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.