Whether it is a mode of transportation or leisure activity, bike riding is popular throughout the United States. Many cities are investing in new bike lanes, bike zones, and traffic-calming devices designed to help bike riders and improve their green footprint.
Bikes often share the road with larger vehicles, which means that bicycle accidents will occur. Since bike riders are mostly unprotected, their injuries are often severe and can be fatal. Vehicle drivers may be distracted, using a cellphone, or simply not paying attention to the road, and they may hit a bike rider. Whatever the cause, a bicyclist involved in an accident should discuss their circumstances with a lawyer.
In Pennsylvania and many other states, bicyclists must follow the same rules and regulations as motor vehicle drivers:
In all states, vehicle drivers have a duty to use reasonable care to avoid causing injury to bicycle riders and anyone else on the road. In addition, in Pennsylvania, vehicles must allow 4 feet of distance when overtaking a bike rider and not open any car door while passing a bicyclist.
Vehicles are the number one cause of bicycle accidents. A bike rider will need to prove that a car driver was negligent if they file a legal claim. The following are common causes of car-bicycle accidents:
A bike rider has little protection against the sheer size and weight of a vehicle. Even a car driving at a slow speed can seriously injure or kill a bike rider. The following are some of the injuries for which bicyclists are most often treated.
Helmets help protect the skull and brain in a bicycle accident. Riders who do not wear a helmet are subject to traumatic brain injuries that could impair them for life.
The most common injuries to the head and skull include:
Bike riders often land directly on a bone or injure their bones trying to stop their fall. Commonly broken bones in a bicycle accident are ribs, pelvis, wrists, shoulders, arms, and legs. Breaks and fractures generally cause pain, swelling, bruising, difficulty moving, or inability to move the affected bone.
A bike rider may be directly impacted by a car, fixed object, or the ground. The handlebars can also impale them. Blunt force trauma can cause internal bleeding and damage to any number of organs:
Anytime muscles, tendons, nerves, and other soft tissues are violently pulled in an accident, sprains, tears, and further damage can occur.
Road rash occurs when a person skids across the pavement in an accident, harming the bare skin on their arms, legs, torso, back, and face. Road rash leaves horrible abrasions, often peeling back layers of skin and leaving raw skin subject to infections.
Even in a minor accident, a bicyclist could suffer from cuts, scrapes, and bruises. However, they should always get checked out by a doctor because some injuries may not be readily apparent.
The first step is to seek medical treatment. Nearby motorists and bystanders will often call for help if you cannot. Never refuse treatment on the scene, even if you believe you have only minor injuries. Some injuries take hours or even days to show up. If you are not transported to a hospital, be sure to follow up with your medical provider right after the accident and whenever new symptoms appear later.
Make sure to see a licensed medical provider who can order the necessary tests and scans. Some providers, such as chiropractors or alternative medicine practitioners, cannot fully evaluate you for breaks, internal injuries, and brain or skull damages. It is essential to be thoroughly checked after a bicycle accident.
While on the scene, make sure police make an accurate report. Provide honest answers to the best of your knowledge, but do not ever admit guilt, blame, or responsibility. Get the name, contact information, and insurance information if a driver has hit you.
If you have a cellphone on you and are physically able, take pictures and videos at the scene, including damage to your bike and the offending car, strewn parts, road conditions, and position of the bike and vehicle. If you cannot take pictures or videos, ask a bystander or witness to do so and send them to you.
Also, if able, talk to witnesses. Get their contact information and statements about what they saw. Write down your own recollections as well, since memories tend to fade over time.
Contact a lawyer once your medical issues are known and treated. If a car, fixed object, or condition of the pavement caused your accident, you may be able to pursue a lawsuit if a negligent party caused your injury.
Proving negligence in a bicycle accident is best left to a lawyer. They can put together a strong case on your behalf. You, through your lawyer, must prove the following after a bicycle accident:
In Pennsylvania, bicycle accidents are covered by car insurance, whether it is compensation from the insurer of the driver who hit you or your own coverage. It depends on the type of insurance you have, which an experienced lawyer can guide you through.
It is important to note that Pennsylvania follows a modified comparative negligence rule. Under this rule, a plaintiff’s damages are reduced by their percentage of fault. Therefore, if a bicycle rider is determined to have been less than 50 percent responsible, their compensation is reduced by the percentage of their fault. If their portion of responsibility exceeds 50 percent or more, they cannot recover any damages.
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation offers these important safety tips for bike riders:
If you have been injured in a bicycle accident, reach out to our Philadelphia bicycle accident lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP. We can help you prove that a negligent party caused your accident and related injuries. To schedule a free and confidential consultation, call us at 800-222-USWA (8792) or contact us online. From our offices in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Lancaster, and Reading, Pennsylvania, we proudly serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey, including Allentown and Harrisburg.