Bicycle accidents are far less common than motor vehicle crashes, but they usually result in a considerable number of fatalities. Most victims of bicycle accidents are highly vulnerable to sustaining severe and catastrophic injuries and stand at a high risk of death.
In a bicycle-motor vehicle crash, most people widely assume that it is the bicycle rider who should be held at fault. On the contrary, motor vehicle drivers are primarily responsible for bicycle accidents, especially if they drive carelessly and recklessly.
Typically, bicycle-motor vehicle crashes occur suddenly. When they occur, the riders are more prone to catastrophic bodily injuries because they are unprotected.
If you or your loved one has sustained catastrophic injuries in a bicycle accident, we invite you to contact the Jacksonville Personal Injury Attorney team. Our primary goal is to help bicycle accident victims in Jacksonville obtain fair compensation.
If need be, we will help you gather and collect substantial evidence as well as to talk to any prospective witnesses. We will do all it takes to help you focus on your recovery and obtain the most favorable outcome.
Catastrophic Bicycle Accident Statistics
According to the People Powered Movement, there is an increasing number of bicycle riders on American roadways each passing day. This is largely due to the fact that most people have taken up bicycling as a hobby or have incorporated it into their workout plans.
Due to the increase in the number of bicyclists, there is a higher likelihood of a bicycle-related crash. But, from statistics, the overall number of bicycle accidents is reducing while that for fatal bicycle accidents is increasing. For instance, in 2015, there were around 45,000 reported bicycle-related accidents in the USA, which was less by 5,000 in the previous year. However, statistics show that the number of catastrophic bicycle accidents increased by at least 12%.
So, why is there a significant decline in the overall number of bicycle accidents? This may be because numerous advocacy movements have succeeded in engaging Americans about safe riding. Also, various cities have put up new safety features to their existing infrastructure, including protective medians and bike lanes.
Although there may be fewer bicycle accidents, most of them end up being catastrophic. This may be due to recklessness on the part of motor vehicle drivers and unfamiliarity with safe riding practices among new bicyclists.
Bicycle accidents occur more frequently in urban areas than in rural areas. Around 70% of all catastrophic bicycle accidents happen in urban areas. This is because urban roads are customarily heavily-traveled and cannot easily accommodate bicycle rider safety features.
According to the NHTSA, 30% of all injuries sustained in a bicycle accident occur when the rider collides with a motor vehicle. Dangerous roads and intoxication also largely contribute to bicycle accidents. Moreover, most bicycle accidents occur at night due to poor visibility.
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 2% of motor vehicle accidents resulting in death involve bicyclists. Also, the most severe form of injuries in a bicycle accident is head injuries, and this is why bicyclists should always put on helmets.
As per data analysis from the USA Fatality Analysis Reporting System, up to 854 bicycle riders died in 2018 as a result of accidents. Most fatalities involved in a bicycle accident were 20 years or older, most of them being male.
As illustrated by Penny Geeks, in 2010, there were around 515,000 bicycle cycling injuries that needed emergency medical attention. The total cost of bicycle accidents in the United States during this year amounted to $10 billion, which was majorly utilized to offset healthcare expenses.
According to Orlando Weekly, Florida has the highest number of bicycle accident-related deaths in the United States. For instance, in 2017, 16% of all fatal bicycle accidents in the USA occurred in Florida. The People Powered Movement lists four cities in Florida that have recorded the highest number of bicycle accident fatalities. These cities include Tampa, Jacksonville, Orlando, and Miami.
Common Causes of Catastrophic Bicycle Accidents
As a cyclist, you should know the most common causes of catastrophic bicycle accidents. This way, you will be able to take a more defensive and active approach to protect yourself from harm.
In a bicycle-motor vehicle crash, positioning is the primary factor that determines the party who should be held at fault. Various types of catastrophic bicycle accidents can occur due to wrong positioning, including the following:
- Dooring accidents – Dooring accidents arise in instances where bicyclists ram into open doors of parked motor vehicles. These accidents are quite common in busy streets that have heavy traffic. Such streets leave bicyclists with no other option than to ride next to parked motor vehicles.
- Sideswipes – A side sweep accident can occur in situations where a motor vehicle driver does not give a bicyclist sufficient room when he/she intends to pass. Most motor vehicle drivers in Jacksonville frequently complain that bicyclists like getting in their way. But, according to Florida’s traffic laws, motor vehicle drivers should avoid tailgating bicyclists, and should ensure that there is a considerable gap between them and the bicyclists if they intend to overtake.
- Rear-ends – A motor vehicle driver may rear-end a bicyclist. Rear-ends occur mostly as a result of reckless driving or failure to obey traffic rules. They are common in places where there are stop signs or when cyclists attempt to turn left so that they can move in-between parked cars.
- Bike front crossing – A vehicle may cross into a bicyclist’s path from an alley or driveway at a particular intersection. If the cyclist is already on the intersection when the motor vehicle driver turns, there is a higher probability of an accident. A crash will most likely occur if there is poor visibility, or the driver isn't paying attention.
- Right-hand turns – In case a bicyclist is cycling on the right-hand side of a motor vehicle at an intersection, the motor vehicle driver may hook him/her while turning right. The possibility of an accident will be much higher if the driver doesn’t check his/her blind spot before turning right.
Besides positioning, human error plays a vital role in the causation of bicycle accidents. According to the NHTSA, most accidents can be avoided if motorists, cyclists, and other road users could pay more attention to their surroundings and act more responsibly.
Distraction is a significant cause of auto-bicycle crashes. Most people like multi-tasking while driving, despite knowing that this behavior may increase the risk of a crash. Some examples of destructive habits that can easily result in an accident include cell phone texting, talking to passengers, and listening to music. Here are other instances of human error that may lead to an accident:
- Speeding – A driver who is speeding has less reaction time when he/she notices a roadside hazard. This can be detrimental to an unsuspecting bicyclist.
- Poor visibility – Most catastrophic bicycle accidents happen at night, primarily due to poor visibility. This is why cyclists are customarily advised to put on reflective clothing to make them more visible to motorists.
- Intoxication – Any person who was intoxicated at the time of the crash is typically held liable for it. Individuals who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol are poor in concentration and judgment, as well as less alert when driving or cycling.
- Aggressive cycling – A bicyclist should act responsibly. If a cyclist makes sudden movements into vehicles’ paths, runs stop signs, or cycles in any other aggressive manner, he/she may cause an accident.
- Not following traffic control signals – A motorist who doesn’t stop at stop signs endangers the safety of other road users. Likewise, motorists should always yield to the right of way of cyclists. If they fail to do so, they may cause an accident.
Common Catastrophic Injuries in a Bicycle Accident
Catastrophic injuries are customarily life-threatening. They may require rehabilitative treatment, as well as long-term medical care and personal assistance. Catastrophic injuries can result in permanent disability. Victims who have sustained catastrophic injuries often have to depend on others for a considerable period. Overall, their quality of life will be grossly affected. They may lose their jobs and face both financial and emotional hardships.
Their loved ones may face enormous difficulties, too, as they try to cope up with the drastic effect of these adverse changes. For instance, if the victim was the family’s breadwinner, his/her family members will have to look for alternative sources of income. Even if the victim fully recovers, this traumatizing experience will still linger in their minds. Moreover, the recovery process is usually time-consuming and demanding for both the victim and his/her loved ones.
Other negative effects of catastrophic injuries include personality changes, memory loss, and learning problems, among others. A victim may also suffer blindness or paralysis as an effect of the physical injuries he/she sustained.
Bicyclists are more vulnerable to sustaining catastrophic injuries in comparison to motorists. Although bicycle accident injuries can lead to significant life changes physically, psychologically, and emotionally, most insurance companies do not take them seriously. As a result, victims of bicycle accidents regularly face a hard time obtaining fair compensation for their injuries.
A cyclist can suffer one or more of the following catastrophic injuries when involved in an accident:
- Clavicle fractures and rotator cuff tears – If a cyclist lands on the ground with his/her arms outstretched after being hit by a motor vehicle, he/she may sustain clavicle fractures or rotator cuff tears. These injuries require surgery, and you may have to put on hand-aids for a specific period before recovery.
- Fibular or tibia fractures – A cyclist may break his/her lower leg in a crash. This injury will become more severe if the vehicle places a direct force on the victim’s leg.
- Knee injuries – A broken kneecap frequently occurs in a bicycle accident. This type of injury may result in temporary or permanent disability.
- Hip or pelvic fractures – These injuries can occur in instances where a motor vehicle hits a cyclist in a T-bone fashion, or the cyclist is thrown off from the bike and falls hard onto the ground. A victim who has sustained these injuries may require a total or partial hip replacement.
- Femur fractures – Femur fractures occur in accidents with a high impact force. They may necessitate screws and plates surgery.
- Wrist and forearm fractures – A cyclist may suffer wrist and forearm fractures, depending on how he/she fell. Just like clavicle fractures and rotator cuff tears, wrist and forearm fractures require surgery and hand-aids.
- Spinal cord injuries – A cyclist can sustain an acute spinal cord injury if he/she is thrown over the bicycle’s handlebars during the crash. Spinal cord injuries can also arise in situations where the bike is made up of defective parts.
- Herniated discs – Herniated discs often occur when the cyclist lands on his/her back. When a cyclist lands on his/her back, his/her spinal discs may rupture and become displaced, causing sharp and severe pain.
- Head injuries – Undoubtedly, helmets can reduce the risk of sustaining head injuries. But, a cyclist can still suffer a traumatic brain injury even if he/she had put on one. Traumatic brain injuries are prevalent in high impact crashes, and they may result in unconsciousness, memory loss, language and speech problems, perceptual and sensory difficulties, and sleep disorders.
Liable Parties in a Bicycle Accident
Often, if you’ve sustained a catastrophic injury in a bicycle accident, you will be required to prove the parties responsible for you to obtain compensation. On the contrary, if you sustained a minor injury, all you need to do is to claim compensation from your own insurance company.
This is because Florida is customarily a no-fault state. In almost all personal injury claims, victims don’t have to prove liability. As per Florida’s personal injury laws, a victim will only be required to determine who was at fault if he/she sustained a catastrophic or severe bodily injury, and the value of his/her claim exceeds $10,000.
The party whom the court typically holds liable in a bicycle accident is the motor –vehicle driver. In most bicycle accidents, it is the cyclist who often sustains a catastrophic injury. This is because cyclists are normally exposed and aren’t protected by any safety features. On the other hand, motor vehicle drivers usually end up uninjured, or they may have little injuries.
For a plaintiff to prove the liability of a motor vehicle driver, he/she must convince the court that the defendant had a duty of care. Then, the plaintiff must show how the defendant breached this duty, and link his/her breach to the accident, and subsequently, to the bodily injuries. Note that the burden of proof in a Florida personal injury case is on the plaintiff, and the standard of proof is on a balance of probabilities.
The court can hold the motor vehicle driver liable for the accident if the plaintiff has sufficient proof to show that he/she was driving recklessly and carelessly. A motor vehicle driver who was intoxicated, speeding, or failed to obey a traffic rule can be held responsible for the accident.
Also, the court will automatically hold liable the motor vehicle driver if the injured person is a child who is below 14 years old. This is because motorists are supposed to be extremely cautious while around children. They have an increased duty of care if children are involved. Likewise, the court holds children to a much lower standard of carefulness while cycling.
In some instances, the cyclist may be held partly to blame for the accident. This is especially in situations where the defendant provides evidence to show that he/she was cycling aggressively or violating a particular traffic rule. But, this doesn’t absolve the defendant of his/her liability to compensate the plaintiff. In these situations, the court will award the plaintiff damages based on what percentage the defendant caused the accident, under the theory of contributory negligence.
If a cyclist hits a pedestrian, the court will hold the cyclist liable provided that the pedestrian proves that he/she was cycling recklessly or carelessly. However, this type of accident is not quite common, and it rarely results in catastrophic injuries.
Some bicycle accidents may occur due to defective spare parts. For instance, the bicycle wheels may collapse while cycling, throwing the rider over the handlebars and onto the ground. In such a situation, you should claim for compensation against the bicycle manufacturer. According to Florida’s personal injury laws, manufacturers are held strictly liable when they sell and distribute defective products. This means that you will not be required to prove the negligence of the manufacturer for you to be awarded damages.
Moreover, bicycle accidents can be caused by dangerous road conditions, including potholes, missing or negligently installed sewer grates and utility hole covers, and inadequately marked speed bumps or construction lanes. In this situation, you may hold a governmental entity liable for your injuries. However, you will be required to prove that the government knew about the dangerous road condition and took no reasonable step to rectify it.
Compensation Options for Bicycle Accident Catastrophic Injuries
There are three types of damages that the court can award you in a catastrophic bicycle accident personal injury lawsuit: general damages, special damages, and punitive damages. Special damages can be quantified monetarily. They cover your medical expenses and lost wages.
You can hire an economics expert to help you calculate the total value of your special damages. Because you have sustained a catastrophic injury, you deserve compensation that will enable you to take care of any future medical expenses that will arise, including rehabilitation costs. Also, make sure you properly maintain all your medical records and bills, since they will be used to compute the total value of your past medical expenses. Your attorney can hire a medical professional to explain to the jury which rehabilitation services you will require in the future, and how much they are likely to cost.
When an individual sustains a catastrophic injury, he/she may have to absent himself/herself from work to allow sufficient time for recovery. If this individual is self-employed, he/she may lose out on prospective clients and have to let go of various opportunities. Moreover, a catastrophic injury may result in permanent disability and other life-altering conditions, which will render an individual unable to work and fulfill his/her financial goals. The court will take all of these factors into account when determining how much in special damages you should be awarded.
Unlike special damages, general damages cannot be quantified monetarily. They are primarily issued as per the jury’s discretion. They cover for mental anguish, pain and suffering, and diminished quality of life. When awarding general damages, the jury typically considers the degree and extent of the catastrophic injury, and how it affected your quality of life and those of your loved ones.
Punitive damages are awarded in infrequent circumstances. For the jury to award you punitive damages, you must prove that the defendant was extraordinarily reckless, and he/she acted in blatant disregard of human life. The primary purpose of punitive damages is to punish the defendant. You can plead for punitive damages in a catastrophic bicycle accident lawsuit if you have sufficient proof to show that the defendant willfully broke a traffic law or was driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Bicycle Accident Wrongful Death Claims
Unfortunately, a catastrophic injury may result in death. If your family member died as a result of a catastrophic injury in a bicycle accident, you could file a wrongful death claim for compensation.
Typically, compensation for wrongful death claims covers funeral expenses, the victim’s medical expenses, and future lost wages. These damages help the victim’s loved ones obtain closure as well as resume their normal lives without experiencing financial difficulties.
Find a Jacksonville Catastrophic Accident Attorney Near Me
Don’t make a mistake of accepting the first settlement offer from an insurer without consulting an attorney. The main goal of insurers is to make huge profits, and they may not offer you what you deserve.
Catastrophic injuries are generally deemed to be high-dollar claims. You will need an attorney who will fight for what you deserve and who can’t be easily intimidated by insurance companies.
We at Jacksonville Personal Injury Attorney are the go-to law firm if you would like to obtain fair compensation. Call us at 904-800-7557 to discuss your case.