The financial toll of a bicycle accident in Jacksonville, Florida can increase very quickly. The compensation has to cover the emergency medical bills, bicycle repairs, lost income, and emotional distress. Moveover, if you fail to ask for the compensation you deserve for the accident, you may end up incurring all the expenses associated with the accident. That is why you should consult a Florida lawyer who understands how the legal system works and also ready to aggressively fight for your rights. Our experienced personal injury attorneys at the Jacksonville Personal Injury Attorney law firm have helped many clients recover their losses and know all types of compensation available to bicycle accident victims as addressed in this article.
Different Types of Compensation Entitled to Bicycle Accident Victims
According to a report released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, approximately 818 bicyclists died as a result of accidents involving motor vehicles in 2015. The number of those injured was much higher. Neck and back injuries were the most common injuries accounting to 42.6% of all bike accidents reported between 2007 and 2011. Other injuries reported included damage to internal organs, amputations, bone fractures, head injuries, and dislocations.
A Florida, cyclist who sustains injuries caused by a negligent driver has a right to different types of compensation. Under the law, the defendant is held accountable if they:
- Act negligently (they breached a duty of care that any reasonable person is believed to owe others) or
- Deliberately and carelessly caused injuries to the alleged victim
The purpose of compensation is to enable the victim to get back to their feet after the accident. These compensatory benefits are classified into economic damages and non-economic damages.
Like any accident victims, injured cyclists are entitled to economic damages. Also known as special damages, these are the financial expenses spent by the victims and are compensated in monetary terms. Receipts, wage records, and bills are ways used to prove economic damages. Perfect examples include:
- Medical Bills
Medical expenses are the main reason why personal injury victims file lawsuits. Medical bills add up quickly, and victims can't keep up with the huge bills from the medical facilities. You should be compensated for all medical costs incurred such as ambulance transportation, surgery, hospitalization, drugs, and supplies related to the injury. Also, you are entitled to future medical expenses provided they are necessary and linked to the bike accident.
Sometimes the accident may reinjure a preexisting condition or injury. If you have a preexisting mental or physical condition that was aggravated by the accused's negligence, then you should receive damages that reasonably reimburse you the effects of the condition.
- Lost Income
You are also entitled to compensation from the respondent for any wages lost as a result of the bicycle accident or the resulting injuries. It includes earnings lost because you are not able to perform your daily job responsibilities as well as time missed since you're undergoing treatment. You have a right to compensation whether you are a full-time employee or part-timer, have occasional or regular employment, receive an hourly or weekly wage, or self-employed.
It is worth noting that wage loss isn't multiplied in the settlement value formula when determining the total damages. Instead, it's added after the multiplied amount has been reached.
Sick Days, Leave or Vacation
Even though you will be paid during leave, you are still eligible for any sick days or vacation as a result of the accident. This is because you were supposed to use those sick days or leave when you could have wanted them.
How Lost Wages are Documented
If you're a regular employee, getting details about the lost wages is simple. All you need is to ask your boss, line manager, personnel office, or supervisor to write you a letter. This letter should have your name, job position, pay rate, number of hours you work on a normal day and the number of days or hours you have missed work after the accident. It is not a must that the letter points out whether you took sick leave, vacation time or not.
If you're self-employed or have irregular employment, proving lost earnings can be complicated. You could use invoices, billings, a calendar with appointments you have canceled or documents or letters showing conferences, meetings, and conferences you did not attend.
The next step should be demonstrating the total amount of money you could have made. If you have a stable income, you can present the average for the period by submitting your invoices or billing of the payment received. Then depending on the amount of money you were making, you can tell how much earnings you have lost for that time you were not in a position to work.
If you work at irregular intervals (sometimes you earn more income and others you earn nothing or very little), you can demonstrate the amount of time and income lost through proof of what you make in a year then getting a monthly or weekly average.
Presenting your income tax return for the previous year is the best evidence. Just submit the section of the tax return with your annual gross income. The insurance company should not see your deductions and exemptions. If you had low earnings in the previous year, you should include the returns for two years to show the total amount of money you usually earn. You could also include proof of the wages for the current year if it has a similar pattern.
- Lost Opportunities
You are also entitled to compensation for any job opportunity lost due to the bicycle accident and the injuries. It is hard to tell the exact amount lost by missing a sales conference or job interview. Fortunately, the lost prospective income is a key element of a claim that increases your total compensation amount. How much the final compensation amount is raised depends on how strong your evidence of lost earnings opportunities is.
- Lost Earning Capacity
Lost earning capacity is also referred to as impairment of earning power or future loss of income. It is a decrease in a victim's ability to earn income. In short, it is the future income you would have made if the bicycle accident did not occur minus the future income you expect to make while being limited by the injuries.
For instance, if you are unable to go to work entirely or forced to do a less rigorous job with a lower salary, you are entitled to seek restitution for future lost earnings anticipated for your expected working hours.
Since proving lost earning capacity requires speculations, it is essential in bicycle accident cases to hire an economic expert. The economic expert will work closely with your lawyer to calculate the amount of money you would have made throughout your work-life had the accident not occurred. The expert will use factors like:
- Your age, occupation, health, earning history, and education level
- Whether the disability is permanent or long-term
- The seriousness of your injury
- Your total income since the accident
- Your capability to compete in the employment market
To correctly calculate lost earning potential damages, the economic expert will also think through other factors like:
- Your possibility of being promoted
- Whether you are likely to have other in-between low-earning periods in your career
- The consequence of the lost earning on your pension, retirement accounts among other benefits
- Destruction or Loss of Personal Property
Every car owner in Florida should have auto insurance that provides property damage liability (PDL) coverage. In a bicycle accident, the property damage liability coverage should compensate for all monetary damage the vehicle caused to your property. The term “property” in this context includes not only the bike but also all other personal items that were damaged. It could be your cycling shoes, phone, watch, sunglasses or contents in your backpack.
Property damage liability covers personal property up to the limits of the insurance. Every car owner should have a minimum PDL coverage limit of $10,000.
So what happens in an event your damage's amount goes above the coverage limit? Both the defendant and their insurer are obliged to pay you for all property damaged. For instance, if your damages are $15,000 and the policy is $10,000, the insurance company will pay the $10,000. You should get the remaining $5,000 from the respondent directly. Remember not to sign a release for the insurer or the respondent until you receive all the benefits from the respondent.
- Loss of ability to Offer Household Services
Everyone contributes to their family by performing household chores. When an injury resulting from a bicycle accident prevents you from performing these duties, you have a right to reimbursement for the value of these services. The evidence is that you hired another person to perform these duties on your behalf. You could also be awarded damages for the value of services offered by your family and friends.
- Missed Activities and Plans
People plan and purchase activities like retreats, events, concert tickets and vacations in advance. If the accident prevents you from participating in these activities, you have a right to recover the cost of these activities.
When a person is severely hurt, the most demoralizing consequences are often not the medical bills or the injuries but the considerable mental pain, physical anguish, and intangible losses as a result of the accident. Also known as general damages, non-economic damages are meant to reimburse you for non-monetary harm you suffered. They are abstract and not easy to quantify. They include:
- Pain and Suffering
Pain and suffering is a term that goes beyond physical pain. It refers to several harms that a victim may suffer due to the accident. It also comprises of mental and emotional injuries like loss of the essence of life, worry, insomnia, fear, and inconvenience.
How Insurance Companies Determine Pain and Suffering Damages
There is no law for how insurance providers should determine pain and suffering. Most experienced attorneys use either one of the following methods. The first way is multiplying the victim's actual damages by a number that is between one and five depending on the seriousness of the injuries. Alternatively, the attorneys could use a per diem method. Under this approach, a specific amount is assigned every day from the day the accident occurred until you recover fully.
Insurance providers are not obliged to consider any of the above methods. Most firms use computer programs to calculate the amount of any compensation offer. More often than not, these programs put the seriousness of the injury and the type of medical treatment sought into consideration.
How To Tell if a Settlement Offer is Fair
The best way to tell is using either of the two approaches discussed above to get an estimated figure. Then, put into account any circumstance that may increase or decrease the compensation amount. For example, if the bicycle accident injury leads to a permanent scar on your face, it is reasonable to increase the compensation amount.
Proving Pain and Suffering
For you to get an adequate amount, you need to use more evidence to support your case. The extent of the injury can be proved through documentation like personal journals and photographs that show your emotional and physical feelings. Testimony from your loved ones can present more evidence on how the injuries have impacted your life.
- Loss of Consortium
Under Florida section 768.21, depending on your relationship with the bicycle accident victim, you may be entitled to loss of consortium. This damage is a catch-all term of different marital losses like protection, sexual relations, companionship and affection, guidance, and mental suffering. It's important to note that this claim doesn't involve financial support.
When your spouse files a loss of consortium claim, they can receive compensation for the duration you are injured. Even though you eventually heal, your partner can still receive compensation for the time you were injured or provided that your relationship is affected in an event the injury is permanent.
Proving this type of damage is similar to proving pain and suffering. It is hard to quantify the value of the loss of consortium, particularly when evaluating affection. Some aspects can be proven with testimonies from your loved ones about how your relationship and performing household duties have changed after the accident.
- Emotional Distress
Emotional distress damages are damages tailored to reimburse you for the psychological effect the injuries have had on your life. It can be sleeplessness, fear, anxiety, fright, humiliation, crying jags, or depression. It is also subjective and varies with different people.
When are Emotional Distress Damages Available?
Florida is among the few states with “impact rule” that restricts emotional distress. You can only be awarded these damages if you sustained a physical injury. This keeps many bicycle accident victims from being in a position to bring a claim.
For instance, you are riding on a highway, and a tractor drives past you moving at 35 mph. The trailer crashes into you, but you suffer anxiety and insomnia as a result. Unfortunately, you can’t receive these types of damages because you were not injured. On the other hand, if the trailer caused a physical injury even a minor one, you can file a lawsuit.
How to Document Emotional Distress
If the injury has reached a level that is spurring you to bring a lawsuit, it’s important to seek medical attention. Tell your physician the psychological symptoms you have experienced because of the bicycle accident. A doctor’s diagnosis or note is an excellent tool in raising claims with insurance companies.
It is also wise to keep a diary that records how you are feeling about the accident, the injuries, and how your life has been affected whether in small or big ways. The more proof you have, the stronger your claim and the higher the probability of recovery.
What Happens if the Victim is at Fault?
Understanding No-Fault Law
The Florida no-fault law requires all drivers to have personal injury protection (PIP) insurance. This insurance pays the driver's bills irrespective of who is responsible up to the insurance limit. PIP pays eighty percent of medical expenses, sixty percent of lost income and 100% of replacement services expenses. It also comprises of $5,000 death benefit in case the cyclist dies. Personal injury protection claims should be brought within fourteen days after the accident.
The purpose of this law is to reduce the number of civil lawsuits due to negligence. Therefore, instead of suing each other, the parties use PIP to pay any bills resulting from the injuries.
Pure Comparative Negligence Law
If you have been injured in a bicycle accident, the law requires you to establish the liability of the responsible party. That is why it's essential to have a personal injury lawyer who can advocate aggressively on your behalf.
Florida operates under comparative law. This means that your damages will be limited by the percentage of your liability to the accident. For instance, if you have filed a claim against another person and your fault is thought to be thirty percent, then the amount of damage you receive will be less by 30%.
Adopted in 1973, the underlying principle behind comparative negligence rule is that in most cases, bicycle accidents are as a result of negligent behavior by multiple parties. It is therefore fair that every responsible party carries their cross.
What are the Damages Available in a Wrongful Death Claim?
Typically there are two broad categories of damages available in wrongful death cases defined by different periods.
The first type allows reimbursement of expenses incurred by the deceased from the time of the accident to the time of their death. That could be hours, weeks or even months after the accident. Some of the damages in this type include medical bills, the decedent's physical and mental pain and suffering, and decedent's lost income.
The second category of damages involves losses experienced by the deceased's loved one after their death. According to the law, these damages are meant to compensate the decedent's family survivors for the value of money the decedent would have made were it not for their death among other financial losses. It also includes lost income that could have been earned until the decedent's retirement.
The state of Florida also allows the loss of consortium claims where your immediate family is deprived of your companionship, love, and guidance.
Injured in a Bicycle Delivery Injury Accident? Who is Responsible?
If you have been injured on the job and successfully filed a workers' comp claim, you will be receiving your benefits on a biweekly basis. In line with the Florida Division of Workers' Compensation, compensation awarded is 2/3 of your weekly income. If you have been injured, recently, you can expect the calculations to be established on your income earned in thirteen weeks before the accident.
Depending on the seriousness of the injury, the law provides three benefits calculators to give you a clue of what damages you are entitled to receive. These calculators include temporary total disability benefits calculator, partial benefit calculator, and impairment income calculator. However, every claim is distinctive, and you should check with your lawyer the most appropriate damage to recover your losses.
Can Attorneys Maximize your Compensation for a Bicycle Accident?
An experienced lawyer means a lot to your claim value and takes steps to ensure you receive every penny you deserve. First, they create and use a claims path that merges a legal roadmap with your side of the story. Then they gather all the resources and evidence that meet your legal needs.
Finally, they persuasively present your narrative at trial. It goes beyond retelling the events of the accident. It also includes the impact of the bicycle accident on you and what you require to recover.
Help Getting Compensation for Bicycle Accident Near Me
It is common to be confused about the way forward if you or your loved one has been injured in a bicycle accident. This is because no one tells you how hard it is to make a claim especially when the insurance company makes excuses to deny your claim. Having legal representation like Jacksonville Personal Injury Attorney on your side prevents the insurance adjusters from brushing you off. They know we will not let them get away with undervaluing your claim or mess around.
Schedule an initial consultation with us to understand your compensation rights. When you call us at 904-800-7557, we will listen to your story, get all facts straight and then formulate a plan to help you get the compensation you deserve.