Fort Myers Bicycle Accident Lawyer
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.
Fort Myers Bicycle Accident FAQ
Bicycles offer riders freedom of movement—the ability to go wherever one pleases. Riders often enjoy cycling for pleasure, exercise, or as a means of transportation. As cyclists move about the roadways of Fort Myers, they should expect others who share those roadways to use care. Unfortunately, oftentimes, bicycle accidents occur in circumstances that riders cannot control or avoid. Victims who were injured in a bicycle accident may pursue compensation for their injuries.
Experienced Fort Myers bicycle accident attorneys regularly fight for the rights of injured victims to seek the compensation they deserve. Each accident and claim is unique. Injured victims should contact an experienced attorney for a case evaluation of their specific claim. However, below are answers to some FAQs to give injured victims a general idea of what to expect after experiencing a bicycle accident.
1. Does the driver of the car always bear liability in a bicycle accident claim?
When a driver of a vehicle strikes a cyclist, they often bear liability for any accident-related damages. However, depending on the circumstances, the driver may not be the only liable party. Other factors may contribute to an accident and implicate additional responsible parties. For example, mechanical failures, such as brake failure or a tire blowout may contribute to a bicycle accident.
When a vehicle’s mechanical issues cause a bicycle accident, the vehicle manufacturer or mechanic may share responsibility for resulting damages. A driver’s employer may also bear liability for accident injuries if the driver was working at the time of the accident. When appropriate, an experienced attorney can assist injured victims in identifying the parties that may have contributed to the accident.
2. If a driver has personal injury protection insurance, will it offer protection after a bicycle accident?
In Florida, every driver with a registered vehicle is required to obtain personal injury protection insurance. Personal injury protection insurance provides $10,000 or more in coverage for any injuries resulting from an accident involving a motor vehicle. This coverage is typically the initial source of funds used to pay for accident-related damages.
Personal injury protection insurance will cover drivers regardless of the vehicle they were driving at the time of the accident. Coverage may be critical to pay for medical bills and to compensate injured victims for lost wages from missed time from work following an accident. Contact your insurance provider to learn more about what costs your insurance will cover in the event of a bicycle accident.
3. How much compensation should I expect after a bicycle accident?
Cyclists are vulnerable to injury in accidents involving motor vehicles because bikes do not provide riders with any protection in a collision. Depending on the circumstances, riders may suffer a wide range of injuries varying in severity. For example, bicycle-accident injuries may include road rash, broken bones, traumatic brain injuries, or spinal cord damage. Accident injuries can result in substantial medical bills and may cause long-term limitations, impacting every aspect of injured victims’ lives.
Victims deserve compensation for injuries resulting from accidents they did not contribute to. However, because each accident is unique, an attorney cannot guarantee a specific amount of compensation for any accident. Several factors can affect the outcome of a bike accident claim and the compensation injured victims ultimately receive.
Who caused or contributed to a Fort Myers bicycle accident? Most Florida drivers carry bodily injury liability insurance designed to provide coverage if they cause an accident with serious injuries. Unfortunately, if the driver carries minimum insurance, it may only provide $10,000 of coverage for injuries. Furthermore, as many as 26 percent of Florida drivers do not obtain any form of motor vehicle insurance. The limitations of the coverage provided by a driver’s insurance policy or the lack of insurance can seriously impact the amount of compensation injured victims may receive for their injuries.
On the other hand, some drivers hold insurance policies that provide significantly higher-coverage in the event of an accident. For example, rideshare companies, such as Uber and Lyft, offer up to $1 million in bodily injury coverage and property damage coverage in accidents involving their employees acting within their scope of employment. Commercial trucking companies typically carry substantial insurance policies as well. If a commercial driver’s employer bears liability for the accident, or a mechanical failure contributed to the accident, injured victims may be entitled to seek compensation from the company’s insurance policy.
How severe are the accident injuries? Serious injuries always entail substantial medical bills. Insurance companies and attorneys usually calculate compensation based on three key factors: medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering related to the accident. Severe injuries usually result in higher medical costs and more missed time at work. More moderate injuries, on the other hand, typically have lower treatment costs and quicker recovery, which allows victims to return to work sooner.
4. If a driver or passenger opened a car door, causing a bicycle accident, does that party still bear liability?
Drivers should exercise care when opening their doors, whether they open onto a street, a sidewalk, or a parking lot. If a driver or passenger in a vehicle opens a door and causes an accident, that party oftentimes bears liability for the accident. An accident does not have to occur while a motor vehicle is moving along the road to deem the driver or a passenger liable for injuries resulting from an accident they caused.
5. A cyclist wasn’t wearing a helmet and suffered a traumatic brain injury. Does the cyclist still deserve compensation for their injuries?
Wearing a bicycle helmet can reduce a rider’s risk of suffering any head injury by as much as 50 percent. Helmets offer significant protection from severe head injuries in the event of an accident. However, whether or not a rider is wearing a helmet, does not change the fact that another party caused the accident. Unprotected cyclists are entitled to compensation for their injuries despite their lack of a helmet.
6. Do injured victims need an attorney to file a bicycle accident claim?
Injured victims who suffer serious injuries in any type of accident, including a bicycle accident, may benefit from hiring an attorney to assist them in pursuing their claim. When necessary, an experienced Fort Myers bicycle accident attorney can help collect evidence related to a bicycle accident. They may help injured victims identify the causes of the accident and the potentially liable parties to name in their claim. An attorney may also offer insight concerning how much compensation injured victims are entitled to.
Experienced Fort Myers bicycle accident attorneys regularly negotiate on behalf of their clients to ensure the offers they receive are fair and maximize their recovery. Obtaining an attorney to handle the legal aspects of a Fort Myers bicycle accident claim allows injured victims to focus on their physical recovery.
7. What if the insurance company that covers the liable driver offers an injured victim a settlement?
Many insurance companies will get in touch with injured victims immediately after an accident to offer a settlement. Oftentimes, victims may be struggling to pay their medical bills, so a quick settlement may be enticing. Unfortunately, the initial settlement offered by insurance companies is often inadequate to fully cover accident-related expenses.
Insurance companies may attempt to limit their financial liability by enticing injured parties into accepting a low settlement amount. When an injured victim accepts a settlement offer, the agreement typically requires them to waive their right to seek additional compensation for their injuries. If the amount accepted later proves to be insufficient, injured victims will be personally responsible for any additional expenses.
Injured victims should contact an attorney before accepting any settlement offer issued by an insurance company. Many attorneys will provide a free consultation and case evaluation to assist injured victims in determining the actual value of their claim. Attorneys can help guide their clients through negotiation discussions until the insurance company offers an agreeable amount that reflects the true value of the claim.
8. How long does it take to settle a bicycle accident claim?
The time it takes to resolve a bicycle accident claim depends on a variety of factors, and the process often takes some time. Though the insurance company may act fast to provide an initial settlement offer, the company may not respond quickly to continued negotiations.
Some factors that may affect the time required to resolve a claim include:
- The severity of the injuries and the amount of compensation sought. Claims involving a significant amount of compensation typically take longer to settle than moderate claims. While injured victims deserve a settlement that represents the full value of their claim, insurance companies are reluctant to offer large settlements in the absence of aggressive negotiation.
- Required recovery time. Many attorneys will advise injured victims to progress through treatment for their injuries before filing a Fort Myers bicycle accident claim. Of course, injured victims may begin the claims process long before they are fully healed. However, it may take some time for medical professionals to accurately estimate the timeline and prognosis of an injured victim’s recovery. By waiting to file a claim, injured victims can more exactly anticipate the costs associated with their injuries and any long-term limitations they may experience.
- The number of negotiation discussions required to reach a settlement. By nature, the negotiation process takes time. Parties may engage in several rounds of negotiation before arriving at an agreeable settlement. Sometimes, insurance companies will offer injured victims a reasonable settlement after only a few rounds of negotiation, lessening the time required for the victim to receive compensation. Other times, claims may require multiple rounds of negotiation or mediation sessions with a neutral mediator present. If the parties cannot arrive at a reasonable settlement through negotiation, it may be in an injured victim’s best interest to proceed to trial. Each step in the negotiation process can add to the length of time it takes to resolve a claim.
9. Does the liable party pay injured victim’s medical bills directly?
Ultimately, an injured party is initially responsible for the costs of their medical bills following any type of accident, including a bicycle accident. Settlements provided to injured parties typically reimburse expenses they have paid and provide a sum of money for future expenses.
Injured victims may have several opportunities for managing their medical bills after a severe bicycle accident.
Personal injury protection insurance. Personal injury protection insurance will cover initial expenses associated with injured victims’ medical costs and lost wages. Injured victims must inform their treatment providers of their insurance coverage and policy information to ensure the policy is used to cover the treatment.
Health insurance. Health insurance can help provide coverage for many medical bills, including ongoing medical treatments. Contact your health insurance provider as soon as you can after your accident. You will need to inform the insurance company about the accident and your injuries. It is important to ask questions about what expenses your policy will cover.
Some questions to ask include:
- How much is your copay or deductible for services, including surgical treatment or hospitalization?
- Does your insurance cover durable medical equipment, including prosthetic devices or a wheelchair?
- How many physical therapy sessions will your insurance company cover?
If injured victims can’t immediately pay their medical bills, an attorney can draft a letter of protection. A letter of protection states a party’s intent to pay medical bills upon their receipt of compensation from their Fort Myers bicycle accident claim. This notice can help prevent medical care providers from pursuing collections against injured parties while their claim for compensation is pending.
10. Some time has passed since the accident. Can I still file a Fort Myers bicycle accident claim?
In Florida, the statute of limitations limits the amount of time within which an injured victim may file a Fort Myers bicycle accident claim. Typically, injured victims must file a claim within two years of the date of the accident. However, several exceptions exist that can extend the statute of limitations and allow victims to file a claim beyond the two-year limitation. Contact an experienced Fort Myers bicycle accident attorney as soon after an accident as possible to get a better idea of how long you have to file a claim.
11. If my child suffered severe injuries or died in a bicycle accident, do I have a right to compensation?
If a child suffers severe injuries or death in a bicycle accident, surviving family members may be entitled to seek compensation for their loss. A child may not be entitled to coverage under their parent’s personal injury protection policy. However, many children are covered under their family’s health insurance policy, which can initially provide coverage for their medical expenses. Contact an attorney to learn more about your child’s legal rights following a bicycle accident that results in serious injuries.
Contact Viles & Beckman if Someone Injured You on Your Bike
If a bicycle accident injures you or a family member, you may have rights to substantial financial compensation. Contact Viles & Beckman at 239-334-3933 to schedule a free, confidential, no-obligation consultation with a member of our team. We have years of experience representing Floridians injured in cycling accidents, pedestrian accidents and can give you the best chance of recovering the money you need and deserve.
About the Author of this Page: The above information was written or reviewed by one of the attorneys at Viles & Beckman LLC who have a combined experience of nearly 60 years: Marcus Viles, Michael Beckman or Maria Alaimo. The information provided in this article comes from years of experience trying legal cases outside and inside courtrooms throughout Florida along with extensive research.
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