Many people use bikes for transportation to work, school, or recreation, but bicyclists face risks. Florida has by far the highest per-capita bicyclist death rate in the country. A recent Florida Traffic Crash Facts Annual Report indicates that there were 9,356 bike crashes, with 720 fatalities and 1,543 incapacitating injuries, in the state in one recent year.
If you have suffered serious injuries in a bicycle accident, you may need a bicycle accident attorney to help you seek compensation for the full cost of your injuries. Contact Michael T. Gibson, P.A., Auto Justice Attorney today at (407) 490–1271 to schedule your free consultation.
Common Causes of Bicycle Accidents
One primary factor or a combination of factors may cause a bicycle accident. When a car runs into a cyclist, 40 percent of the time, the car rear-ends the bicyclist. These accidents often happen at stop signs. Another common scenario is a vehicle crossing into the path of a bicyclist at an intersection or from an alley or driveway. These T-bone accidents happen 11 percent of the time. Motorists who fail to leave an adequate buffer between their cars and a bicycle may cause accidents.
Some of the most common causes of bicycle accidents include:
- Driver inattention. Distraction is an underlying cause in many types of crashes. Drivers are about three times more likely to crash if they are making a phone call while driving and 23 times more likely to crash when texting and driving. It is important to note that distracted bicycle riders are also more likely to sustain an injury in an accident.
- Failure to yield. When a driver fails to yield to a bicyclist, accidents are more likely to occur. If a motorist fails to yield, a bicyclist may end up trapped in an intersection. Unfortunately, many drivers don’t know about their responsibilities, such as when to yield to a bicyclist. Accidents may occur when motorists fail to yield at stop signs, in street lanes, and at intersections where the bicyclist has the right-of-way. Dooring is also a problem. On crowded streets, the cyclist must ride closer to parked cars, and the driver may fail to check for traffic, open the door, and hit the bicyclist.
- Speeding. When drivers speed, they require greater stopping time and have less time to avoid potential collisions. Even if the speed limit is fairly low, such as in a residential neighborhood, a driver going too fast puts bicyclists at risk.
- Dangerous road conditions. Road hazards are especially risky for bicyclists. Bikes generally have thin tires and are fairly unstable, so sudden changes in the road surface, such as potholes, sewer grates, or train tracks, may cause an accident. If a road hazard causes the accident, the state, county, city, or other entity responsible for road maintenance may face liability.
- Riding at night. More than half of all bicycle accidents happen when it is dark outside, simply because drivers may struggle to see bicyclists in time to stop. Bicycles should be equipped with reflectors and lights to increase visibility.
- Impaired driving. Drugs and alcohol cause one out of three motor vehicle-related fatalities. Alcohol was involved in 37 percent of all fatal bicyclist crashes in 2017.
- Bad weather. Bicyclists generally try to avoid riding in bad weather, but sometimes they find themselves riding in the rain, sleet, fog, or sun glare. In such conditions, drivers may struggle to see bicyclists.
According to an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety study, in 45 percent of fatal bicycle accidents, a motor vehicle was traveling in the same direction as the bicyclist, and 40 percent of serious bicycle collisions happen when a car rear-ends the bicyclist. Therefore, you are more likely to get hurt by being rear-ended by a car than any other way.
The second most likely cause of a serious collision is a T-bone scenario, where a car runs into a cyclist crossing its path perpendicularly. When a bicycle collides with a car, it’s the cyclist, of course, who sustains the brunt of the damage. Accidents often result in fatalities, especially when the car is going fast or the cyclist is not wearing a helmet.
Bicyclists involved in a crash may sustain catastrophic injuries, such as:
- Head and brain injuries. These may include concussions, skull fractures, or other traumatic brain injuries. Unfortunately, traumatic brain injuries can result in lifelong disabilities.
- Internal injuries. A bicycle accident may result in damage to internal organs, such as the liver. It may take hours or even days to discover internal bleeding.
- Neck and back injuries. An injured bicyclist may suffer from a wide variety of neck and back injuries, including herniated discs or severe spinal cord damage.
- Soft tissue injuries. These may include injuries to muscles, tendons, and ligaments.
- Broken bones. Fractures are painful and may require surgery.
- Face, eye, and dental injuries
- Scarring and disfigurement
Bicycle Laws in Florida
The rules of the road apply to both bicyclists and car drivers. These rules include traffic laws for cars and any special state or local rules created specifically for cyclists. Both cyclists and car drivers must exercise care when on the road. People are often confused about the rights and responsibilities of bicyclists. Florida law defines a bicycle as a vehicle and the bicyclist as a driver.
Florida law states that “[e]very person propelling a vehicle by human power has all of the rights and all of the duties applicable to the driver of any other vehicle.”
Thus, bicyclists have the same rights to the roadways as automobile drivers. Also, cyclists must obey the same traffic laws as drivers of other vehicles. These laws include riding with the flow of traffic, obeying stop signs and red lights, using lights at night, yielding the right-of-way when entering a roadway, and yielding to pedestrians in crosswalks.
The law does not require cyclists to ride on the shoulder, but they may ride on the shoulder if they so choose; however, such riding can present hazards. Bicyclists should never ride in the gutter or hug the curb, both of which greatly increase the risk of a crash.
There are some basic rules and regulations for bicyclists established by Florida law, including the following:
- Bicyclists must obey all traffic controls and signals.
- Bicyclists must use a fixed, regular seat for riding.
- The number of riders/passengers on any bicycle is limited to the maximum number for that bike.
- Bicyclists must keep at least one hand on the handlebars at all times while riding.
- Every bicycle must have a brake that can stop it within 25 feet.
- Bikers try to ride reasonably close to the right-hand curb of the road. There are exceptions to this rule, such as when making a left turn, when passing, when avoiding road hazards, when traveling the same speed as all the other traffic, when a lane is too narrow to share with a car safely, or if traveling on a one-way street with at least two lanes.
- If two cyclists ride abreast, they must stay within a single lane.
- In general, it is legal to ride a bike on a sidewalk in Florida, although some local governments may prohibit it. However, cyclists should note that as long as they are biking on a sidewalk or in a crosswalk, they have all the same responsibilities as pedestrians.
- Bicyclists may not use headphones, earbuds, or other listening devices—except for hearing aids.
- Florida also mandates certain lighting requirements for bicycles operated between sunset and sunrise.
- Take all possible precautions and remain as visible as possible. Wear a properly fitting helmet, and check the condition of your bike and your light before every ride.
- Parents and guardians have a responsibility to ensure that their children obey Florida’s bicycle laws.
Responsibilities of Drivers
Motor vehicle drivers have all of the basic responsibilities to drive safely, obey traffic laws, and respect the rights of others. Drivers must not only pay attention to their own driving, but also remain aware of other vehicles around them. Bicyclists often have little or no protection when riding, so in an accident, their injuries are often serious or fatal.
Therefore, car drivers must use caution when sharing the road with a cyclist.
- Share the Road signs mean that drivers should expect to encounter bicyclists on a particular stretch of road. Usually, these signs are present if a road isn’t wide enough to accommodate both bikes and cars in one lane. In those situations, the bicyclist has the right of “first come, first served” and the full use of the lane. Motorists may not pass until it is safe to do so.
- Bicyclists usually ride in the right half of the lane, but in some circumstances, they need to ride on the left side.
- It is dangerous to make a right turn in front of a bicyclist. Unless the bicyclist has signaled a turn, assume that he or she is moving straight ahead at an intersection.
- When making left turns, yield to oncoming bicyclists just as you would to other vehicles. The bicyclist may be going faster than you would think.
- Passing and overtaking are risky endeavors, and impatient drivers can cause accidents. Often, it is not necessary to pass a cyclist right away. Take a moment to consider the circumstances. Is oncoming traffic near? Is there stopped traffic ahead? Is there a better opportunity to pass safely up ahead? Are you planning to turn off the road soon? The law provides that if a driver is overtaking a bicycle, the driver must allow a distance of at least 3 feet between the motor vehicle and the bicycle. The driver must pass to the left at a safe distance and shall move back to the right side of the roadway until safely clear of the overtaken bike. When passing a bicyclist, slow down, especially if the road is narrow. Always check and allow adequate space before you move back into your lane.
- Be alert to hazards, such as potholes, drain grates, and debris. Give bicyclists adequate space to maneuver around such hazards.
- Allow for the inexperience of children on bicycles. Extra care is needed when near kids on bikes. Make sure you are ready for an unexpected turn or swerve.
The Basics of Bicycle Accident Lawsuits
Lawsuits to recover compensation for injuries in bicycle accidents with motor vehicles involve many of the same issues as other car accident lawsuits. The primary question is whether someone’s negligence caused the bicyclist’s injuries. In addition to a driver’s negligence, other possible causes of the harm include a defective bicycle, poorly maintained roads, or unclear bicycle lanes.
Basically, negligence occurs when a person owes a duty to another person and fails in that duty. In such a case, the negligent person is liable for any resulting injuries. In a lawsuit based on negligence, the injured person typically must prove that the other party acted in a way that breached a duty owed to the injured person.
Negligence by a driver can take many forms. It may mean violating the basic duty of care owed to everyone else on the road, such as ignoring traffic signals, driving too fast, or drifting into a bike lane.
Each bicycle accident is unique, and determining liability comes down to the specific facts of the accident. Evidence, such as eyewitness testimony, helps prove the facts and establish liability.
If you were injured in a bicycle accident, you may recover both economic and non-economic compensation. Economic damages include such monetary losses as medical bills and lost wages. Non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering, are more subjective. However, after a catastrophic injury, some of the greatest losses may be non-economic, because such injuries change the way you live your life.
The court may award the following damages:
- Any medical bills and expenses related to the accident. These may include emergency care, hospital stays, doctor bills, rehabilitation, or ongoing care.
- Compensation for lost wages due to time missed from work for attending medical appointments and during the recovery period
- Past, present, and future pain, suffering, and inconvenience
- Past, present, and future mental anguish and emotional distress
- Loss of earning capacity in cases of permanent physical or mental impairment
- Compensation for permanent injuries and damages
- Payment of all causally related bills for psychological or psychiatric treatment
- Loss of consortium, companionship, or spousal support
- Compensation for future medical treatment or procedures (including future surgeries and hospital stays)
- Wrongful death
What Should You Do in the Event of a Crash?
If you are in an accident, seek medical care as soon as possible. Even if you think you have no injuries or that your injuries are minor, some injuries do not show up until days or even weeks later, making prompt medical attention important.
If possible, take the following actions:
- When riding, carry a cell phone, personal identification, and emergency contact information.
- Call the police. Even if the accident is minor, an official police report will document the accident.
- Leave your bike in the same state it was after the crash, if possible. It is best if the police see the accident scene undisturbed.
- Get the driver’s name and his or her insurance information, along with the names of any passengers. Do not admit fault. Obtain the contact information of any witnesses.
- Take photos of injuries, your bicycle, and the accident scene.
- Do not publish photos of or information about your accident on social media. Insurance adjusters and private investigators may read your posts, and such posts may harm your case.
- Make no statement to insurance or other people until you talk to a lawyer.
Why You Should Consult a Bicycle Accident Attorney
Bicycles are a great form of transportation and recreation, but you must stay safe on the roads. There are time limits for filing lawsuits in Florida, so contact an attorney without delay. If you or a loved one was injured in a bicycle accident, you should contact an experienced, compassionate bicycle accident attorney to learn about your legal options.
Michael T. Gibson, P.A., Auto Justice Attorney
2420 S. Lakemont Avenue
Orlando, FL 32814