When you are a bicycle accident victim, you face many worries and concerns about your future. For example, the medical care for bicycle accident injuries can be excessive, and your health insurance coverage may not cover all your expenses.
Maybe you are also out of work and cannot earn the income to support yourself and your family as you work through the recovery of your injuries. Unfortunately, the reality after a bike accident can become quite desperate and leave you unsure how to best proceed.
Suing the parties responsible for your injuries might be an option for your case. Still, you will need to consult with an experienced and knowledgeable bicycle accident attorney to decide the best path forward for you after a bicycle accident and the course that will most likely result in a positive outcome on your behalf. Lawsuits can occur in many personal injury accidents, and bike accidents are no exception.
However, there might be a better way to get the money you need for your losses that could avoid court and allow your case to resolve faster.
When Can I Hold a Driver Responsible for Hitting a Bicyclist?
Bicyclists and motor vehicle drivers should be able to share the road without incident. However, the negligent actions of many motor vehicle drivers put bicycle riders and others in public at risk of injury or death. Each year over 130,000 bicyclists suffer injuries in traffic bicycle accidents, and close to 1,000 victims will lose their lives, according to the CDC.
Drivers who do not operate their vehicles safely and respectfully endanger bike riders throughout your community. A car driver’s negligence leading to a bicycle accident can happen in various circumstances. For example, when a driver’s negligence causes injury and damages to a bicycle rider, the rider has a legal right to pursue compensation for the losses created by that driver.
However, to fight for the compensation you deserve under the law, you must prove that the driver’s actions were, in fact, negligent.
Common causes of bicycle accidents due to negligent drivers are:
- Drunk driving – Impairment of a vehicle driver because of drugs or alcohol will cause a decrease in coordination and abilities of the driver. This can cause problems when a driver is behind the wheel and create dangerous situations that can harm a bicycle rider and others in their vicinity.
- Distracted driving – It takes a lapse of a second or moment for a driver to collide with a nearby bicyclist when the driver is not paying attention to their surroundings. Mobile phones, navigational systems, or the other occupants of a vehicle can take a driver’s attention away from the road and cause a bicycle accident.
- Speeding – The higher the speed at which a driver operates their vehicle, the more time they need to stop or maneuver their vehicle from obstacles or others ahead of them. If a bicyclist finds themselves in the path of a speeding car that cannot stop in time, a tragic accident is likely to occur.
- Reckless driving – Drivers that do not maintain a safe distance from bicyclists on the road by driving aggressively, changing lanes without warning, stopping abruptly, or making reckless maneuvers endanger any bicyclists traveling alongside them. Reckless drivers are unaware of their danger and can cause dangerous accidents with bicycle riders that cannot predict or avoid their driving behavior.
- Failing to follow traffic laws – If a driver does not follow the rules of the road, traffic signs, and lights, they are likely to cause a collision. Running red lights, drifting into bicycle lanes, and failing to follow posted speed limits and warnings by drivers can end in bicycle accidents with injuries or fatalities.
Proving Negligence in a Bicycle Accident Case
Whether through an insurance claim or lawsuit, you must show that the defendant caused your injuries and their actions amounted to negligence. Insurance companies will first investigate the facts of the case and accident. If the evidence shows that their insured acted negligently, they may accept liability outright and start calculating damages.
However, suppose their investigations reveal that they believe their insured did not solely cause the accident or that there is not sufficient evidence to establish negligence. In that case, they are likely to refuse to accept liability and may, as a result, reject the claim overall. In this situation, it is common for a victim to file suit against the insurance company and the driver causing the accident. In court, the burden will be on you to prove and establish negligence which you can accomplish by meeting the four elements necessary to prove that a party is, in fact, negligent in their actions or inactions.
The four elements of negligence to prove fault in a bicycle accident case are as follows:
- The driver had a duty of care they owe to you
- The driver breached the duty of care through their actions or inaction
- You suffered an injury or other harm
- The injuries and damages you sustained were the results of the driver’s breach of the duty of care
Is Your First Option for Recovery of Your Bicycle Accident Losses to File Suit?
No, it is unlikely that your attorney will recommend that your first action to recover compensation is to file a lawsuit. Lawsuits can take time to resolve, and often it is an option left for when you exhaust all other options.
For example, in the case of a bicycle accident where you sustain injuries from a vehicle driver, your first step with the help of your lawyer is likely to prepare and file an insurance claim. An insurance claim allows you to claim your damages and negotiate a settlement with the insurance company that meets your needs when possible.
An Insurance Claim Could Result in a Settlement that Avoids Court
The insurance company, if they accept liability, will then offer you a settlement. The first settlement offer is often a starting point, and most attorneys will advise you not to take it. Remember that an insurance representative only has an actual obligation to their employer. They will try however they can to save money for the big insurance company and pay you less than what you may be eligible for.
After each settlement offer you receive, you will meet with your bicycle accident attorney to discuss it. Your attorney will go over the pros and cons of accepting the offer and can offer you insight on how much more money, if any, they believe you may be able to get by continuing negotiations or filing a lawsuit in court if necessary.
It can take a few rounds of offers and counter offers to get to a settlement amount you feel comfortable with. In most bicycle accident cases, the victims of negligence can avoid a full-blown trial and reach a settlement that meets their needs outside of court.
How Much Compensation Can You Seek in a Bicycle Accident Case?
Beyond fault and liability in a bicycle accident case, the insurance company will fight hardest against the extent of your damages and the compensation it will pay for those losses.
Insurance companies will not outright tell you what their top offer will be, but a bicycle accident attorney representing you understands how to value a bicycle accident case and go over your damages to estimate the money you are eligible for under the law. Compensation for your damages is complex. In many cases, even the victims are unaware of the broader implications of bicycle accident injuries on their future.
Types of Bicycle Accident Compensation Available
After you hire an attorney to represent you in your bicycle accident case, they will go over each category of damages one by one with you to try to get the most accurate estimation of damages possible. Then, they will go over the expenses and costs you are aware of to date and consider those you may not yet be sure of.
When considering your damages in a bicycle accident, a lawyer will consider your current losses and your potential future losses. Future losses are often a subset of damages that an insurance company will try to avoid.
However, if you are facing permanent or long-term injuries, your lawyer will help you fight for the extensive costs that will continue to accrue for your care.
- Medical costs – You may seek compensation for all medical bills related to your bicycle accident injuries. A bicycle accident insurance claim or case can recover emergency care, hospital stays, medical procedures, therapy, and other medical support. This includes both current and future medical expenses you may incur.
- Loss of earnings – The impact on your income will be significantly affected by the extent of your injuries. Serious injuries can leave victims out of work for days if not weeks or months. You can recover your income losses and any future effects on your income from a bicycle accident through your claim or lawsuit.
- Pain and suffering – This category of losses is very personal to the bicycle accident victim. The pain you experience and the suffering you endure are real impacts that affect not only your physical welfare but also your emotional and mental health. You can seek monetary compensation for these losses under the law.
- Property damage – Your bicycle can likely sustain significant damage, if not a total loss, after a bicycle accident due to a driver’s negligence. You can pursue compensation for these property damages through your insurance claim or in court.
- Wrongful death – In the tragic event that you have lost a family member in a bicycle accident, certain surviving family members may have a wrongful death claim against the insurance company and party at fault. This may cover costs for funeral and burial as well as additional damages for the sudden loss of your loved one due to negligence.
Proving Your Bicycle Crash Damages
Understanding the extent of your bicycle accident damages and the amount of compensation is one thing. Proving them, however, is the next step necessary to get the insurance company to offer you compensation for your losses.
It is not sufficient for you to state your damages or show bills and receipts. While invoices, bills, and receipts are evidence of your losses, other categories of damages, such as your non-economic losses, will require more extensive and intricate evidence to prove and persuade an insurer to pay for the damages.
Furthermore, if a case must go to trial, you will need to prove your damages in court. Providing evidence of the extent of the impact you suffered because of a bicycle accident and your injuries will affect the amount of compensation you may receive. The more solid your case is, with ample evidence to support your claims, the higher your likelihood of getting the compensation you deserve.
When Should You Contact a Bicycle Accident Attorney?
You should take steps to consult a bicycle accident attorney as soon as you can following a collision with a vehicle. The days and weeks after a bicycle accident can be uncertain, and time can reveal problems or complications that cause additional damages and expenses you may not yet know of. It is best to get legal advice and perspective on your case as early as possible to help you gain a solid footing in the case and stay up to date on the latest developments that may affect your pursuit of compensation.
The sooner you have a lawyer representing your interests as a bicycle accident victim the sooner you can feel secure. Knowing that your legal rights are at the forefront of your case and that they will fight for the compensation you deserve along each step of the process is beneficial to your peace of mind and comfort moving ahead. Contact a bicycle accident attorney near you to schedule a free no-obligation consultation on the specifics of your case and the compensation you may recover.