Because of increased urban congestion and the current recognition that exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle, more and more people are using bicycles, not only as a form of recreation, but as a means of transportation, including commutation. In addition, public bicycles have become available for rental in many cities and towns throughout the nation, adding to the number of bicycles on the road. Unfortunately, more bicycles inevitably results in more bicycle accidents. Clearly, when bicyclists collide with larger, faster vehicles, they are at a distinct disadvantage, and more likely to sustain serious, even fatal injuries.
If you have been seriously injured, or lost a loved one, in a bicycle accident, it is essential that you contact a competent personal injury attorney who can help you understand your options. While you are recovering from severe physical trauma and/or the loss of someone close to you, you need a skilled legal advocate to fight vigorously for your rights to receive the compensation you deserve. Remember — personal injury attorneys only charge you if they win your case.
When the Driver Is at Fault
All too frequently, cyclists suffer serious, or even fatal, injuries because motorists do not treat cyclists as if they have a right to be on the road. The vast difference in size and weight generally means the cyclist suffers much more serious, even fatal, injuries when a collision occurs. Some of the many types of bicycle/vehicle collisions include:
- Failure to yield to a cyclist
- Turning directly into the path of a cyclist
- Attempting to pass a bicycle and rider in a limited amount of space
- Opening a vehicle door in front of a cyclist
Some Surprising Statistics about Bicycle Accidents
You may be surprised to learn that the majority of bicycle accidents — 59 percent — are solitary events, occurring when the cyclist loses control of the bike and crashes. Of course, some of these accidents may be the result of the cyclist trying to avoid a driver who is being inattentive or is misbehaving.
Almost half of the 11 percent of bicycle accidents that do involve collisions with automobiles occur at intersections. Liability rests with the driver or rider who is found to be disobeying the rules of the road. If both the rider and driver are found to be at fault, they may both be held partially responsible and the damages may have to be decided in a court of law.
Other Causes for Bicycle Accidents
In some cases, bicycle accidents result from road construction, such as the presence of drainage grates or improperly marked large potholes. When a bicycle rider is injured in this type of accident, the individual may be able to file a successful claim against the city or county in which the accident took place. According to the Tennessee Court of Appeals, for example, the state is liable for injuries resulting from this type of mishap.
Types of Compensation a Cyclist May Receive
Depending on the circumstances, if the accident was caused by the inattention or negligence of another, you are entitled to compensatory damages to cover your medical costs, lost wages, and pain and suffering. If the accident resulted from illegal activity on the part of the other driver, such as DUI, speeding, or texting while driving, you may also be awarded punitive damages to punish the driver for egregious behavior and to discourage such behavior in others.
Determining Fault in a Collision between a Bicycle and a Car
We tend to assume that, because bicyclists move more slowly and are a great deal more vulnerable to injury, that drivers are more likely to be found at fault when the two collide. Surprisingly, this is not the case. Many cyclists don’t know that they, like all drivers, are expected to follow the rules of the road and to make certain that they are visible by wearing reflective or brightly colored clothing and having their bicycle equipped with front and rear lights.
As with other vehicular accidents, those between bicycles and cars are usually assessed in terms of which driver or rider had the right-of-way. When there is no traffic signal, right-of-way is determined as follows:
- The cyclist should be riding with, not against, traffic
- Whichever vehicle arrives at the intersection first has the right of way
- If the two vehicles arrive simultaneously, the vehicle on the right has the right-of-way
- The exception is that whichever vehicle is on the main thoroughfare has the right-of-way
When bicycles and cars are sharing the roadway, both are expected to stop at an intersection where cars are turning, or where there is a stop sign or blinking red light. Lack of alertness — demonstrated by wearing a headset or failing to use hand signals on the part of the cyclist, are considered dangerous actions. Also, cyclists, in order to maintain balance, often do not come to a full stop as required which is a violation of traffic protocol. On the other hand, car drivers are frequently not careful enough to avoid cyclists, often cutting them off, or even failing to check their side mirrors and remaining totally oblivious to their presence.
It is important to remember that traffic laws vary state to state, so bicyclists, as well as drivers, have to know their local traffic laws and abide by them. In situations where it seems unclear how the bicyclist should proceed, it is sometimes best for the cyclist to walk the bicycle across the street to remain safe.
The idea of contributory negligence characterizes conduct in which an individual puts himself or herself at unreasonable risk. If a bicyclist is injured in an accident with a car while behaving in an entirely responsible, law-abiding manner, the driver will be found to be totally at fault. If, however, the bicyclist is wearing dark clothing and cycling without lights after dark, the law may consider the cyclist partially, or even fully, responsible for the accident. When the injured party sues for negligence, the defendant may assert contributory negligence and counter sue the plaintiff.
Negligence or recklessness on the part of the driver may consist of the driver speeding, drifting into a bike lane, failing to stop at a stop sign, or driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. When both parties are found to be partially at fault, it is usual for the injured party to recover only part of the damages he or she has sued for.
If you have suffered serious injuries, or lost someone dear to you, in a bicycle accident, you should consult with a well-respected personal injury attorney like one of the lawyers at Chadwick & Tignor, P.C. in Middle Tennessee where we are dedicated to treating you with the concern and compassion you deserve. Our knowledge of this area of the law will help us to win you the highest settlement or verdict possible so you can focus on healing from the physical and/or emotional trauma you have undergone. We can be reached through the contact form on our website or at 615.379.7900.