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Why You Need a Lawyer in a Bicycle Related Accident

In July 2017, an accident involving a car and a bicyclist illustrated why hiring a personal injury attorney, especially in a bicycle related accident, can be beneficial for the victim. A Tennessee motorist was involved in a hit-and-run accident with a cyclist, when a fellow cyclist caught all the action on camera because he rode with a GoPro recording device. The driver knocked one cyclist to the ground, causing serious injuries before speeding away. Because of the footage, the driver has been arrested on numerous charges, including a felony reckless endangerment, leaving the scene of an accident, failure to render aid and failure to immediately notify of an accident.

Unfortunately for cyclists, dangerous driving behavior such as this is all too common. Risks to cyclists on the road continue to increase, as data from the U.S. Department of Transportation National Highway Traffic Safety Administration July 2016 report shows bicycle deaths increased 13 percent year-over-year, more than for any other type of victim. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports more than 1,000 bicyclists died in the United States in 2015, and there were more than 467,000 bicycle-related injuries.

There are plenty of risky behaviors motorists may participate in that make roads less safe for cyclists, ranging from prescription drug use, to marijuana use, to texting and driving. Among bicyclist deaths, in 37 percent of cases, alcohol was present in either the driver or bicyclist in a collision.

Other drivers aren’t the only dangers on the road for bicyclists. Potholes and road hazards are extremely dangerous and may not be noticed until after the accident has happened. Children and older adults are particularly at higher risk for injuries or fatalities while riding a bike.

If you’re involved in an accident while on a bike, either with a motorist, another cyclist or road hazard, consulting with an attorney is wise even if you don’t sustain serious injuries. Here’s what to consider.

Damage and Blame

You are entitled to fair and legal compensation if you are a rider that was following all bicycle laws while riding. Depending on your state’s laws, these probably include:

  • Riding while sober
  • Wearing a helmet while riding
  • Following all traffic laws, including obeying street signs and riding on the right side of the road

If you experience an accident while you are following safe riding procedures, you incur stress and emotional tolls in addition to any physical damage. If your bike is destroyed, you may be entitled to property damage compensation. Any injuries you experience, including hospital and medical bills plus time missed off work, may also be recovered with the help of an attorney.

If you are not in an accident with another human party such as a motorist or bicyclist, but you are in a crash because of incomplete road work or a hazard that is not made obvious to pedestrians and cyclists, the city or a private party that is working on the path where you crashed may be to blame depending on where the hazard is.

The best thing to do if you are not sure about whether or not a lawyer can benefit you after your bicycle crash is to first talk with a law firm during a free consultation. Depending on the amount of damage, lawyer fees may not be worth settling the case on your own. A free consultation can help you to determine whether dealing with an insurance company through a claims process yourself is more beneficial. For accidents where minor damage occurs, this may be the better choice, but talking with a lawyer will help you determine that. It is important to contact a lawyer before talking with an insurance company or signing any documents an insurance company may present you with.

How to Help Your Bicycle Accident Case

As seen in the hit-and-run example above, even when if a driver abandons the scene after you’ve crashed, there may be other ways you can get help. Some accident scenes are near security cameras that may have caught footage of the accident. It is vital to stay at the scene, call the police, and document all damage and injuries that have occurred.

A police report is a vital tool in a bicycle accident case and may be your most significant form of help if you pursue litigation. Also, obtaining contact information of witnesses is helpful for a bicycle accident case. Not fixing the bicycle or anything else that may have been damaged, such as a helmet, allows you to keep helpful evidence intact.

Some examples of when to consider hiring an attorney if you’ve been in a bicycle accident include:

  • If another party is pursuing litigation against you
  • If you experience bodily injuries or significant physical damage to your bike
  • If you collided with an unavoidable hazard that should have been clearly marked
  • If you followed all safety laws while riding, and another party is clearly at fault

If you are the victim in Alabama, working with an attorney that understands bicycle accident liability can ensure all pertinent details are obtained and the right amount of compensation is awarded. 

How to Prepare Teens for Staying Safe and Legal on the Road

If you’re the parent of a teenager who is about to or has just started getting behind the wheel of a car, congratulations — and try not to stress. Having a teen driver is exciting because they’re gaining more responsibilities that can have a positive effect on your family, but there is also more to worry about. New teen drivers who are driving on their own are more likely to be involved in car accidents, as 16-year-olds have higher crash rates than drivers of any other age. Teen drivers are more likely to account for more auto accident costs, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 11 percent of motor vehicle injury costs are associated with 15-to-19-year-olds, who only account for 7 percent of the population.

With school back in session in Alabama, teen drivers are taking to the road to get to and from school and all the extracurricular activities that go along with it — including parties. As a parent, make sure to also emphasize these driving aspects to teen drivers who have secured their licenses.

Always Be Prepared

Teen drivers should make sure they never drive in a vehicle that is not prepared to be on the road. This means the vehicles should be properly maintained, including having regular oil changes, windshield wipers that work, functioning brake and turn signal lights, intact side view and rearview mirrors, and proper engine functioning.

All seat belts in a car should work and be worn at all times. Tell your teen not to give a ride to anyone unless they are buckled up. If your child is driving at the time of an accident, you want to make sure that any possible accusations of negligence are avoided, making sure that they always wear their seat belt will not only keep them safer but will help to protect them from being liable for negligence.  

Teen drivers should also make sure that their most up-to-date insurance information is safely stored in a glove compartment for easy access in case they’re pulled over. They should always drive with a valid license, too.

Follow All Driving Instructions

The CDC reports some of the most significant risk factors teen drivers face compared to other age groups on the road include nighttime driving, distracted driving, drowsy driving and reckless driving. Inexperience heightens all these risks, which is why proper training is essential before a teen drives alone. Once they start driving independently, though, parents should talk to teens about avoiding dangers on the road.

 

You should make it clear that teens should:

  • Never drive while using a smartphone
  • Only use in-car technology such as maps or a radio when stopped completely
  • Avoid driving when tired, whether after leaving a party or from staying at a friend’s house
  • Be aware of the power a car has and be careful to protect their life and the lives of others by driving alertly every time

Substance abuse and impaired driving from alcohol or drugs also pose a threat. If your teen uses any medication that increases their risks, you should consider limiting their driving ability.

Be Wary of Other Passengers

One of the biggest threats to your teen driver is other passengers they ride with in the car. Teen drivers might get distracted by conversations, by looking at something on a smartphone, or by the actions another teen passenger is taking in the vehicle.

Communicate to your child that they should avoid driving with others. If this is necessary, such as in a carpool situation, they should reduce the risk by:

  • Turning off the radio
  • Banning smartphone use in the car
  • Limiting the amount of total passengers in a car

Your teen is likely under your insurance policy. You can create a safe driving agreement with your teen that enforces their adherence to safe driving behaviors you agree upon. If the teen does not follow those, their driving privileges will be revoked.

What to Do When All Else Fails

Even when your teen driver safely follows all traffic laws and focuses on driving while they’re behind the wheel, accidents may still occur. Prepare your teen for this, by advising them to do the following after an accident:

  • Call 911. They should be honest in what they tell police happened, provide all materials asked of them, and not leave the scene of the accident without direction from police.
  • Document the scene. The teen should take photos and videos of the vehicle and the conditions of themselves and passengers.
  • Talk to a parent. Make it clear to your teen that their honesty in telling you about any accident situation is vital and that they will not be punished for their honesty. Highlight that you are their advocate if they are involved in an accident, and the more transparent they can be and the more information they can provide, the more you can help protect them and their driving rights.

In any accident where there is a serious injury, or your teen or you believes another party’s negligence caused the accident, you may have a car accident claim that can be pursued. Contact a car accident attorney in Birmingham for more information on how to protect the rights of your teen.

Pittman Dutton and Hellums

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