-old methods remain. Riding a bicycle remains a famous vehicle of choice, allowing users a mode of transportation and a way to get some exercise and contribute to a cleaner environment.
Sunny Florida also compels residents to be outdoors. As a result, most people enjoy walking, surfing, and of course, cycling. Unfortunately, as with all modes of transportation, bicycles are not accident-free.
Bicycle accidents on public roads often happen and due to a variety of factors. More often than not, however, such accidents happen due to other motorists. Many cyclists end up in accidents due to unsafe lane changes, driving too close to bike lanes, turning without checking, and even engaging in other activities that deter their attention on the road.
Whether you ride your bike for daily commutes, exercise, or engage in professional cycling marathons, the possibility of suffering from bicycle accidents is a reality you continuously face. Although you’re protected and granted the same rights and privileges as drivers under Florida law, you may still end up feeling lesser than other drivers. This is mainly because of the treatment you experience on the road, as most drivers leave you with no room to spare, putting you in dangerous situations you cannot control. Before you know it, you’ve crashed your bicycle.
If you find yourself injured after an accident, seeking financial compensation is crucial to your predicament. It will help you recover fully, especially if you end up in life-altering circumstances. Traumatic injuries can be costly in terms of treatment plans and medications. Still, they can also lead to lifelong suffering, such as chronic pain, limited movability, and of course, other forms of losses.
To seek and achieve compensation for your suffering and damages, however, it’s vital first to understand the cause of the accident. You’ll also need a personal injury attorney by your side, as with extra knowledge about bicycle accidents.
For this reason, we’ve come up with a comprehensive guide for you, curated by the best of our lawyers. May this help you gain the justice you deserve, as well as understand everything you need to know about dealing with bicycle accidents. Let’s begin.
What are the most common causes of bicycle accidents?
Bicycle accidents happen due to various factors, and knowing the actual cause of the accident can help determine the outcome of legal cases and insurance claims. If a motorist is the cause of the bicycle accident, you need sufficient proof that they are liable for the losses.
To do so, you must determine what caused the accident. With that in mind, here are some of the most common causes of bicycle accidents:
Cause #1: Motorists engaging in distracted driving
One of the most common causes of road accidents, including bicycle accidents, is distracted driving. Distracted driving takes the driver’s attention off the road and the surroundings, resulting in dangerous or even fatal consequences. It is a highly avoidable situation, but neglectful drivers still engage in this dangerous activity and often can be involved in road accidents.
Distracted driving isn’t just limited to using mobile phones while driving. It could also include tinkering with their GPS, being too engaged in conversations with the passengers, and other activities that can take their eyes and focus off the road.
Cause #2: Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
It’s no secret that driving under the influence is a dangerous activity, and drivers who engage in this risky behavior put themselves and others in great danger. Alcohol and other psychoactive drugs, illicit or otherwise, can significantly impair a driver’s judgment and coordination. This often leads to risky decisions, distorted thinking, and loss of control, all of which make the roads a more dangerous place for cyclists and drivers alike.
Cause #3: Drivers weaving through different lanes or making unsafe lane changes
If motorists erratically weave through different lanes, they’re more prone to colliding with cyclists. This is because they’re unlikely to expect and see cyclists sharing the road with them and are unlikely to engage in evasive maneuvers. Moreover, the drivers who weave through traffic are more unpredictable and often drive in bike lanes and shoulders to avoid traffic.
Unsafe lane changes can also lead to similar problems. This behavior is expected when overtaking other vehicles, and some motorists tend to drive into bicycle lanes without checking if the route is clear. As a result, they may collide with cyclists in the street. In most areas, the driver must watch out for cyclists before making turns.
Cause #4: Motorists driving too fast
Some drivers tend to get careless and drive too fast, posing a significant risk to bicycle riders. When motorists drive too fast, they have less time to make decisions and evasive maneuvers to avoid collisions. As a result, fast drivers often get involved in high-speed accidents, which tend to be fatal or life-threatening.
Cause #5: Drivers ignoring traffic signals and markers
Traffic signals and markers exist for a reason — they guide drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians and make the roads safer for everyone. Ignoring these traffic signals can lead to catastrophic situations.
For example, running red lights and stop signs can cause intersection accidents because of the behavior’s unpredictability. By doing so, drivers may collide with cyclists who have the right of way. Making illegal turns on certain roads can also result in similar accidents.
Cause #6: Motorists driving too close to cyclists
Drivers must always keep an adequate distance between their vehicles and other vehicles on the road, especially cyclists. It’s recommended that drivers keep a distance of three feet or more when passing cyclists. If motorists drive too close to cyclists, they’re more likely to collide with them and leave less room for both of them to maneuver into safety.
Cause #7: Not yielding to oncoming traffic
In some intersections, roundabouts, and other roads, drivers must yield to oncoming traffic, including bicycle traffic. Failing to do so is a reckless activity that can lead to collisions with bicycle riders.
Cause #8: Driving while under fatigue
If motorists drive while tired, they’re susceptible to impairments similar to those driving under the influence. Driving while fatigued or exhausted can make motorists susceptible to poor decision-making, slower reaction times, and even falling asleep behind the wheel. These conditions can also bring significant dangers on the road.
What should I do after a bicycle accident?
Section 1: If you’re the cyclist
As previously mentioned, riding a bicycle can essentially mean that crashes and collisions can occur. Your brakes may suddenly fail, or you can hit a curb that may have previously been invisible. However, bear in mind that even more, dangerous events can happen, such as getting injured due to a reckless driver.
Should the dreaded event occur, ensure that you do not have any significant injuries before attempting to get up. You need to ensure that all your limbs remain attached, with fingers and toes still attached. Your vision shouldn’t be blurry or in any way compromised, either—and should things feel and look good, move to a safe spot. It would be best if you were off the road and away from others before conducting the following steps:
Step 1: Take things slow
You may be completely fine trying to get up, but your body may very well be running on adrenaline. As a result, you may end up crumpling after some time, so the best thing to do is take your time.
You don’t need to jump on your bike as soon as you feel fine. Make sure to dedicate some time assessing the damage, perhaps even letting other people call an ambulance for help. Any semblance of pain should be dealt with immediately—remember that not all wounds bleed from open cuts. Follow this list to help:
- First aid duties: Before getting up, check your body. You need to feel all your limbs and bones, especially if there is a presence of blood. Should you find yourself bleeding from somewhere or a specific part hurts, don’t risk moving too much. Immediately call for medical attention—you don’t want to inflict further damage upon yourself.
- The presence of a concussion: Trying to figure out if you have a concussion can be difficult, especially since the effects don’t always happen right away. However, if you wish to know if you’re suffering from a concussion, check if you’ve bent or cracked your helmet. More often than not, this is a telltale sign that you have injured your head. You may also end up confused and disoriented, so make sure to get off the road.
Step 2: Assess your damaged gear
If you find that your body is okay (just bruises and minor cuts) and in no immediate danger, it’s time for the second step—assessing your bicycle. Your bicycle may look scratched and slightly dented due to the accident, but make sure to evaluate it for the following before attempting to ride once more:
- Check your wheels: Your wheels will likely have absorbed much of the damage and will essentially be the item easy to diagnose. Regardless of how you’ve crashed on the road, make sure that your tires can still hold air. There should be no damaged spokes poking out, and your brakes even in working order.
- Assess your components: After ensuring that your wheels are alright, shift your attention to the shifters and brake levers. You’ll likely need to push these items back in place.
Failure to do so will make your lever challenging to grab, leading you into worse situations. Make sure to check for any damaged derailleur hangers, as this can easily snap with a wrong move. Your chains can also end up being jammed or, worse, destroyed. Your saddle also needs to be checked thoroughly before use to ensure it’s still attached to the bike.
Step 3: Document everything
After assessing your body and bicycle, it’s time to direct your attention to the matter at hand—the culprit to the accident, and everything you need to gather to establish a case. You’ll want to collect photographs and videos of what happened, including the accident scene. Doing so will help you provide accurate information regarding the extent of damage, including your bicycle and other items involved.
Make sure to take photos using your mobile phone or digital camera, all of which should contain any skid marks, your bicycle’s state, wounds, and other information you can use to pursue a claim or personal injury case. If possible, ask willing witnesses to be interviewed on camera.
How can you decrease your accident risk?
Although bicycle accidents may indeed seem nearly inevitable, there are specific ways you can decrease the risk of getting entangled in one. Here are some tips to take into consideration:
- Wear a helmet. It may seem straightforward enough, but wearing a helmet is the simplest yet most effective way to protect yourself from head injuries. Ensuring that you’re using the right type is also crucial as this will also help protect your face, neck, and the rest of your head from any traumatic injuries.
- Make sure you can be seen—make a spectacle. Unfortunately, most bicycle accidents happen due to other drivers failing to see or notice bicycles. To counter this problem, make sure to increase your visibility on the road. Install lights on the front and back of your bike. You can also opt to reflect on various areas of your bicycle, including the tires and pedals. Finally, opt to wear brightly colored clothing if you can wear reflective gear, even better. This helps you stay safe on the road, especially if you have no choice but to ride at night.
- Never engage in drinking and cycling. Although it may be tempting to do so, driving while intoxicated is never ideal. Keep in mind that you’ll still be experiencing the same impairments as drunk drivers, even if you’re only riding a bicycle. You’ll have changes in reaction time, vision, and even depth perception, ultimately causing you to fall into an accident.
- Stay prepared. As a cyclist, you must remain ready for everything, including accidents. You’ll want to ensure that you have all the necessary bicycle tools, including basic first aid supplies. You’ll also need a bottle of solutions that cleans wounds, as well as dressings. Finally, make sure you have emergency contact details with you at all times.
Section 2: If you’re another cyclist seeing another injured rider
Dealing with an accident as a victim is one thing, but quite another if you’re an outsider who has witnessed a bicycle accident. Should you come across someone who has been injured due to an unfortunate accident, make sure to remember the following steps below for proper guidance:
Step 1: Assess the situation for any dangers
Before proceeding to check on the injured person, make sure first to analyze the situation. You need to ensure that the scene is no longer a danger to you and the injured person. If you’re on the road with oncoming traffic, for instance, understand that more accidents can occur, potentially having cars run over the scene.
Leave your vehicle at a safe location, particularly near the scene, to protect the person from further problems. Once this is done, slowly control the traffic by placing lights or other devices to ensure that passing motorists know that something is wrong.
If any of these are not doable, it’s best to move the injured person into a safe location. However, do understand that there is a caveat to this option. Moving an injured person can be tricky, significantly, since you can potentially worsen their situation. However, if the circumstances call for it, make sure to immobilize the spine from head to toe before attempting to move.
Step 2: Call for immediate medical assistance
Should the person end up with serious injuries, make sure to call 911 immediately. You’ll also want to get the law enforcement authorities involved, mainly if the accident was caused by another vehicle or motorist. Once you’ve dialed all the necessary people, direct your attention to the injured person once more.
Check to see if they are conscious, which is usually a good sign. Unconsciousness can imply more severe injuries, so make sure to stop moving the person. It’s essential to make sure that the spinal support is intact—head to toe must be immobilized at all times to prevent further injury.
Make sure to check their airway for any obstructions, which can include gums and broken dentures. Should you find, any items obstructing their mouths, remove them immediately. You need to ensure that they have a pulse, with the breathing process occurring without fail. If they are not breathing, you may need to perform Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) until the authorities arrive.
Step 3: Help obtain documentary evidence
Once the police arrive and the medical staff takes over, continue helping the victim by documenting the scene. They’ll likely be unable to collect photographs and videos of the accident scene, so have a look around and take pictures of everything that may be relevant. This should include the damaged bicycle, skid marks, the person’s injuries, and other witnesses willing to speak about the incident, including yourself.
Make sure to track down the victim as soon as you can and hand over everything you’ve collected. This will help them pursue a personal injury case in the future, allowing them to claim damages for the suffering they’ve gone through.
Who should be held liable after a bicycle accident?
Although the idea of analyzing a bicycle accident seems straightforward enough, understand that liability for such accidents depends on two factors: the cause of the accident and who is at fault. Bicycle accidents could be traced through any of the following situations:
The driver of the vehicle has caused the accident. Should this happen, the cyclist will be encouraged to file a claim against the driver’s insurance company.
The road was in poor shape. Suppose the highways end up being under construction, and the bicyclist suffered from an accident due to the poor conditions. In that case, they will have the liberty to file a claim against the agencies responsible for the road redesign or maintenance project.
The bicycle was poorly designed or repaired. Should this be the case, the cyclist will have the power to sue the people behind the manufacturing or repairing of the bicycle in question, under the claim of negligence.
A pedestrian or another cyclist caused the accident. Should it be proven that other people have violated the cyclist’s right-of-way, filing, a claim or case against them is highly possible.
How do you properly determine liability in bicycle accidents?
Should the cyclist be held responsible for the accident, understand that collecting any claims or damages will be virtually impossible. This is how the personal injury legal system works, even if you know that the other party is indeed at fault. In the worst-case scenario, you will be asked to pay for the driver’s damages and other people affected by the accident.
Should faults be determined on both ends of the party (the cyclist and the driver), you will be looking at a shared responsibility. In such instances, you may receive damages at a diminished rate, which will be determined by the rules of comparative negligence. Although this will vary per state law, you will still be entitled to receive compensation for the degree where the other party is at fault.
However, liability can also fall entirely upon the driver, especially if the evidence against him or her is compelling. For this reason, it’s always essential to gather enough evidence, mainly photographs and videos depicting what has transpired and the aftermath of such damages.
Other liability considerations: bicycle accidents about children
Should your child be involved in a bicycle accident, understand that this can lead to even more significant repercussions. Drivers on the road are expected to show a more considerable duty of care, which can sometimes be referred to as exceptional care. This should be present whenever child cyclists are riding, or perhaps in areas where children are likely to be around, especially around playgrounds and schools.
This should be followed even if there are no children around, especially since the law recognizes that reasonable care encompasses more than just caring for children—it should contain keeping them safe at all times, especially as cyclists. Bear in mind that the law holds children at a lower standard of conduct than adult cyclists, as they are deemed incapable of responsibility for making decisions.
For this reason, any driver who has caused a bicycle accident will be held liable. The law weighs heavily on the side of young cyclists, so you will be able to obtain reasonable claims for damages.
How do you win a bicycle accident lawsuit?
Bicycle accident lawsuits are essentially treated as personal injury cases. In other words, they work just like any lawsuit. You’ll be deemed as the plaintiff, and the burden of proof will be placed upon you. You need to provide necessary evidence against the defendant, which shall be the person who has caused you injury. Negligence must be proven, which can be done so by ensuring you’ve gathered enough to satisfy the four elements:
- That there is a duty of care
- That there has been a breach of duty of care
- That there has been harm
- That the harm was done due to negligence caused by the defendant
Here, you need to prove that the defendant has a duty to you, driving safely and respecting other drivers on the road, including cyclists. You must then state that they have breached this duty of care and that you have suffered some harm due to that negligence.
This could pertain to either a personal injury or damaged property, which can also pertain to your bicycle. Such harm has then happened as a direct result of that breach of duty, which satisfies the element of causation.
In some cases, however, you can prove that the defendant has violated a traffic law, and this will be enough evidence to prove negligence in court. Demonstrate that the violation has indeed caused you the injury, and they’ll likely be convicted of their actions. This is a legal standard known as negligence per se, saving you from gathering proof to satisfy the four negligence elements.
The Florida Context: Understanding bicycle accidents in Florida
When should a bicyclist be liable for a crash in Florida?
Although statistics will show a grim number of accidents in Florida, understanding who is at fault can be challenging to do. Bicycle accidents occur mostly due to drivers and motorists, but Florida state laws recognize that bicyclists may indeed cause accidents.
For this reason, they are required to follow all traffic laws and must operate their bicycles as safely as possible. In an attempt to fully understand what the rules convey, here are some of the most crucial ones all cyclists must follow at all times:
- Riding in the same direction or flow of traffic
- Staying in the bicycle lane at all times, or the close to the edge of the road as possible
- Always allowing the person, be it a pedestrian, cyclist, or vehicle driver, the right-of-way to avoid unprecedented accidents
Florida’s Law System In The Event Of An Accident
Understanding the legal rights of bicyclists and motorcyclists
In the event of bicycle accidents in Florida, the laws recognize that all bicyclists have the same rights as pedestrians. For this reason, drivers are expected to proceed on the highways with extreme caution, ensuring that they always remain aware of cyclists and pedestrians while driving. This helps them avoid the incident of any unprecedented accidents, and of course, further escalation to lawsuit cases.
Florida’s no-fault insurance laws
Most vehicular accidents involve insurance claims. In Florida state, a no-fault insurance system is always followed. This essentially means that anyone who has been involved in a motor accident, regardless of the vehicle involved, will be entitled to compensation. This should encompass all the medical expenses and lost income, all processed through personal insurance policies.
Cyclists injured in bicycle accidents will be able to file for coverage claims, topped with the help of a personal injury lawsuit. This is especially helpful should injuries reach the level of “serious,” which encompasses the following physical harm:
- Disfigurement, but incredibly significant ones
- Permanent damage to a body organ or member, which effectively limits its functions
- Painful bone fractures
- Full disability for 90 days and beyond
Enlisting The Help Of An Experienced And Knowledgeable Bicycle Accident Attorney In Florida
From everything said and discussed, the aftermath of all bicycle accidents are almost always gruesome. There are outer layers of complexities victims are expected to sift through and overcome, which can be challenges that could seem almost impossible to overcome. Injured cyclists are given the burden of collecting proof and other necessary information, which can further impede their recovery process.
Should it happen to you, understand that it will be a stressful time, especially since you’ll be thrust into a period of worry and uncertainty. There will also be financial constraints, which include diagnostic tests, medications, the use of equipment, and other medical costs associated with your recovery.
For this reason, it’s always best to seek the help of an experienced attorney for advice. They’ll also be able to help you make sense of the law and other necessary details and will defend you once you decide to pursue a lawsuit.
Shiner Law Group offers you the opportunity to work with the best bicycle accident attorney dedicated to helping you achieve the justice you deserve. Allow us to fight for your rights while you focus on recovery. Book a free consultation with a lawyer today.