Bicycle Accident Injury Settlements
Bicyclists and drivers often share the same roads, so bikers are always at risk for being injured in an accident. If you are struck by a car while on your bicycle, it is possible that the at-fault driver’s insurance policy will cover your medical costs and related injury expenses. However, obtaining just compensation for a bicycle accident claim can be confusing, even if the driver was in the wrong.
This article describes bicycle accident claims, compensation amounts and tips for the best personal injury settlement.
Common Types of Bicycle Accidents
There are several common types of bicycle accidents where a driver’s negligence often leads to an accident. The most common types of accidents involve these factors:
- The driver did not see the biker. This is common because bicyclists have a much smaller profile than a car or truck. Drivers often are not watching for bikes on the roadways.
- Careless and reckless driving. Drivers often drive too close to bikers, leading to the biker running off the road or even being struck by the car.
- Driving too fast. Drivers frequently get too close and drive much to fast past a biker, leading to a serious accident.
- Drunk or under the influence of drugs or alchohol. A driver under the influence can be deadly to a bicyclist.
If the driver in an accident has committed any of the above actions, you could have a personal injury claim against the driver. You may be entitled to compensation including medical costs, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
Common Bicycle Accident Injuries
A car versus bike crash usually leads to very serious or even lethal injuries for the bicyclist. The consequences of a bicycle accident can change or even end your life. The accident may cause the following types of serious injuries, meaning that you need legal help to ensure that you get the best possible bicycle accident compensation in the claim or lawsuit:
- Broken or crushed bones
- Traumatic brain injury, or TBI
- Spinal cord, neck or back injury
- Nerve damage
- Dislocated joints
- Serious cuts and abrasions from vehicle and/or road surface
Approximately 2/3 of bicycle accident occur at intersections where the driver fails to see the bicyclist. Another common scenario is the driver turning left or right in front of the biker on the roadway.
It also is common for bikers to be rear ended, sideswiped, run off the road or ‘doored’ by a parked car. These accident scenarios are serious, and you need to collect evidence that the driver was at fault.
Bicycle Accident Settlement Information
As with any personal injury claim, the strength of your bike accident claim will rest on the evidence. Insurance companies will usually offer a low settlement for a bicycle accident claim. The company will try to do this even when their client clearly was in the wrong.
Insurance companies are cunningly effective in twisting your story in such a way to minimize or dismiss your claim. But twisting the truth gets difficult when there is direct evidence, including photographs of the accident scene and your injuries, as well as a detailed medical report of your injuries.
Thus, it is vital to carefully document as much as possible after your bicycle accident. Not only should you document everything immediately after the crash, including photos and medical reports. In the days, weeks and months after the accident, be sure to collect evidence, as well.
Take regular photos of your injuries as they heal, and even keep a journal. Describe how the bicycle accident injuries are affecting your life and your ability to work. This evidence can be very persuasive when it comes to settling a bicycle accident lawsuit or claim. Remember that many bicycle accident claims or lawsuits can take months to settle. In that time, you should take careful notes of your injuries and how they limit your life.
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Other evidence that will increase the likelihood of an acceptable claim include:
- A copy of the police report. You should always call the police if you are hit by a car on your bike. It is likely that the police will come to the scene of the accident and take an accident report. You may not get a copy of the report at the scene. But be certain to follow up at the police department and get a copy of that report. You should provide that document to your personal injury attorney at the initial consultation.
- Contact information for all parties. Obtain both the contact information and insurance information for the driver. Also, get contact information for any witnesses to the accident. Your attorney will want to speak with those witnesses as soon as possible. Memories fade after only a few days. It is very important to get witness accounts of the bicycle accident right away.
- Medical report. Even if you feel 100% after the crash, you should see a medical professional immediately. It is possible or even likely that serious accident injuries may not fully present themselves for a day or two. The medical report is important so that your accident injuries are assessed right after the accident by a doctor.
- Your bicycle. Keep your bike in the same condition that it was right after the accident. This is your best possible evidence for a property damage claim. It also can help to prove that you did not cause the accident.
All this evidence should be presented to your attorney when you have your first meeting. The attorney should be able to make some preliminary informed guesses about a potential settlement amount based upon this evidence. Attorneys also can access recent settlements and lawsuit verdicts in bicycle accidents in that area to get an idea of what a possible settlement amount may look like.\
What Can Damage Your Bicycle Accident Claim
Motor vehicle insurance companies will do whatever they can to dismiss your claim. Or, they will minimize your accident injuries if possible and offer you as little money as they can. The insurance adjuster is trained to ask questions that can be misleading. The adjuster may even imply that the bike accident was your fault. The insurance company may ask about how experience you are as a biker, how and where you ride, and even the gear that you use. For example, if you cruised through a stop sign just before the crash, this can reduce your claim.
In some states, if you are even 1% in the wrong, you might not even collect a settlement at all. In other states, there is a rule called comparative negligence. This means that if you were 20% at fault for the accident, you would be entitled to collect 80% of your damages.
Other things to keep in mind in a bicycle accident settlement negotiation include:
- Never give an apology. It is natural after an accident to say you are sorry even if you did not cause the accident. However, the motor vehicle insurance company may take an apology as a sign of responsibility and attempt to deny the claim.
- Never ignore the law. Bikers need to follow the same rules of the road as cars. This means that you should obey all traffic lights and traffic signs. Use hand signals when turning. Never drink or use drugs when biking, either. If you are biking in the early morning or evening, your bike should have lights on the front and rear, too.
- Always wear your helmet. Some states do not require riders over 18 to wear a helmet. But if you are hurt in an accident with a car, the adjuster may claim that you would have not been hurt if you had worn a helmet.
- Never talk to the insurance company before you speak to a personal injury attorney. Anyone who is injured in a bike crash should talk to a personal injury attorney in their state before talking to an insurance company adjuster. Insurance agents for the driver represent their client’s interests and not yours. They may try to convince you that your claim is weak so that you take an initial, low ball settlement offer. Your injuries easily could be more serious than you realize. A personal injury attorney knows the games that insurance companies play. Your attorney will have your best interests in mind. Even if you did talk to the insurance company already, you will benefit by retaining an attorney right away.
Average Bicycle Accident Compensation Amounts
Bicyclists hurt in car accidents often have serious injuries. Below is a sampling of average bike accident compensation amounts. Yours could be more or less; talk to an attorney if you think you were in a bike accident due to the negligence of a driver:
- $600,000 for a biker who was hit in a crosswalk by a commercial truck. Two insurance policies were in effect that gave the injured biker compensation.
- $550,000 for a biker who had a broken tibia that required an operation after being hit by a school bus.
- $500,000 for the family of a bicyclist who died from injuries when he was hit by a car at an intersection.
- $250,000 for a bicyclist who suffered serious injuries after being hit in downtown Chicago. The insurance settlement was the maximum offered by the driver’s insurance policy.
Bicycle Accident Settlement Summary
To receive the compensation deserved for your injuries, you need representation by a personal injury attorney who understands how to account for your damages and to properly negotiate a personal injury claim. Retain an attorney as soon as possible after the accident, ideally before you talk to the driver’s insurance company. He or she will inform the insurance company that you intend to make a claim. The attorney will safeguard your legal rights, and will ensure that you get the most compensation possible.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Generally speaking, from a personal injury perspective, being struck by a car while riding a bike is no different than being in a traffic accident while driving a car. Cyclists share the road with cars and are entitled to most of the same rights when it comes to personal injuries suffered while riding. As long as you were not at fault and another driver or responsible party was, you should be able to file a bicycle injury lawsuit against those responsible for the cost of your medical bills, damage to you bicycle, and other damages.
Bear in mind, because bicycles lack the same safety features as cars, trucks and other vehicles on the road, bicyclists tend to suffer more serious injuries when they are struck by cars. It’s not uncommon for bicyclists to suffer broken ribs, soft tissue injuries likes scrapes and bruising, and even fatal injuries from collisions with cars on the road. For that reason, the medical bills and other expenses associated with being hit by a car while riding bike tend to add up much faster than other types of accidents.
Whether or not you can sue someone for hitting you with their car comes down to who was at fault. Many assume that if a driver hits a pedestrian or biker, the driver is automatically at fault. This is sometimes but not always true.
Drivers are required to yield for pedestrians and bikers at marked crosswalks and in various other situations that are stated in that state’s vehicle code. Drivers also are required to obey traffic signals and all speed limits posted. If a pedestrian is hit by a car when the driver is violating the law, then it is clear the driver was at fault. But some of these accidents are less clear cut.
Also, you must have suffered an injury to file a claim or to file a lawsuit against the driver who hit you. Usually, you would file a claim with the driver’s insurance company; a lawsuit is usually a last resort when the negotiation process breaks down.
Next, did the driver stop at the scene of the accident? If so, pursuing a claim with the driver’s insurance company should be fairly straightforward. But if it was a hit and run, it may be harder to file the claim as sometimes the driver is never found. In this situation, you could file a claim on your own policy if you have uninsured/underinsured driver insurance.
So, yes, you usually can sue the driver who hit you, if he was to blame, you suffered an injury, and he stopped at the scene and gave you his contact and insurance information.
Injuries suffered in bicycling accidents often are serious. You do not have the luxury of being protected by a heavy vehicle, so injuries can be very serious to even life threatening in some accidents.
The most common injury suffered in bicycle accidents is head injury. Head injuries also comprise approximately 60% of biking fatalties. So, if you bike, you absolutely need to make sure that you have a good helmet. It really can save your life.
Other common biking accident injuries are:
- Fractured bones
- Dislocated joints
- Muscle strains
- Road rash
- Dental fractures and tooth loss
- Soft tissue injuries
- Facial contusions
- Neck injuries
- Broken collar bone
- Blunt trauma to abdomen or groin
If you have been in a biking accident, make certain you are taken to the ER immediately for a medical evaluation.
A bicycle rider who is hurt by a car in an accident could be entitled to substantial compensation, depending upon the specific circumstances. To be eligible for the maximum amount of compensation, the accident needs to be 100% the fault of the driver, and you will need to prove that to the insurance company (usually with the help of a personal injury attorney).
How much you will be compensated completely depends upon the severity of your injuries. If you have minor cuts and bruises and do not miss work time, you would obviously get much less compensation than if you say, break your leg and arm and are off work for two months, plus have thousands in medical bills.
To get an idea of what your compensation would be, let’s assume you are in a fairly serious bicycle accident with the driver 100% at fault. For example, say the driver ran a stop sign and hit you while you were proceeding legally through an intersection. You break your arm and suffer cuts and bruises. Your total medical costs are $2500, you miss two weeks of work that cost you $1000. So, your total economic losses are $3500. You would theoretically be entitled to $3500, but then there is the matter of pain and suffering.
With a broken arm, you almost certainly have suffered a certain amount of pain and discomfort, not to mention the mental anguish of being injured and unable to enjoy some of your regular activities. The insurance company typically applies a multiplier between 1 and 5 to arrive at a settlement amount. So, if your economic damages are $3500, and we use a multiplier of 3 (a common starting point) for your pain and suffering, you might get a settlement of $10,500 for your accident injuries.
It is common to wonder if your auto insurance will cover your injuries and property damages in a bike accident. You could have serious injuries and your bike could be destroyed, so this is not a minor issue. While every insurance policy is somewhat different, it is likely your policy will cover a bicycle accident if the following are true:
- The accident should involve a motor vehicle of some kind. It actually does not matter most of the time if you were on a bike, in a car, ATV or something else. At least one of the vehicles involved needs to be a motor vehicle. In that case, your auto insurance should cover your damages.
- The accident was the fault of the driver. If the accident was your fault, it is likely your auto insurance provider will deny the claim. If you are 50% at fault for the accident, it is likely the auto insurance policy would cover 50% of your damages. So if you have $1000 in injuries and property damage and were 50% responsible, you could receive $500 from the insurance company.
In most accidents involving a bicyclist and a car driver, the latter is at fault. However, bikers who do not follow the rules of the road or engage in dangerous riding activities also can be liable for the accident.
Bicyclists are required to follow the same rules of the road as auto drivers. If you fail to signal, fail to stop, do not use proper lighting on your bike at night, or ride the wrong way on a street, you could be liable. Liability could include your own injuries, injuries of others, and damage to vehicles.
Many states operate under what is called a modified comparative negligence rule in personal injury cases. If the driver or biker is more than 50% responsible for the accident, they may not be able to collect any damages for their injuries and property damages. In fact, if the biker is more than 50% responsible for the accident, they may have to pay damages to the car driver.
In other cases where the biker is less than 50% responsible for the accident, you still could recover damages. For example, if you are in an accident with a car on your bike and have $5000 in injuries but were 20% responsible for the accident, you would theoretically only get $4000 in damages.
If you are hit by a car on your bicycle and the driver was at fault, you may be able to make a substantial personal injury claim with the driver’s insurance company. How much can you claim?
Let’s look at the different types of damages you may be entitled to. First are economic damages:
- Medical expenses past and future
- Lost wages past and future
- Lost earning capacity
- Loss of ability to provide household services
- Destruction or loss of personal property
These damages are usually calculated by just looking at paperwork, such as pay stubs, receipts, medical bills, etc. You and your attorney should add up all of these damages to arrive at a figure and present that to the insurance company.
The other part of the claim is non-economic damages. Beyond medical bills and lost work time, there are many other ways that your bicycle accident can have a devastating effect on your life. You may be suffering a lot of physical pain from your injuries. You could be afraid to ride your bike, and have difficulty exercising and playing with your children.
The questions comes down to how to judge what that pain and suffering is worth. One of the common ways to do it is to use a multiplier. This is usually a number between 1 and 5 that represents your level of non economic damages. For a ‘typical’ accident, a multiplier of 2 or 3 could be used by the insurance company. This number would be multiplied by your economic damages to arrive at a settlement figure.
For example, if you have $5000 of economic damages, and you and your attorney determine a fair multiplier for your level of pain and suffering is a 2, you might get a settlement of $10,000. Of course, the insurance company will need to agree on which multiplier to use. That is where the skill and experience of a good personal injury attorney is so important.
If you are hit on your bicycle by a car and the driver is at fault, you could be eligible for compensation in a personal injury claim or lawsuit. You could be entitled to the following:
- Medical costs: Includes medical bills, diagnostic tests, medical reports and physical therapy.
- Lost wages: You are usually entitled to the reasonable value of the time you have lost from work or expect to lose. Can include wages, commissions, bonuses and fringe benefits.
- Pain and suffering: This can be especially serious in a bike accident case. Most often is the most valuable part of a personal injury claim in a bicycle accident.
- Property damage: You bicycle could be damaged or destroyed, and you may be entitled to a replacement.
Below are some actual bicycle accident settlements that have occurred in the past. Your case could be very different; be sure to talk to a qualified attorney about your case to get an idea what its value might be:
- Client riding bike hit low hanging tree branch: Insurance carriers argued that it was the client’s fault because the tree branch was visible. Accident reconstruction experts were used to show the branch was an accident waiting to happen. Client recovered $110,000.
- Client was riding on road shoulder in California when hit by a vehicle. The insurance carrier contested the injuries but settled for $180,000.
- Biker was riding on a busy road when he was ‘doored’ by a driver who parked and opened his car door without looking. Recovery for the client was $195,000.
Generally, yes. If you were hit by a car on your bike and the driver was at fault, you can file a claim with that driver’s insurance company. You have to prove the driver was at fault. Then you can negotiate a reasonable and fair payment for your injuries and losses from that insurance company.
Insurance negotiations are complex affairs that are often best left to attorneys. But filing a personal injury lawsuit is usually a last resort where the insurance company is low balling your claim or is denying it outright.
However, bear in mind there are cases where the bicyclist could be partially at fault for the accident. If that is the case, you may not be able to recover the full amount of damages you would have otherwise. Most states reduce the amount of damages you can receive based upon your percentage of fault for the accident. For example, if you are hit by a car and suffer $2000 in injuries in medical bills and lost wages, but were 50% responsible for the accident, you may only receive $1000 in compensation.