Bike accidents are common and often severe. According to the CDC, over 467,000 bike accidents occur each year, and more than 1,000 people die from the injuries that result.
Despite these concerning stats, bike accidents are chronically unaddressed by the court system. In many cases, injured plaintiffs don’t realize that they have an actionable claim under the law.
If you’ve been harmed in a bike accident, it’s important to have a professional personal injury attorney to assess your claim and represent your interests. After all, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries.
How Much Is My Case Worth?
The amount of compensation you’re entitled to recover depends on the unique circumstances of your case. As each case varies, the compensation can vary quite a bit, too.
That being said, the following numbers are reasonable estimates for most “simple” bike accident cases that end in a quick settlement with the insurance company:
These numbers should be seen as a baseline. Generally speaking, a case’s value goes up the more damages that you can claim. Damages are “losses” associated with the injury at-issue.
For example, if you earn $50,000 per year, and you are injured in a bike accident that renders you incapable of working for a year, then your wage loss damages would be worth $50,000. If you have the medical expenses worth $50,000 and then additional pain and suffering damages worth $50,000, then you could arguably seek up to $150,000 in compensation.
Skilled attorneys know how to work up a case to maximize compensation. Bike accident cases are often advantageous for maximizing compensation, as the damages tend to be high (bikes offer riders minimal protection against vehicle collisions).
Help! I’ve Just Had A Bike Accident
After an injury-causing bike accident, you may be confused or even overwhelmed by the events that follow. It can be difficult to understand what you “should” be doing to preserve your legal rights.
For example, the defendant may try to exchange insurance information and encourage you not to call the police. Do not agree to this. It’s always in your best interest to dial 911 and speak to medical professionals and law enforcement officers. This is important, no matter how minor the accident may seem at first glance.
Bike accidents are a leading cause of “soft tissue” injuries. Your body may be in a state of shock, and with so much adrenaline coursing through your body, this can mask your ability to detect injuries.
Emergency medical providers are trained to detect injuries at the scene of an accident and refer you to an emergency room for x-rays (which may spot hairline fractures and other nerve damage from an accident). Some of these injuries may require ongoing aftercare. Documenting physical and mental health issues you suffer after an accident is an important piece of the legal puzzle — it can help your bike accident lawyer prepare a strong case on your behalf.
Quick legal tip: limit your communications with other parties until and unless you have hired a bike accident lawyer. Certain things that you disclose can be construed as an admission of guilt.
Common Bike Accident Laws
While each state will have slightly different regulations, there are many common motorcycle and bicycle accident laws that riders should be aware of. Your bike accident attorney can help you determine whether you were following the law or not while traveling, as well as help you recover damages you may be entitled to.
The most common thread of bike laws is the “side of the road” rules, which require bicyclists to ride on the far right side of the road, or in a designated bike lane. While cyclists have just as much right to city roadways as vehicle drivers, there are some common-sense reasons behind these laws; chiefly to promote cyclist safety. However, while cyclists who both wish to follow the law and protect themselves will follow these guidelines, it often leaves them open to several common causes of bike accidents, which we explain in the next section.
However, there are circumstances where a bicyclist may legally leave the bike lane or the side of the road:
- If the lane is too narrow to accommodate passing cars
- If you’re able to ride fast enough to keep up with traffic
- In order to avoid road hazards, such as potholes or debris
- Making a left-hand turn
Motor vehicles are also required to give cyclists plenty of space when sharing a lane or passing. Three feet is the generally accepted distance, but this can be difficult when lanes are narrow, or for drivers of larger SUVs, semi-trucks, and buses. In addition, since cyclists and motorcycles have just as much right to the road as vehicle drivers, drivers are required to wait to pass until it’s safe to do so. The driver may need to slow down, change lanes, or otherwise accommodate the cyclists. Aside from moving to the far right-hand side of the road, cyclists don’t have an obligation to get out of the way of other drivers (emergency vehicles excepted).
Because there is some gray area about how far over a cyclist should have been after a vehicle collision, it’s important to have the police file an accident report and to hire a bike accident lawyer to help you claim that you were abiding by the law.
The Most Common Causes Of Bike Accidents
Bike accidents can be caused by any number of factors, and the degree to which you’ve been injured depends on the circumstances.
Common Causes Of Bike Accidents Include:
Swerving to avoid a pedestrian
Doing this can send the rider into the path of oncoming traffic.
Stopping at an intersection suddenly
If the driver behind you does not stop, this can lead to a serious rear-end collision.
These can occur when a biker going straight through an intersection collides with someone turning left.
“Right Hook” collisions
Where a car turning right crosses the bike lane and crashes into the cyclist. Sometimes, drivers may not signal their intentions, which can make it difficult for a cyclist to avoid the turning vehicle.
When a driver or passenger opens a door from a parked vehicle without checking to see if a cyclist is coming from behind, this can lead to sudden and unavoidable collisions.
Generally speaking, bike accidents occur because drivers are not “paying enough attention” to the presence of cyclists on the roadways. Drivers often forget that there may be cyclists around, and so they operate their vehicles dangerously — giving rise to a glut of bike accidents.
Bike Accident FAQs
Do I need a lawyer after a bike accident?
Yes! Even if you believe that you were partially at-fault for the accident, you need an attorney to protect your interests and evaluate the case. Your attorney will handle a number of responsibilities, from investigating the facts of the accident, to gathering evidence and filling your claims. When appropriate, a settlement will be negotiated with the defendant. If that is not possible, then further litigation can be pursued.
What if I contributed to the accident?
If you contributed to the accident in any way — for example, perhaps you suspect that a bent wheel on your bike helped to cause the collision, you should still speak with a lawyer.
Your “fault contribution” is likely not the only cause of the accident.
In most states, including California and Florida, an injured plaintiff may pursue litigation and obtain compensation even if they were partially at-fault for the accident. The court will simply evaluate the percentage of fault that each party is responsible for, and the damages will be altered accordingly.
For example, suppose that you’re injured in a bike accident where the court finds that you’re 30 percent at-fault. Your total damages claim is $100,000. Modified by your fault contribution (minus 30 percent), you would be entitled to recover $70,000. Not too shabby!
How much will a lawyer cost?
Personal injury lawyers typically work on a contingency basis, which means they don’t get paid unless they successfully settle your case (or obtain compensation through a courtroom win).
Contingency fees put the burden on the attorney to cover all your up-front costs and expenses: medical fees, expert fees, costs for investigation, and more. You pay nothing out-of-pocket.
If and when the case is resolved in your favor, the attorney will then take a “cut” of the final result. This percentage may vary, so you’ll want to speak with your attorney about this in more detail.
Contingency fees have a positive impact on litigation. As your attorney has to front all your costs, and only gets paid if you “win,” they are incentivized to resolve your case efficiently and to maximize your overall compensation. The more you get paid, the more your attorney gets paid, too.