According to statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), nearly 800 bicyclists were killed and 44,000 others injured in accidents during 2006. Bicyclists are subject to the same rules of the road as motorists, but even the most prudent of bicyclists can fall victim to a catastrophic accident. They are especially vulnerable to injury; besides helmets, bicyclists have little to protect them from an impact or crash.
Causes of Bicycle Accidents
Not all bicycle accidents involve a motor vehicle striking the bike. Although plenty of accidents stem from the actions of a reckless or negligent motorist, hazardous road conditions and defective products can also contribute to or cause serious injury to bicyclists.
Reckless or Negligent Drivers
Motorists are responsible for exercising reasonable caution while operating their vehicles, but when they are intoxicated, inattentive, or irresponsible, they can cause tragic accidents. The majority of bicycle accidents are caused by motorists who fail to:
- Stop at a traffic sign or light
- Follow the speed limit
- Notice a bicyclist when making a left or right hand turn
- Check before opening a car door into a bike lane or path of oncoming bicyclist
Even if a bicyclist does not collide with a motor vehicle - but is injured while trying to avoid collision - the bicyclist may have a valid case against the driver of the vehicle, since the driver's negligence or recklessness may have contributed to the bicyclist's injury. A judge or jury could find the driver at fault and deem them responsible for paying damages to the bicyclist.
If a bicyclist's injuries are the result of a defect in the bicycle, such as faulty brakes or pedals, the bicyclist can file a claim against the manufacturer or seller of the bicycle under the doctrine of product liability. When filing a product liability claim, the plaintiff must prove that he or she was using the bicycle in the manner in which it was intended, and show a link between the defect and the injury that it caused.
Hazardous Road Conditions
When bicyclists injure themselves on public property, such as a roadway or sidewalk, because of dangerous hazards or defects in their paths, they may be able to hold the government liable. These accidents can occur on surfaces that are uneven, sandy, or slippery. Injured bicyclists filing claims against the government should consider the statutes of limitations; usually this time limit to file a claim is shorter when a government entity is involved. The statutes of limitations vary by state.
Filing a Bicycle Accident Claim
Sometimes the cause of or contributing factors in a bicycle accident are vague. An experienced bicycle accident attorney is trained to thoroughly investigate the accident. Based on the facts surrounding the accident, the attorney can build a strong case against the person or persons responsible for causing or contributing to the accident. When presented with clear and convincing evidence and a sound argument, a judge or jury could award the injured bicyclist significant financial compensation for medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering resulting from the accident.
Contact a Bicycle Accident Attorney near You
If you or a loved one has been injured or killed in a bicycle accident, you may be entitled to financial compensation. To recover damages, you'll need aggressive legal representation. ImpactLaw's directory can help you find experienced bicycle accident attorneys in your area.