Biking is quite popular in Florida, and generally, it is viewed as an eco-friendly and healthy transportation method.
However, the number of bicycle accidents in Florida is increasing daily at an alarming rate. According to Orlando Weekly, Florida has the highest number of bicycle accident deaths in the United States.
Victims of bicycle accidents in Florida usually face a hard time pursuing compensation. This is because most insurance companies are fond of downplaying the magnitude of their injuries.
If you or your loved one was injured in a bicycle accident, we invite you to contact the Jacksonville Personal Injury Attorney for a free consultation. We've helped numerous Jacksonville bicycle accident victims obtain fair compensation. We can help you too.
We work on a contingency-fee-basis. You won't pay us anything until you've won. We are confident that we will assist you in recovering compensation for the injuries or losses you suffered.
In this article, we will discuss Florida's Bicycle Laws extensively. We will also explain what you should do to pursue compensation if you've been injured in a bicycle accident. Let us get started.
Are Bicycles Considered Vehicles in Florida?
Yes, bicycles are considered vehicles under Florida law. This implies that cyclists have the right to use roadways, just like motorists. They also have a legal obligation to care for the safety of other road users.
Cyclists should obey traffic laws. For instance, they should not run red lights or stop signs, fail to yield to the right of way, or send text messages while cycling. Motor vehicle drivers should obey traffic laws too.
Although bicycles are considered vehicles, the Florida Government has imposed specific rules for riding bikes on roadways. Some of these rules include:
- Bicyclists should have a regular, fixed seat.
- The number of bicycle passengers should not exceed the maximum number for which the bike was designed.
- Cyclists must maintain one of their hands on the handlebars while riding.
- Each bike must have a brake that can stop it within 25 feet (assuming a riding speed of 10 miles per hour on a level surface)
- A child below four years old or weighing less than 40 pounds should be carried in a seat specifically designed to protect him/her from the moving bike parts.
- A rider should not permit a passenger to remain on the seat if he/she is not in immediate control of the bike.
- A cyclist who is below 16 years old should wear a helmet.
If cyclists flaunt any of these rules, they may not receive compensation if they are injured in an accident.
How Bicyclists can share the Roadway with other Vehicles
Remember that bicyclists are considered vehicles in Florida. But still, cyclists should follow specific rules while riding.
There is a general rule that cyclists should ride as closely as possible to the roadway's right-hand side, except in the following situations:
- When making a left turn
- When navigating across different streets to reach a particular destination
- To avoid roadside hazards.
- If the road is too narrow to safely and comfortably share with other vehicles
- When traveling at the same speed as other cars
Another exception to this rule is that if a cyclist is on a one-way street with two or more lanes, the cyclist should ride as close as possible to the roadway’s left-hand side. Also, if two cyclists are riding abreast, they should stay within one lane and avoid incoming traffic. Florida does not allow more than two cyclists to ride abreast, except on roadways designated explicitly for bicycles.
Making a Left Turn while Biking
It is tricky to make a left turn while biking on a busy street. According to Florida's Traffic Laws, a bicyclist who makes a left turn has a right to full use of the street lane from where he/she makes the turn.
To make a left turn, you can start from the right-hand side of the intersection, proceed through its edge, and alter your direction. As you make the left turn, you should remember to scan for incoming traffic, move to the lane's center, and check the traffic signage.
Signaling a Left or Right Turn
Bicyclists should signal to other motorists within 100 feet before making a left or right turn. To indicate a left turn, you must extend your left hand horizontally to the bike's left side. To signal a right turn, you must extend your right hand horizontally to the bike's right side or extend your left arm and hand upwards.
Bicycle Lighting Requirements
Poor lighting is one of the leading causes of bicycle accidents. Florida has imposed these lighting requirements on bicycles operating at night:
- A lamp at the front end of the bike, which projects sufficient white light to enable visibility from at least 500 feet away
- A lamp at the rear end of the bicycle that projects sufficient red light to allow visibility from at least 600 feet away
- A red reflector at the back end of the bike projecting enough red light visible from 600 feet away
Is it Unlawful to Ride a Bicycle on a Sidewalk?
Remember that bicycles are considered vehicles in Florida. Therefore, you are permitted to ride on the road.
However, some bicyclists prefer sidewalks. Sidewalks provide greater accessibility and safety for bicyclists.
In Florida, it is legal to ride a bicycle on a sidewalk. A cyclist using a sidewalk has a legal obligation to care for the safety of pedestrians. He/she should yield to the right of way as well as provide audible signals.
Is it Legal to Listen to Music while Cycling?
No, it is illegal to listen to music while cycling. Florida statute section 316.304 prohibits using earphones, headsets, earbuds, and headphones while cycling.
It is dangerous to listen to music while cycling. This is because you will not focus fully on the road. You may not see oncoming traffic and be able to avoid roadside hazards. As a result, you will easily get into an accident.
The Aaron Cohen Life Protection Act
As a bicyclist, you may become hit by a motor vehicle driver. Sometimes, this driver may attempt to escape the accident scene. In most bicycle accidents, it is the bicyclist who sustains the most severe bodily injuries and is at the risk of death.
The Aaron Cohen, Life Protection Act, was enacted in 2014. This law provides exceptionally severe penalties for hit and run drivers. According to this law, the court can award punitive damages to hit and run accident victims. The primary purpose of these damages is to punish the hit and run drivers for their bad conduct.
Instituting a Bicycle Accident Personal Injury Lawsuit
The first step to obtaining compensation is to file a claim with the insurance company. If your insurer remains adamant about paying you what you deserve, you should institute a personal injury lawsuit. To institute a civil suit in Florida, you should file a complaint at the courthouse.
The term 'complaint' refers to a document that sets out the facts of your case. This document will highlight the liable party, describe how this party caused you to crash, and state the amount and type of damages you would like to have.
According to Florida's Statute of Limitations, victims of bicycle accidents should institute civil lawsuits to recover compensation within four years from the day when the accident occurred. If you do not institute a suit within this timeframe, you will lose your legal right to recover compensation.
What happens in a Bicycle Accident Personal Injury Lawsuit?
After you have filed the complaint at the courthouse, you should serve it to the defendant. When the defendant receives the complaint, he/she may file a defense with the court. If the defendant files a defense, he/she has a legal obligation to ensure that you are also served with it.
The first stage in a bicycle accident personal injury lawsuit is referred to as 'discovery.' In this stage, you and the defendant will exchange with each other crucial facts about the case. Then, the judge will narrow down the issues in dispute.
After the discovery stage, the judge may recommend you and the defendant to undergo mediation. During mediation, a third party will guide both of you to agree. Your case will be dismissed if you agree with the defendant on a settlement amount. If you do not, the lawsuit will proceed to the trial stage.
During the trial, you and the defendant will present your case to the jury. As the plaintiff, you will be expected to prove the liability of the defendant. Once the jury members have heard both of you, they will decide whether the defendant is liable and the amount of damages he/she should pay.
Sometimes, the jury members may not decide the case in your favor. In this situation, you can file an appeal at a higher court to overturn their decision.
Liable Parties in a Bicycle Accident
Victims of bicycle accidents can sue different individuals or groups to obtain compensation. Here are some examples of parties that the court can find liable in a bicycle accident personal injury lawsuit:
- A motor vehicle driver
- The Government
- The bicycle manufacturer
- A pedestrian
Let us discuss how these parties can be held responsible:
1. A Motor Vehicle Driver
A reckless or negligent motor vehicle driver can cause a bicycle accident. As the victim, you may sue this driver to obtain compensation.
Motor vehicle drivers can be negligent or reckless in various ways. For instance, they may break particular traffic laws, such as speeding, driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, running a stop sign, or driving in a bike lane.
Bicycling Magazine asserts that the most common types of bicycle accidents include:
- A motor vehicle driver not seeing a bicyclist, and subsequently, makes a left-turn into him/her.
- A motorist passing a bicyclist on the left and turning right into his/her path
- A driver opening his/her car doors and hitting the bicyclist.
- A motor vehicle driver exiting a parking lot or driveway directly into the bicyclist's path
- A motorist hitting a bicyclist from behind.
2. The Government
One of the most common causes of bicycle accidents in Florida is poor road conditions. As an injured bicyclist, you may only blame yourself if you crash because of potholes or road cracks. However, according to Florida's Premises Liability Laws, governmental entities can be held liable for bicycle accidents caused by poor road conditions.
Here are examples of poor road conditions that can cause bicycle accidents:
- Damaged traffic signs
- Lifted asphalt
- Cracked cement
- Loose gravel
- Uneven sidewalks
Likewise, private property owners can be held liable for not maintaining their pavement or asphalt surfaces. This means that if the accident occurred on private property with a dangerous surface, you could sue the property's owner to receive compensation.
3. The Bicycle Manufacturer
Some bicycle accidents may occur due to a defective bike part or bicycle. A faulty bike part or bicycle might break while you are on the road, resulting in an accident. In such a situation, you may not know what exactly happened or whom you should blame.
According to Florida's Product Liability Laws, companies that design, sell, manufacture, or distribute defective products are liable for these products' injuries. This means that you can sue the bicycle manufacturer for compensation if the accident occurred due to a faulty bicycle or bike part.
4. A Pedestrian
A pedestrian can cause you to crash. If you believe that a pedestrian caused the accident, you can sue him/her for compensation.
A pedestrian can cause a bicycle accident if he/she:
- Fails to control his/her dog
- Deliberately knocks a cyclist off his/her bike.
- Walks while texting
- Runs out in front of a bicyclist
- Listens to headphones while walking
- Does not pay attention to bike traffic
- Steps out suddenly into a bike lane
What if the Liable Party Claims you caused the Accident?
Sometimes, the liable party may claim that you caused the accident. This party can claim that you are either partly or wholly responsible for the crash.
Many motorists don't understand the difficulties bicyclists face while on the road. Cyclists may have numerous 'close calls' while riding. Even when another motorist is clearly at fault, he/she may blame the cyclist.
Do not admit fault if another motorist blames you for the accident, even if you personally believe that you should be held responsible. It is difficult to establish the at-fault party in a bicycle accident. It may seem obvious that you caused the accident, but you never know – the other party could have been responsible for it.
If you say that you caused the crash, you will have implied that you will pay your medical bills and any other expenses arising from the accident. The insurer will use your statements to deny you compensation. If a motorist pressures you to admit liability, simply tell him/her to contact your attorney.
As the plaintiff in a personal injury lawsuit, you will be required to provide evidence showing how the liable party caused the crash. Note that the standard of proof in Florida personal injury cases is on a balance of probabilities.
However, once the defendant claims that you are responsible for the crash, the burden of proof will shift to him/her. The court will require the defendant to provide sufficient evidence showing that you caused the accident. If the jury is convinced that you are fully responsible for the accident, your case will be dismissed.
In some situations, the court may find you partly responsible for the accident. The judge may believe that both you and the defendant caused the accident. In these situations, you can still obtain compensation under Florida's comparative negligence laws. The jury will award you damages that equal the percentage of how much the defendant caused the accident. This means that the amount of money you will receive as compensation will reduce based on how much you contributed to the occurrence of the accident.
Proving Liability in a Bicycle Accident Personal Injury Lawsuit
Remember that you will be required to show how the liable party caused the accident. According to Florida's Civil Litigation Laws, each fact that the plaintiff asserts in court must be backed up by evidence. You will require evidence to prove your claim, including eyewitnesses, photos and videos, and medical reports.
In many bicycle accident lawsuits, plaintiffs are required to prove the defendant's negligence. To demonstrate that the defendant acted negligently, you must assert the following:
- He/she had a duty to care.
- He/she breached this duty.
- You sustained an injury due to the breach.
All road users in Florida have a duty to care. They have a legal obligation to protect the safety and wellbeing of other road users. If, for instance, a driver breaks a traffic law and causes you to crash, you can assert that he/she breached his/her duty to care.
Both state and local governmental entities have a duty to care for Florida residents' wellbeing and safety. They should repair roads in poor conditions. If, for example, the accident occurred due to a roadside hazard, you can claim that the government breached its duty to care. To successfully prove this breach, you must show that the government knew about the poor road condition, and it did not take any reasonable steps to repair it.
After you've proved a breach, you will be required to show how it led to your injuries. You must link your injuries to the defendant's negligent behavior.
You will not be required to prove negligence in a product defect lawsuit. What you will be required to prove is:
- The defendant distributed, designed, manufactured, or sold a defective bicycle or bike part
- You used the defective bicycle or bike part in a reasonably foreseeable manner.
- You sustained a physical injury due to the defect.
If you've proved all the above-listed facts, the court will impose strict liability on the defendant.
Damages awarded in Bicycle Accident Personal Injury Lawsuits
If you win your case, the court will grant you the following types of damages:
- Special damages
- General damages
- Punitive damages
General damages cover non-economic losses, such as mental anguish, pain and suffering, disfigurement, loss of consortium, and depression. Special damages will compensate you for the financial expenses incurred due to the accident, such as lost wages and medical bills.
It is rare for a plaintiff to receive punitive damages in a bicycle accident lawsuit. You can only receive punitive damages if you prove that the defendant's actions were completely disregarding human life.
The amount of damages that you will receive will depend on the degree and extent of your injuries. Minor injuries will only require emergency medical attention, and you will be able to resume your routine within one or two days. Severe bodily injuries may require lifelong treatment. The most common types of bicycle accident injuries include:
- Road rash
- Broken bones
- Internal bleeding
- Hand fracture
- Eye injuries
- Head and neck injuries
- Dental fractures
Bicycle Accident Wrongful Death Lawsuits
If your loved one was killed in a bicycle crash, you could file a wrongful death civil suit to recover damages. According to Florida's Wrongful Death Laws, surviving family members can recover compensation for their loved ones' death.
Family members who can institute a wrongful death lawsuit in Florida include:
- Domestic partner
- Any other person who can inherit the deceased's property under Florida's Succession Laws
Typically, damages in wrongful death lawsuits cover:
- The deceased's lost and future earnings
- Loss of companionship and support
- Funeral and burial expenses
The amount of damages awarded in wrongful death lawsuits are usually higher than those granted in personal injury lawsuits. This is why some people refer to wrongful death lawsuits as 'high-dollar' claims.
Find a Jacksonville Bicycle Accident Attorney Near Me
Get in touch with us if you or your loved one was injured or killed in a bicycle accident. You do not need to suffer more than you already have, call us at 904-800-7557 for a free consultation.