Bicycles are ubiquitous these days, appearing just as readily on urban roadways as on any suburban bike trail or street. Cities and towns have stepped up efforts to accommodate bicyclists by creating new and wider bike lanes, traffic signals for bicyclists and awareness campaigns for motorists.
Traffic laws may require cars to stay a certain distance from bicyclists or to refrain from entering a bike lane unless forced to do so to make a turn. Unfortunately, impatient motorists do not always obey these rules and place bicyclists in jeopardy when they are ignored. Accidents also occur simply because drivers are impatient, will turn directly into a bike lane without looking or purposely come too close to bike.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) maintains statistics on bicycle accidents. These show the following:
- 70% of bicycle accidents occur in urban areas
- 40% of fatal bike accidents occur when a cyclist is rear‐ended by a motorist
- Nearly half a million bicyclists go to emergency rooms for bicycle injuries each year
- In 2015 in the United States, over 1,000 bicyclists died and there were almost 467,000 bicycle-related injuries
- Most fatal bike accidents occur to males over the age of 40
Other statistics show the value of wearing a helmet since about 70% of all bike injuries involve head injuries. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reports that wearing a bike helmet can reduce the chance of a head injury by 50%.
Injuries in a Bike Accident
The types of injuries commonly sustained by bike riders in a collision with a car include:
- Traumatic brain injury
- Broken bones
- Severe skin lacerations
- Facial fractures
- Internal injuries
Head injuries can be life‐altering since the victims’ cognitive abilities may be so adversely affected as to render them totally disabled from working or at least drastically reducing their earning capacity. Lifetime medical costs and loss of job productivity from a bike accident injury are estimated to be $10 billion per year according to the CDC.
Responsibility of Motorists
While some bicyclists do flaunt traffic laws by flying through red traffic signals or stop signs, most accidents occur because of driver negligence. Fatigue, speeding, driving under the influence and distracted driving are the usual causes of accidents with bicycles.
All motorists have a duty to exercise ordinary care when operating a motor vehicle. This includes keeping lookout for pedestrians and bicyclists in urban and suburban areas and obeying the traffic laws. When a driver comes too close to cyclists, enters a designated bike lane too soon or without signaling or looking for bikes within the lane, then the driver has breached his/her duty of care and may be liable for any injuries resulting from their carelessness.
Compensation for Injured Bicyclists
If you were injured by the negligent conduct of a motorist while on your bicycle, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. Compensation can be obtained from the motorist’s auto liability insurance after you file an injury claim. If the incident was a hit‐and‐run or the motorist was not insured, then you can seek compensation from the uninsured portion of your own auto liability policy, provided you have such coverage.
Damages in a bike accident can include:
- Past and future medical expenses
- Past and future wage loss
- Decreased earning capacity
- Diminished enjoyment of life
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional trauma
Most states allow punitive damages to be awarded but only if the defendant’s conduct was grossly negligent or exhibited a willful indifference to the safety of others. There are some states that only allow such damages in wrongful death cases. Your personal injury attorney can discuss your options with you in these matters.
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