If you’re hit by a car or truck while biking on the road, follow this guide to protect yourself and your case.
Tampa Bay, Bradenton, and Sarasota offer some of the most beautiful bike trails, parks, and paths in the country. Unfortunately, Florida’s roads aren’t typically as safe as its bike trails. Drivers are not always mindful of cyclists while sharing the road, and bicycle accidents do occur.
In fact, 2019 saw 857 cyclist fatalities in U.S. traffic accidents, a 6.3 percent year-over-year increase despite an overall decrease in traffic fatalities. Even more frightening for cyclists are the bike accident stats in Florida. Pinellas County has the highest rate of bicycle accidents and the highest cyclist death rate in the country. Hillsborough County and Sarasota County are not far behind.
If you are hit by a car while on your bike, or your loved one is involved in a bicycle accident, it’s important to contact an accident lawyer about your case. In addition, here are the steps you should take to hold the driver accountable and build a bike accident injury claim.
Actions to Protect Yourself and Pursue an Injury Claim Following a Bicycle Accident
What you do in the moments and days following a bicycle collision on the road can matter for your injury case. We recommend taking the following steps.
1. Assess your injuries, move to safety, and keep the driver and witnesses present
When a bike accident occurs on the road, you should first assess whether you have any significant injuries that prevent you from moving. If you feel well enough to move, you should move out of the path of traffic to make sure you and anyone else involved in the accident is safe from possible further collisions or injury. At that point, check yourself again for any injuries that need to be addressed. If the driver who caused the accident stopped, ask that they stay on the scene to help you gather information about the accident. This will be necessary later when filing a claim or if the matter goes to court.
If there are witnesses, such as other drivers who pulled over, other cyclists with you, or pedestrians nearby who saw the accident, ask them to stay until the police arrive to give their statements. If they cannot stay, be sure to get contact information.
2. Call 911 to file a bicycle crash report
Once everyone is safe from traffic, call 911 to request police and, if necessary, medical first responders to the scene. The driver who hit your bicycle may be hesitant to involve the police or first responders, but it is important for your case that you file an official report with local law enforcement. If the driver flees the scene, it is even more critical to call 911 to report the incident as a hit-and-run and describe the vehicle while it’s fresh in your memory and while law enforcement may still be able to track down the hit-and-run driver.
Even if no injuries are immediately evident from a bike accident, there is always a risk of internal injuries, traumatic brain injuries, concussions, or smaller fractures that may go unnoticed due to shock or adrenaline. And even less catastrophic injuries are sometimes not felt for hours, days, or even weeks after the crash. Early medical intervention may prevent any unseen or latent injuries from worsening.
In addition to medical help, police should be dispatched to the scene to ensure an accurate report is taken, especially if the driver fled. The information in a bicycle crash report is essential to a personal injury case. Police accounts offer an unbiased view of the events that occurred, testimony from any witnesses, and your account of the events as well as the driver’s perspective. Do not wait until too long after the accident to file a report or seek medical attention, as any delays can be used by the driver’s insurance company against your bike injury claim.
3. Gather evidence from the accident scene
While you wait for law enforcement to arrive on scene, gathering evidence of your own can be helpful to your case. Be careful not to compromise the integrity of the scene for investigators. But recording some key observations through written notes and photos can prove useful for helping you win maximum damages.
Important information to write down, either on paper or using your phone’s notepad app, include:
- The driver’s name
- The driver’s license number
- Their contact information
- License plate number
- Insurance information
- Make and model of the car
- The date, time, and location of the accident
You should also take detailed photos or videos with your phone of the scene, including:
- The part of the car that struck you
- Your bicycle
- Any injuries you’ve sustained
- Nearby surroundings
- Conditions that may have contributed to the accident, such as an ignored traffic control device (traffic light, stop sign, etc.), potholes, fallen branches, construction in the area, or inclement weather
If possible, use video to also record your statement or recollection of events, and record any witness statements. If your cell phone was damaged in the accident, ask if a witness is willing to take and email the photos to you.
It is particularly critical to note if you or a witness saw the driver using a cell phone just before they hit your bike. Distracted driving is illegal in Florida and one of the top contributors to accidents involving cyclists and pedestrians. If the driver was using a cell phone, they are subject to additional penalties or fines.
Bicycle Safety: Avoid Conditions that Contribute to Cycling Accidents
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, falls are the most common type of bicycle crashes, but crashes involving cars are often the most serious.
With families taking summer road trips, young drivers off from school, and holiday traffic around July 4th, Memorial Day, and Labor Day, summer can be a particularly dangerous time for motorists in Florida. In fact, the period between Memorial Day and Labor Day is often referred to as the “100 deadliest days” for teens, where teen driver crashes increase almost 14 percent during this time.
Alternatively, winters in Florida are busy times for traffic due to the increase of seasonal residents, known as snow birds, and vacationers.
Regardless of the season, time of day, location, and driver awareness also play a factor in bicycle accidents. Most bicyclist deaths occur in the evening hours, between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. Urban areas see more fatal bicycle accidents than rural areas. Finally, alcohol was involved in 37% of all fatal bicycle accidents in 2017.
As a cyclist, you can take measures to avoid accidents as much as possible. Wear a helmet that fits you properly to limit the risk of head trauma or spinal injuries. Ride a bike that is well-maintained and fits your size so that you can control it easily. Wear reflective, bright gear that makes you highly visible to others on the road, and make sure that your bike is fitted with working reflectors and lights.
Why Hire an Injury Attorney After a Bike Crash?
Accidents may still occur even if you take precautions when cycling. After taking the necessary steps on the scene, it’s important to speak with a bicycle accident attorney right away for legal advice. The period immediately following a bike crash can be overwhelming, especially if you feel pressured to settle with the driver’s insurance company. But before accepting a settlement, discuss your case with a qualified attorney.
An injury attorney who’s experienced with bike accident cases can help you understand your options and the full amount of compensation you can pursue. They will also help you file a claim, negotiate a settlement, or represent you in court, if necessary.
Choosing a Bicycle Accident Lawyer
Not all personal injury lawyers specialize in bike accident cases or cycling accidents involving car or truck collisions. To evaluate a potential attorney for your case, ask them the following questions to determine their knowledge of the subject matter:
- How many bicycle accident cases have you handled?
- How many accident or injury cases have you taken to trial?
- How long have you practiced personal injury law?
- Are you well-versed in traffic laws pertaining to cyclists?
- How might settlement work in this situation?
- Does insurance cover my bicycle accident?
A qualified bicycle injury lawyer will be able to answer these questions confidently, assuring you of their expertise and trustworthiness.
Contact Matthews Injury Law About Your Case
If you or a loved one has experienced a traffic accident while biking in Tampa, Sarasota, or another area in Florida, Matthews Injury Law can help you get the damages you deserve. Our team of personal injury attorneys is passionate about fighting for clients’ rights as well as fighting for safer roads for cyclists and pedestrians. To request a free consultation, reach out to Matthews Injury Law today.
*To ensure the accuracy of this article, the information was either written or reviewed by attorney Marc Matthews, a managing partner at Matthews Injury Law.