No one gets on a bicycle expecting their ride to end in disaster. But sometimes, that’s what happens. Even the safest bike riders cannot avoid getting into a crash when someone else engages in reckless conduct.
Let’s explore how most bicycle accidents happen and how an experienced bicycle accident attorney can secure maximum financial compensation for a bicycle accident victim like you.
Non-Cyclists Cause Most Bad Bicycle Accidents
There’s nothing especially dangerous about the way most people ride bicycles. They keep their speeds low, they’re cautious (especially when riding on a public road), and many wear helmets that protect them from head injuries. These precautions limit the likelihood of injuries if you make a mistake.
In other words, it’s usually not the bicyclist who bears the blame for a bicycle accident that results in serious injuries. Instead, most bad bicycle accidents happen because someone other than the rider did something unreasonably dangerous. In many (but by no means all) cases, those at-fault parties are drivers of cars, trucks, and buses with whom bicyclists share the road.
Here are some of the most common ways drivers and other non-bicyclists cause bicycle accidents that hurt riders.
Distracted or Inattentive Driving
Ever since motor vehicles were invented, driver distraction and inattentiveness have put bicyclists at risk. Driving safely requires drivers to keep their eyes on the road, hands on the wheel, and minds on getting to their destination without incident. A moment’s lapse can easily trigger a collision with a bicycle.
But more than ever, cell phones, GPS units, passengers, and other distractions compete for drivers’ visual, manual, and cognitive attention. Even drivers who avoid falling prey to those distractions can lose focus on a drive, especially if they’re tired or stressed (as so many of us can be). Distracted and inattentive drivers are everywhere, and their mistakes frequently result in a bicyclist getting seriously hurt.
Failing to Share the Road
With limited exceptions, bicyclists have the same right to use public roads as everyone else. By law, drivers of motor vehicles must share the road by treating bicycles as cautiously and respectfully as they would any other vehicle. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen.
Instead, many drivers demonstrate a dangerous disregard for the rights and safety of bicyclists. They speed near bicyclists, pass too close to them, tailgate them, honk at them, and refuse to let them occupy traffic lanes. These dangerous and illegal behaviors routinely result in a collision with a bicycle or a bicyclist losing control and crashing.
Impaired Driving (Alcohol, Drugs, and Fatigue)
Consuming alcohol, taking drugs, or being overtired dangerously impairs a driver’s abilities. Drunk, drugged, and drowsy drivers suffer from diminished motor control, limited vision and depth perception, poor judgment, and slowed reaction times. Their reckless decisions to get behind the wheel put the public at risk, particularly bicyclists.
Many bicycle accidents that involve impaired motor vehicle drivers leave bicyclists catastrophically or fatally injured because they frequently involve high-speed collisions. Riders have virtually no protection against serious injury in impaired driving crashes.
Opening Doors Unsafely (a.k.a. Dooring)
Bicyclists who ride in urban areas or anywhere else that features parallel-parked cars face a constant danger of getting hurt in a dooring. That’s when a vehicle occupant opens a door directly into the path of an approaching cyclist (usually one coming up from behind the vehicle). The bicyclist collides with the door or gets into an accident trying to avoid it.
Doorings are virtually always preventable—most would not happen if vehicle occupants would learn to reach across their bodies to open the door, which forces them to turn their heads enough to see an approaching cyclist. Unfortunately, this technique, known as the Dutch Reach, is not universally taught or required in the United States, so harmful doorings still happen with tragic regularity.
Unreasonably Dangerous Road Conditions
Although most non-cyclists who cause bicycle accidents are motorists, that’s not always the case. Some bike crashes happen because of unreasonably dangerous conditions on roads where cyclists regularly ride. Far more so than motorists, cyclists frequently find themselves at the mercy of potholes, cracked pavement, sand, gravel, poor signage, faded lane markings, and other preventable road hazards.
Local and state governments must keep roads safe for everyone, including bicycle riders. And while everyone understands they can’t necessarily fix every crack, bump, and hole in a road immediately, when government agencies know of a dangerous road condition that puts bicyclists at severe risk they must at least take reasonable steps to warn or limit bicycle access until they can perform the necessary maintenance. Unfortunately, government failures to live up to that obligation often result in cyclists getting hurt in a crash that never should have happened.
Defects in Vehicles and Bicycles
Sometimes, bicycle accidents happen because the motor vehicles or bikes involved are dangerously defective. We trust manufacturers of all modes of transportation we use to make safe products that will function as expected under normal conditions. If instead, they sell us defective products, they put us in danger. The sudden failure of defective brakes, gears, tires, and other vehicle or bike components will often cause a serious bicycle accident.
Who caused your bicycle accident? (It’s not always who you think.)
As the injured victim of a bicycle accident, you probably remember what happened, even if it’s not a complete memory. You may also have some idea of whose actions played a role in the crash. But if our experience as lawyers for bicycle accident victims is any guide, there’s a good chance you may not know the whole story.
Strange as it may sound, the person who experienced the trauma and pain of a bicycle accident does not always have the clearest view of how it happened. Like many accidents, a bicycle crash can have hidden causes that you may not recognize because it takes careful investigation and analysis to uncover them. And, like many accident victims, you may place some of the blame on yourself for getting into the crash, even if an objective view of the facts would suggest there’s little or nothing you could have done.
That’s why, if you want to know who caused your bicycle accident, the most reliable approach is to consult with an experienced bicycle accident injury attorney. Lawyers who represent crash victims like you can understand your unique perspective while also having the distance from the events to evaluate them objectively.
By working with their own teams and, sometimes, outside forensic experts, skilled lawyers can often uncover the true root causes of an accident while helping you see that someone else bears the blame.
Why You Need to Know How Your Bicycle Accident Happened
By investigating how your accident happened and who bears the blame for it, a skilled lawyer can hold those parties financially accountable for your injuries. And that can have numerous positive impacts on you and your community.
Financial Compensation For Your Injuries and Losses
By law, you may have the right to seek financial compensation from anyone whose unreasonably dangerous decisions or actions caused your bicycle accident.
Every bicycle accident case differs, of course, but when someone else is at-fault for your bicycle accident a lawyer can often obtain payment on your behalf for your:
- Medical expenses related to treating your bike accident injuries;
- Other expenses you would not have had if the bicycle accident had not happened (such as property damage);
- Lost wages due to missing work because of your injuries;
- Diminished earning capacity, if your bicycle crash injuries leave you partially or totally unable to work;
- Physical pain, emotional suffering, and overall loss of quality of life.
If the at-fault party engaged in especially outrageous or intentionally harmful actions, a lawyer might also be able to secure payment of additional punitive damages on your behalf. And if a bicycle accident caused the tragic death of your loved one, a lawyer can help you and your family hold an at-fault party accountable in a lawsuit for wrongful death.
In other words, learning how your bicycle accident happened and who caused it opens the door for you to get the money you need to pay for your care, unexpected expenses, and the process of overcoming the challenges you face.
Prevention of Future Bicycle Accidents
Beyond obtaining financial compensation for your injuries, learning how your bicycle accident happened and whom to blame also contributes to the longer-term goal of preventing future bicycle accidents. Here’s how:
First, the information an experienced bicycle accident lawyer uncovers about your crash can expose unrecognized dangers and call the public’s attention to the need to fix them. For example, by determining that the car driver who hit you got confused by faded bicycle lane markings, you might alert the public to a dangerous stretch of road and ensure that the local government knows it needs fixing. This can directly prevent future bicycle accidents from happening.
Second, by holding at-fault parties financially accountable for the harm they caused you in a bicycle accident, you contribute to the slow but steady process of changing people’s future behavior through economic incentives. Individuals who know they will have to pay for their mistakes—either directly to a victim like you or an insurance company in the form of higher premiums—tend to act with more caution.
By making sure someone pays real money for the harm you suffered, you increase the likelihood of a driver taking extra care when sharing the road with a cyclist in the future.
Bicycle accident lawyers take pride not just in making sure victims like you receive full financial compensation that you deserve that will help you rebuild after your injuries, but also in playing an important role in making the world a safer, more accountable place.
Injured in a Bicycle Accident? Here’s What to Do Next.
Your decisions and actions after getting hurt in a bicycle accident can affect your legal and financial rights. Taking the steps below can help to put you in the best possible position to learn the details of what happened and to secure the financial compensation the law entitles you to receive.
Seek Medical Care
Always seek medical care after getting into a bicycle accident, even if you think you escaped it with just a few bumps and scrapes. Some potentially serious injuries do not show symptoms immediately, and the shock of the crash itself can prevent you from accurately assessing your condition. A doctor can check you over and spot the injuries that need immediate attention.
It’s not just your health that benefits from seeing a medical provider after a bicycle accident. You also protect your legal rights by ensuring that medical records reflect your injuries and their link to your crash.
Don’t Take an Insurance Company’s Word For What Happened
If someone else caused your bicycle accident, there’s a good chance they carry insurance that covers at least some of your injuries and losses. A representative of that insurance company may contact you, asking to discuss what happened or offering to pay your expenses right away.
But be careful—the insurance company will want to take the view that is least favorable to you. Rather than dealing with them directly and making costly mistakes, leave negotiations with insurers to an experienced bicycle accident attorney.
Contact a Bicycle Accident Lawyer in Tampa
A skilled bicycle accident attorney can dig into the facts and find out how your bicycle accident happened and who should pay you financial compensation for the harm you suffered. Contact an experienced bicycle accident attorney in your area right away for a free case consultation.