When I talk about bicycle accidents, I am not talking about kids falling off their bikes. I am talking about bicyclists being hit by cars and trucks on the roads of Florida. Not only is the number of people being hurt on bikes shocking, the problem is getting worse! Did you know that between January 1 and November 30, 2021, there were 5,646 bike crashes reported? Out of those crashes, 153 people were killed! In the first eleven months of 2021, Florida has already far surpassed the number of bike accidents from all of 2020.
The numbers of cyclists hurt and killed in Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties is consistent with the statewide problem. In Pinellas County, through the first eleven months of 2021, there were 478 bike crashes and 15 bicyclists killed. In Hillsborough County, there were 425 bike crashes and 13 bicyclists killed.
As a bicycle accident attorney with offices in St. Petersburg and Riverview, I personally see the mayhem left behind when a cyclist is hit, injured, or killed. This article will discuss the problem with bicycle accidents and what you can do if you find yourself as the victim of a bike accident.
Why Hire Us as Your Bike Accident Lawyers?
Like all injury cases, bicycle accidents require strategic action from the start. By getting a lawyer involved early on, you increase your chances for a great resolution to your claim. As your bike accident lawyer, we will take several steps to get your claim set up for success. First, we will control all of the contact with the insurance company. We do not like our clients having to speak to the insurance company without us being there. Second, we help set up your medical care. Most people have no idea what doctors and what facilities are available to treat bike accident injuries. Next, we answer your questions. Because we have handled countless bike accident cases, we know what lies ahead and what pitfalls to avoid. Finally, we handle the negotiation and settlement of the claim. We know how much cases are worth and what is a fair amount of money to be paid.
Steps After a Bike Accident
Contact the Police
Never trust the driver of the car who hit you with your future. Even if the person seems trustworthy, your case is up to that person’s insurance company, not him or her. The insurance company will want an accident report that independently determines fault. Insurance companies do not pay money based on whether someone said that they were sorry. Always contact the police and protect yourself.
The best way to prove a bike accident is with photos. Take photos of the car that hit you. Take photos of the person who was driving the car. Take photos of your damaged bicycle. Finally, take photos of your injuries. The rule of thumb is that the more photos, the better. Let your bike accident lawyer decide which photos are needed.
Seek Emergency Medical Treatment
Although you may be an active, fit, and tough person, always get yourself checked out after being struck by a car. Not only will it give you peace of mind, but the insurance company will pay you more money. If you wait to see a doctor because you think you’ll get better, I guarantee you will cost yourself a lot of money. So, err on the side of caution and go to a hospital or urgent care center immediately.
Don’t Post on Social Media
Posting on social media is one of the biggest unforced errors that I see as a bike accident lawyer. Even harmless posts can come back to bite you. I recommend that you do not post anything after the accident. But, if you must, make sure that your settings are private. Beware that any pictures of you after the accident will be viewed by the insurance company and their teams of private investigators. They will try to spin those pictures against you. So, don’t give them any ammunition and just stay off social media.
Don’t Have Gaps or Delays With Your Medical Treatment
Another unforced error after a bicycle accident is to have gaps or delays in treatment. If you wait a while to see a doctor because you think you will get better, the insurance company will claim that you can’t be that badly injured. Likewise, if you miss appointments, the insurance company will see that in your medical records and pay you less money. Sometimes it’s the little things in these cases that add up to a great settlement or just a mediocre one.
Contact a Florida Bike Accident Lawyer
The faster that we are contacted, the more that we can do for you. The first few days after the bike accident are the most crucial in your case. That’s because we need to set up the claim, arrange medical treatment, and make sure that the insurance company is accepting fault for causing the accident. Every one of these points are crucial to the outcome of your claim.
Who Pays For Your Medical Bills After a Bike Crash?
The insurance issues after a bike accident are complicated. There are potentially three pots of insurance money out there. But, they all do different things.
First Source of Money- PIP Insurance
Florida is a no fault state, so every car or truck on the road must carry Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance. PIP pays up to $10,000 for your medical bills and/or lost wages after the bike accident. What is tricky is figuring out which insurance company will cover those expenses. If you have your own car, your insurance company will pay. Yes, even though you weren’t driving your car. That’s how the law works. Next, if you live with a relative who owns a car, you get PIP through your relative’s company. I know that it sounds odd, but trust me, I’m correct. Lastly, if you don’t own a car and don’t live with a relative who does, you get PIP through the car that hit you. Remember, PIP does not put any money in your pocket, that’s where the next two sources come into play.
Second Source of Money- BI Insurance
If the car or truck that hit your bike and injured you carries Bodily Injury (BI) insurance, then you can make a claim against that insurance policy. You can recover for your past and future medical bills, lost wages, loss of earning capacity, and pain and suffering. This is normally the main source of recovery in a bike accident claim.
Third Source of Money- UM Insurance
If the car or truck that hit your bike and injured you does not carry BI, or did not carry enough BI to fully compensate you, then we look to whether you carry Uninsured Motorist (UM) coverage. This is the pot of money of last resort. We encourage our clients to pull their own auto insurance policy and look for UM or UIM coverage. If you carry it, you have the ability to make a claim on it for your damages. Just like a claim against a BI policy, a claim for UM is for your past and future medical bills, your past lost wages, your loss of earning capacity, and your pain and suffering.
How Long Do You Have to File a Bike Accident Claim?
Under Florida Statute § 95.11, you have four years from the date of the bike accident to file a lawsuit. Remember, a lawsuit is different from starting a claim. The four year statute of limitations does not mean that you can wait weeks, months, or even years to start your claim. If you did nothing for a while and then wanted to bring a claim, no insurance company in the world is going to take your claim seriously. It is always best to hire a bike accident lawyer immediately and let him or her handle the legal decision making.
Bicycle Accident Injuries
The cyclist always loses when it comes to a crash with a car. Simply the act of falling off a bike is enough to cause serious injuries. In my career, the following are injuries that can occur after a bike crash:
Head and Traumatic Brain Injuries
It does not matter if you are wearing a helmet, the brain can still undergo trauma called a traumatic brain injury (TBI). Concussions are another lingering problem that can cause problems with memory, headaches, dizziness, and cognitive impairment. If you have any of these symptoms or believe that you might have a TBI or concussion, I can refer you to a neurologist for further examination and treatment.
Most broken bones are treated at the hospital and you should at least do your follow-up with that doctor. But, if you require ongoing treatment with an orthopedic specialist for your broken bones, I can refer you to doctors.
Neck and Back injuries
Neck and back injuries are probably the most common injuries that I see. They range from sprains and strains to disc bulges and herniations. These injuries can be permanent and require significant treatment. Usually, only an MRI can diagnose the severity of the disc injury. You just won’t know how bad the injury is from an x-ray at the hospital.
Road rash, scrapes, and lacerations all can cause permanent marks or scars. I encourage all of my clients to take pictures of these injuries because scarring has permanent consequences. I have also found that for purposes of case value, scars have significant value.
Soft Tissue Injuries
Soft tissue injuries can include damaged ligaments, tendons, or muscles. These injuries are impossible to see on a X-ray. I recommend that my clients get MRIs, which are much more sensitive and often pick up these injuries.
One of the least appreciated injuries from a bike accident is the emotional toll it takes on the victims. After the physical injuries heal, the PTSD, anxiety, and depression sets in. The insurance companies simply do not value these damages sufficiently. This is why I like to have my clients diagnosed by psychologists and seen by therapists after an accident. These “unseen” injuries really take a toll on people and I am very aware of this problem.
Compensation for Bicycle Accidents
The amount of money that you receive depends on your injuries and how much insurance money is available. Because I cannot control how much insurance is out there, let’s focus on the injuries.
As part of the claim for damages, we will seek the following:
- Medical bills, including the hospital, ambulance, diagnostic testing, doctor’s visits, therapy, rehabilitation and any medical devices that you need.
- Out of pocket expenses such as co-pays, medication, or travel to appointments.
- Lost wages
- Pain and suffering, loss of quality of life, inconvenience.
- Mental anguish and emotional distress.
- Loss of earning capacity.
- Permanent injuries and damages.
- Medical expenses for mental health treatment and therapy.
- Loss of consortium, companionship, or spousal support.
- Future medical treatment and procedures.
- Rehabilitation expenses and vocational training.
- Long term attendant care, nursing care, or assistance.
- Damages for wrongful death.
What Are the Laws for Bicycles in Florida?
Bicycles are required to obey traffic laws just the same as cars. This law is found in Florida statute § 316.2065. The statute states that every 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.
The law requires that cyclists must ride with the flow of traffic, obey stop signs and red lights, use lights at night, yield the right of way when entering a road, and yield to pedestrians in crosswalks.
Now, this does not mean that if you violated a traffic law, you cannot recover compensation. The traffic laws and the civil laws are quite different. See below for a more detailed explanation.
Can You Recover Money Even if You Were At Fault?
Yes, and most injured cyclists have no idea that this is possible. In fact, many of my bike accident clients were going in the wrong direction or not in a bike lane. Florida law for bike accidents uses a comparative fault standard. This means that the total amount of damages are apportioned based on the fault of each party.
Here’s a good example to help you understand. My client was riding an electric powered bicycle at a high speed going against traffic. A car was crossing the road and did not see him. My client smashed into the car’s windshield resulting in head injuries and a broken leg. He was taken to Bayfront Hospital in St. Petersburg and had surgery to repair his broken femur. He hired me and I made a claim on the insurance company for the car that hit him. There was a BI policy of $250,000. The insurance company paid the full amount even though my client was partially at fault. The insurance company reasoned that the injuries were severe enough that even with a reduction for his own actions, it was not worth fighting. This is just one example, but this scenario is not uncommon.
Top Rated Florida Bike Accident Lawyer
I have handled every type of bicycle accident case in my career. I have spoken with the loved ones of cyclists who have been killed all the way down to those who were fortunate enough to only have scrapes and sprains. Whatever the situation, I have seen it and handled it with professionalism and success for my client. If you find yourself in need of a top rated Florida bike accident lawyer, I invite you to contact me for a free consultation. I will be able to answer all of your questions and come up with a strategy for winning you the compensation that you deserve.
The above information was written by Attorney Sean McQuaid at Personal Injury Attorneys McQuaid & Douglas. Personal Injury Attorneys McQuaid & Douglas is the personal injury division of Battaglia, Ross, Dicus & McQuaid, PA. Our firm was established in 1958 and is one of the oldest law firms in Florida. Our firm has the resources and reputation to get things done that most lawyers and law firms simply cannot. Sean McQuaid is the President of Battaglia, Ross, Dicus & McQuaid, P.A. and is the President of the St. Petersburg Bar Association for 2020-21. Mr. McQuaid is also a member of the Clearwater Bar Association and the Hillsborough Bar Association. Please review his bio for his educational background, and his numerous awards, accomplishments, and accolades.