Riding a bicycle is a popular means of transportation for many individuals in Rhode Island. Whether for leisure, exercise or even commuting to work, it is a great way to get around the city. Although bicyclists are required to ride safely and abide by traffic laws, motor vehicle drivers must share the road and exercise reasonable care not to injure others. Despite these mutual obligations, bicycle accidents are becoming increasingly common, often resulting in serious injuries.
Causes of Bicycle Accidents
Although there are many factors involved in bicycle accidents, the negligent actions of drivers are often the cause, including:
- Distracted driving
- Drifting into a bike lane
- Backing up
- Pulling out into traffic
- Running a stop sign or traffic light
- Opening a car door
At the same time, bicyclists are required to follow the same local and state traffic laws as motorists and exercise reasonable care not to cause injuries. This includes stopping at all traffic signals and not riding on sidewalks. In some locations, bicyclists must ride on a designated bike path or lane. If one is not provided, bicyclists must ride in the direction of traffic, close to the curb.
Additionally, bicyclists must adhere to safety rules such as wearing a helmet and using proper turn signals. All bicycles must also be equipped with reflectors, working brakes, and working lights at night. Depending on the jurisdiction, contributory negligence may be assessed against a bicyclist who fails to exercise this level of care, lowering the value of an injury claim.
Common Bicycle Accident Injuries
Bicyclists can suffer serious injuries in a collision or accident, including:
- Broken bones and fractures
- Lacerations and bruises
- Neck and spine injuries
- Nerve damage
- Jaw and facial injuries
- Traumatic Brain Injuries
Bicycle Accident Negligence Claims
A driver who fails to exercise proper caution and avoid hitting a cyclist can be found negligent. In order to have a valid claim, it is necessary to show that the driver breached his or her duty not to injure others. If the driver is cited for a traffic violation relative to the accident, this is known as “negligence per se.” Under this legal doctrine, an act is deemed to be negligent because it violates a law or statute. If a traffic violation is not involved, then a successful claim may depend on eyewitness testimony or other evidence of the driver’s negligence.
Additionally, bicycle accidents can also occur on streets and sidewalks that have not been properly maintained. Cracks, potholes, and other defects can cause a bicyclist to lose control and suffer serious injuries. In these circumstances, a lawsuit can be brought against a municipality or government agency that is responsible for maintaining the roadways. However, special procedures and strict deadlines apply to such claims. Finally, if the accident was caused by a mechanical defect, a product liability lawsuit can be brought against the bicycle manufacturer or distributor.
Recovering Damages in a Bicycle Accident
Ultimately, bicycle accident cases usually involve negotiating a settlement with an insurance company. Insurers often have an unfair advantage over injury victims, however, and typically attempt to settle these cases for as little money as possible. Therefore, injured bicyclists should never accept a settlement offer or even speak to an insurance company before hiring an attorney.
If the insurance company fails to make a reasonable offer, it may be necessary to litigate the matter in court. In any event, bicycle accident injury victims may be entitled to damages, including lost wages, past and future medical expenses, and pain and suffering. If the accident was caused by a driver who violated any traffic laws or was driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, it may also be possible to recover punitive damages.
In the end, a bicycle accident case requires conducting a thorough investigation, which includes collecting relevant evidence, identifying and interviewing witnesses, and reviewing police reports. At times, it may also be necessary to call upon accident reconstruction experts in order to establish the defendant’s liability. With this in mind, having a successful claim requires the advice and counsel of a capable bicycle accident injury attorney. Contact our Rhode Island personal injury attorney today.