Bicycle accidents are often fatal or involve catastrophic injuries because of the vulnerability of the rider, even if the rider wears protective gear such as helmets, knee and elbow pads and gloves. For the most part, a bicyclist must adhere to the same rules of the road as motor vehicles. Drivers of those motor vehicles don’t necessarily treat bicyclists as equals, however. Many accidents result from the negligence of motor vehicle drivers.
If you have been injured or lost a loved one in a bicycle accident, contact a Fort Myers bicycle accident attorney at Viles & Beckman, LLC, for a free consultation.
Florida Bicycle Accident Laws Statistics
Because of the climate in Florida, many people ride bicycles. Some commute to work by bike. Some ride for fitness. And some just love taking to the roads by bike to enjoy the Sunshine States.
No matter why you ride, if you do it on Florida roads you must follow the same basic rules of the road that motorized vehicles must follow, including signaling, obeying traffic signs and lights and riding in the proper lanes.
Unfortunately, even when bicyclists follow the rules of the road, accidents happen. In 2017, according to Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, Florida bicyclists were involved in 6,675 crashes, of which 128 were fatal.
Injuries Common in a Bicycle Crash
Because you and your bike are small compared to a vehicle—a small car weighs at least 3,000 pounds in most cases—injuries are often catastrophic and may be deadly. Common injuries may include:
- Abrasions, scratches, cuts, and bruises: These often heal quickly unless any open cuts become infected.
- Strains, sprains and torn muscles: These may heal on their own in a few weeks or you may require surgery, such as in the case of a torn muscle. You may require physical therapy, especially if a torn muscle has to be repaired with surgery.
- Brain injuries: Even with a helmet, you could suffer head or brain injuries. In some cases, brain injuries are traumatic, but even a minor concussion can take some time to recover from, and, if it’s bad enough, could cause lasting damage.
- Neck and spine injuries: These types of injuries could take weeks or months to recover from, even with surgery. They often require physical and occupational therapy. Some of these injuries could also lead to paralysis.
- Broken bones: Bones may be fractured or you may suffer from compound fractures—where the bone creates an open wound. Broken bones generally take 6 to 8 weeks to heal and you may have to have physical therapy to strengthen muscles that were not used after the bones heal.
- Internal injuries and bleeding: These usually require surgery to repair. Depending on what was damaged, you could be in the hospital for quite a long time, such as with an injury to your lungs or heart.
- Amputations: If an injury to a limb is too severe to repair, then a doctor may have to amputate it to protect your health. Amputation can also be necessary if an open wound becomes infected and turns gangrenous.
- Psychological issues: Because a crash could be devastating, you may suffer from psychological issues, including depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder. These types of injuries often require therapy to help you recover.
If you seek any kind of medical treatment after a bicycle accident, then be sure to keep copies of all of your bills and any medical records you receive. All of these may be important in the future if you seek to recover compensation for your injuries.
Bicycle Injury Statistics Reported in Lee County, FL
In some bicycle accidents, the cyclist is the only person to blame. But in many others, a cyclist sustains an injury because of the careless or reckless actions of another person (often, but not always, the driver of a car or truck).
Cyclists injured in accidents caused by someone else may have rights to recover damages in a legal action. The damages they may recover fall into three general categories: economic (or “special”), non-economic (or “general”), and punitive. Florida is a no-fault state, so if you carry personal injury protection insurance as a registered owner of a car in Florida, then it may cover you for injuries you sustain if your bicycle collides with a car.
These damages compensate you for your out-of-pocket expenses related to an accident and the injuries you sustained in it. They may include:
- Medical costs: The costs of any medical care, including hospital care and doctor care for injuries sustained in the accident.
- Lost wages: You may be paid for time lost from work because of injuries sustained in the accident.
- Future wages: In some cases, future wages may be part of economic damages. However, if the amount of time you are out of work is unknown or if you are disabled in such a way that you won’t be able to go back to work or are not able to do the same job you did before the accident, future wages may instead be considered non-economic damages.
- Property damage: This covers any damage done to your property, including your bicycle and personal effects that may have been damaged or destroyed in the accident.
- Funeral expenses: If you or a loved one died in a bicycle crash, funeral expenses for burial and cremation may be covered.
Non-economic damages are damages for harm that is difficult to quantify, including:
- Potential future medical costs: If it is uncertain what medical care you may need in the future.
- Potential future lost wages: If it is uncertain whether, when, or in what you capacity may return to work.
- Loss of companionship: If your injuries are such that you are not able to contribute to the household as you used to, including yard work, housework or even spending time with your family, you may be compensated for loss of companionship. If a loved one died as a result of injuries from the accident or was killed in the accident, you may also receive compensation for loss of companionship.
- Loss of consortium: If you lose the ability to have an intimate relationship with your spouse, you may be entitled to compensation for loss of consortium.
- Pain and suffering: Damages to compensate you for the trauma you suffered as a result of your injuries.
In cases in which the conduct of the person who harmed you was extreme, such as when someone intentionally harmed you or acted with outrageous disregard for your safety, you may have the right to recover punitive (also called “exemplary”) damages. An attorney experienced in bicycle accident injury matters can advise you whether seeking punitive damages would be appropriate in your particular case.
What to Do After a Bicycle Accident
Injuries resulting from bicycle accidents can range from minor to fatal. Here are some tips for confronting the aftermath of a cycling accident depending on the injuries you sustained. All of these scenarios assume your accident involved a collision with a motor vehicle, but they could also apply in other circumstances.
If You Suffered Minor Injuries
After you make sure your injuries are minor, call first responders and then get the contact information, insurance information and registration information from the driver of the motor vehicle. Take pictures of the damage to the vehicle and your bicycle, and of the vehicle’s license plate. If witnesses are standing around, get their contact information. Although the police may get statements from them, you always want to be sure you can follow up with them if necessary. Some witnesses may leave, so it’s important to get their name, phone number and address. Do not throw your bicycle away if it’s totaled, and do not get it repaired if it’s not. The condition of your bike may be an important factor in any future legal action.
If You Suffered Major Injuries
Never try to move if you feel pain or if you are bleeding profusely. If you are able to talk and are able to reach your cell phone, contact first responders. Otherwise, stay down so that you don’t sustain additional injuries and ask someone else to contact first responders. Do not try to “tough it out” and do not refuse medical care. The records created when first responders and doctors treat you will serve as powerful evidence of the injuries caused by the collision. As above, do not throw your bike away or get it repaired.
What Your Loved Ones Should Do
Instruct your loved ones what they should do if you suffer catastrophic injuries. Obviously, medical care should be your first priority. The same rules as above apply to keeping records and preserving evidence.
No matter the severity of your injury, after your condition stabilizes you can benefit from contacting an experienced bicycle accident attorney. The sooner you contact an attorney, the better, because attorneys benefit from having the opportunity to conduct a thorough investigation while the evidence relating to your accident is still available and memories of witnesses to the accident are still fresh.
In the meantime, also take care never to admit your own “fault” to anyone. Even if you believe you were, in fact, partially at fault for your accident, Florida law may permit you to recover damages.
Settling With Insurance Companies
After a bicycle accident leaves you injured, you will probably have to deal with insurance companies. Your own insurance companies may require you to give them notice of an accident. When an accident wasn’t your fault, the other party’s insurance company may contact you, also.
Do not try to handle negotiations with someone else’s insurance company on your own.
Insurance adjusters have a huge advantage over you. They conduct negotiations every day, and they know how much money they can typically convince injured people to take to “settle” a case quickly (here’s a hint: it’s almost always far less than what a lawyer would accept on that person’s behalf). In other words, they will try to take advantage of the situation and get you to settle for less than you deserve.
Instead, let an experienced bicycle accident injury attorney negotiate with insurance companies on your behalf. Lawyers, like insurance adjusters, engage in these negotiations every day. They have a much better sense of what your claim should be worth, and how to get insurance companies to open their checkbooks.
Of course, in the best case, you will never have to hire a lawyer at all because you won’t get injured in a bicycle accident to begin with. Here are some tips from the team at Viles & Beckman to keep you safe on the road and free from harm.
Always wear the proper gear when riding, especially footwear. While it’s tempting to ride with flip flops or sandals when you are riding to the beach, resist that temptation. Carry open-toed footwear with you and change your shoes once you get to the beach.
- Wear bright colors.
- If you plan to ride between dusk and dawn, equip your bike with front and rear lights to make yourself visible.
- Always wear a properly-fitted bicycle helmet. Throw away any helmet that has been in an accident and buy a new one.
Keep emergency contact information in your phone and in your pack or a pouch on the bike. If your phone gets destroyed in a wreck, first responders will be able to contact a loved one through written information. Laminate the information or put it in a zippered baggie to protect it from the elements. Having emergency contact information could save first responders a lot of time in locating your identification and loved ones.