Bicycling is a great way to stay in shape and has been making a resurgence in popularity over the last few years, especially with major metropolises like Philadelphia. Many Pennsylvania cities and towns are adopting Citi Bike and similar programs that let commuters, tourists and others rent a bike for very little cost. These cities are particularly dangerous hot spots for bike accidents because of the abundance of intersections and vehicles on the roads.
Bike Accidents Overview
Over 20,000 bicycle accidents are reported each year in the US; thats about one accident every 25 minutes. Not to mention, there are many bike accidents that go unreported. While the vast majority of these incidents (over 80%) result in only minor injuries, there are hundreds of cyclists that sustain more serious, life-threatening and even fatal trauma. In either case, knowing how and from whom you can seek damages from is important.
Because most bicycle accidents involve a crash with a motor vehicle, they involve many of the same issues, steps and procedure as a typical auto accident. This means that liability in these incidents often come down to deciding negligence and who is at fault.
Both drivers and bike riders are required to know and follow the rules of the road. Depending on state law, bicycles often have their own set of traffic laws that dictate the proper and safe way to operate a bike.
That said, because of the greater chance of injury for the cyclist, it can often be easier to prove driver negligence over the biker. There is often a stricter duty to exercise ordinary care associated with the driver for this reason. However, there are plenty of incidents where a bike accident claim is unsuccessful because the courts find that it was in fact the bicyclist who acted negligently and that the driver did everything ordinarily expected of them to avoid the accident.
Proving Negligence in Bike Accident Cases
After an accident involving a bike, the cyclist will try and recover damages for any injuries sustained during the incident. To receive these damages, negligence has to be prove on the part of the driver (or disproven), which requires three key questions to be answered.
- Did the driver of the automobile act negligently or recklessly, which led to the accident with the cyclist?
- Did this accident cause injury to the bike rider?
- Was there any negligence on behalf of the bike operator that could have caused or contributed to the accident?
Driver Negligence comes in a lot of different forms. The most common are things like speeding, failing to stop at a red light or stop sign or driving in a designated bike lane. Sometimes, these actions can even be deemed as reckless driving, if they are done with an obvious lack of regard for the safety and well-being of other motorists or cyclists.
Essentially, a cyclists ability to prove driver negligence rests on whether or not the driver acted in such a way that violated the duty of care every driver (or cyclist) has to everyone nearby on the roadways. For example, if a driver drove too close to the bike lane and didnt give a cyclist a wide enough berth, it may be found that violated this duty. Again, there is often a greater duty of care associated with driving near cyclists because they are much more vulnerable than another automobile operator.
An injured cyclists best weapon towards proving negligence is often the testimony of eyewitnesses and other additional evidence. Eyewitness testimonies are particularly impactful because they present an unbiased, third-party view on what happened during the incident. Other evidence may include a history of speeding or reckless driving on the drivers part, which may helps prove that they were speeding or driving erratically at the time of the incident.
Once all of the evidence of the drivers negligence during the accident is submitted and each testimony is heard, it is the responsibility of the defending driver to either prove that the cyclists injuries are not a result of the accident or that there was substantial negligence on the part of the cyclist that contributed to the incident or even caused it.
Cyclist negligence comes into play whether the rider is claiming damages from a driver or is being sued by someone else for causing injury in an accident. In either case, it can determine the outcome of a case. If a driver can prove that the cyclist acted negligently, it may cause the biker to be unable to receive any damages from the driver.
A lot of the examples of cyclist negligence are similar to what would constitute driver negligence. After all, both are required to follow the rules of the road. The common examples include things like traveling the wrong direction on a one-way street, not stopping for a red light or stop sign, turning without signaling and even speeding.
Due to the unprotected nature of a cyclist compared to a driver of an automobile, this type of negligence is often classified as contributory or comparative negligence. Thus, it is rare that the entirety of the blame is placed on the cyclists, but rather a contributory part of it. In other words, they acted in a way that, in part, caused the accident to happen. This can save the defending driver from having to pay the entirety of the damages for the cyclists injuries.
What to Do After a Bike Accident
Your immediate concern is the safety of you and other parties involved. If your injuries are severe, you need to seek emergency medical attention. If it is possible and you are on a busy roadway, try to move yourself out of future harms way by getting off the road. Also, try and get eyewitness accounts of any nearby people who saw the incident. This may greatly help your case down the road.
Once the initial incident is over and you and the driver have gone your separate ways, you should begin looking for a lawyer that can evaluate your possible claim for damages. These lawsuits always come down to which party acted negligently or caused the accident. While this may seem easy, the process to determining and proving negligence can be complex and require a lot of research and detailed analysis.
Thus, you want to look for a law firm that specializes in cases similar to yours. This ensures that your legal help has the right knowledge and experience to help you prove that the fault rests on the shoulders of the driver and that your actions did not contribute to the accident.