People are increasingly using bicycles for commutes. After all, it’s great exercise and a green mode of transportation. Whether you ride for exercise, pleasure, or your daily commute, you can easily forget that bicycle accidents are very common.
While bicycles and cars are supposed to share the road, many motorists foster a miscommunication that bicycles don’t belong in public roadways, which is simply not true. Cyclists have the same legal right to use public roads as motor vehicles. Unfortunately, these biases often continue through the personal injury legal system.
If you were injured in a bicycle accident, you have every right to seek compensation from those responsible for the crash. Our Winston Salem bicycle accident lawyers can provide experienced legal representation in bicycle-related accident cases.
What Are Some of the Causes of Bicycle Accidents?
Several factors often play a role in bike accidents. The following are some of the most common causes of bicycle accidents based on the cases we’ve handled:
- Distracted driving: common forms of distracted driving include talking on the phone, replying to emails or messages, using social media, or even simply adjusting the radio.
- Speeding: speeding increases the driver’s stopping time and reduces the amount of time they have to make decisions.
- Low visibility: Bicycles are small and might be more difficult to see. However, this shouldn’t be an excuse for motorists not to watch out for them.
- Failure to yield: when a motorist doesn’t yield as they are supposed to, it could lead to a deadly outcome if they collide with a bike.
- Unsafe lane changes: Bicycle accidents that involve unsafe lane changes usually occur when drivers merge into cyclists’ lanes without looking to make sure the lane is clear.
- Impaired driving: People who get behind the wheel while drunk are a danger to themselves and other road users. Drug and alcohol impairment significantly reduces the driver’s ability to make smart decisions and avoid causing accidents.
What Types of Injuries Can Happen in a Bike Accident?
Cyclists who are struck by other motorists could likely suffer anything from bruises and bumps to life-changing disabilities. Some of the most common types of injuries a cyclist may suffer in an accident:
- Head injuries: these range from scrapes to the head to fractures of the skull, which may result in a brain injury.
- Traumatic brain injury: A cyclist may suffer a brain injury without suffering visible injuries to the head. Such as a concussion or other forms of closed head injuries.
- Facial injuries: Bicycle accidents can cause significant damage to the cyclist’s face, including a fractured jaw, broken teeth, road rash, or vision damage that causes permanent scarring.
- Spinal cord injuries: Spinal cord injuries can be devastating, often causing physical, mental, and emotional effects. Some spinal cord injuries are fatal.
Many cyclists involved in bike accidents with vehicles tend to suffer from road rash caused by skidding across the road or pavement. Since the bike is a lot smaller than a car and the cyclist is largely unprotected, the sustained injuries could be serious.
Who is Liable in a Bicycle Accident?
To prove fault in a North Carolina bicycle accident, you have to demonstrate that the other motorist acted unreasonably under the circumstances. If a pedestrian, truck, car, or even another bicycle is found to be operating negligently, which causes you to suffer an injury, you can hold the party accountable and recover compensation for the damages suffered.
Evidence is key when establishing fault in bicycle accident cases. Your Winston Salem bicycle accident lawyer will assess which rules or laws were broken and the contribution of each party to the accident when determining who is at fault. Once fault is established, the guilty party will be held accountable, and if you are named as the victim, you will be awarded compensation for your losses, including medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering following the accident.
Keep in mind that North Carolina still follows the pure contributory negligence doctrine. This means that the victim in an accident is not entitled to receive any compensation even if they contributed 1% to the crash.
What Are North Carolina Bicycle Laws?
Under North Carolina law, bicycles are considered vehicles, and cyclists enjoy the same rights and responsibilities as motorists. However, there are laws specific to cyclists that are meant to safeguard their safety and that of other road users. The following are the state laws applicable to cyclists:
- Bicyclists must ride in the direction of traffic (on the right side of the road), unless they’re avoiding an obstruction, overtaking another vehicle, or preparing to make a left turn.
- Bicyclists must yield to pedestrians with the right of way on sidewalks, crosswalks, etc. so that they can pass safely.
- Since bicycles are considered vehicles, it’s possible to be charged with DWI for riding a bicycle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs in North Carolina.
- Have the proper equipment when riding at night, to keep everyone on the roadways safe when it’s dark. This includes front and rear lights, wearing a reflective vest, and a helmet.
- Cyclists must follow all the prevailing traffic laws, signs, and signals, including speed limits.
- Cyclists should use electrical, mechanical, or hand signals to indicate a turn or an intent to stop.
- Notifying the authorities of any accident that results in injury, death, or property damage over $1,000. Failure to remain at the scene of the accident or help those injured could result in fines and criminal charges.
- Cyclists under the age of 16 are required to wear safety helmets while riding on public roads. All cyclists are encouraged to wear helmets.
What Should I Do After a Bicycle Accident?
Following the right steps following a bicycle accident will help to ensure that not only you have the correct information and proof for your claim, but you’re safe as well. The following is what is suggested if you or someone you love has been involved in a bicycle accident:
Move to a Safe Area
The first thing you want to do is to avoid further danger by getting you and your bike off the road immediately and onto a secure spot. If you’re injured and can’t move, ask for help.
You should always call the police after a bicycle accident. Even if you believe that you have not been injured, it’s wise to wait for the police to arrive. A police report will help establish who is at fault for the accident.
Record the Scene
Take a photo of the license plate number of the car(s) involved and any other identifying information. Consider also writing these details down. Take photos and videos of the accident scene, and capture the damage to your bike, the injuries suffered, the road conditions, any skid marks, and other relevant details.
Never Admit Fault
Never admit fault for the accident and don’t negotiate with the motorist. Saying things like “Sorry I wasn’t looking” may be used against your case. Plus, the at-fault driver may change their mind later without notice.
Seek Medical Help
Even if the injuries seem minor, you should consult with a doctor immediately and get a thorough evaluation. Seemingly minor injuries could end up being severe, which could risk your life and the outcome of your case.
Get a Bike Accident Lawyer
Another crucial thing to do as soon as possible after the incident is to get in touch with a bicycle accident lawyer. They will have the knowledge and experience in handling your case and will work to protect your rights and serve your best interests.
What Types of Damages Can Be Recovered in a Bicycle Accident Lawsuit?
The types of damages that may be available for injured cyclists are as follows:
- Economic damages: These include quantifiable losses, such as medical bills, lost wages, and property damage.
- Non-economic damages: These include pain and suffering, depression and anxiety, emotional suffering, along with quality-of-life issues.
- Punitive damages: The judge or jury may award you punitive damages to punish an offender who is deemed too negligent or egregious, such as DUI offenders and street racers.
Hire a Winston Salem Bicycle Accident Lawyer at McIver Law Firm to Handle your Bike Accident Case
As North Carolina continues working towards becoming even friendlier for bicyclists, it’s important to adopt safety habits to stay safe on the road and avoid serious accidents. But if you find yourself involved in a bike accident, you can always rely on us to ensure your rights are protected and that you receive the compensation you deserve.