With the perfect climate, beautiful scenery, and high gas prices, it is not surprising that cycling is one of the most popular ways for residents to get around Fort Lauderdale. It is an environmentally friendly, economical mode of transportation, and outdoor exercise has physical and mental health benefits that many have come to appreciate even more when indoor and group activities are less available
Cyclists must share the road with other motor vehicles such as cars and trucks at times, which can lead to bicycle accidents. When they happen, those involved need to speak to a Fort Lauderdale bicycle accident lawyer right away. An experienced injury lawyer in Ft. Lauderdale can mount a claim to help maximize the compensation you may be entitled to.
A knowledgeable personal injury attorney at Kogan & DiSalvo can advise and help you make more informed decisions at critical times, from choosing a specialist medical provider and help with diagnosis, documentation, and treatment, to bringing an experience-informed opinion to the table on whether a settlement figure is commensurate with your damages and right for you.
Fort Lauderdale Bike Accident Statistics
Car and bike accidents are unfortunately fairly common, with carinsurance.org placing Fort Lauderdale on the 20 deadliest cities to bike in due to the high number of accidents involving fatalities. This reflects the higher danger faced in Florida on the roads in general, with states like California that have far more bicyclists still having fewer yearly deaths. In fact, the AAA has an article on their website titled Florida has the Most Bicycle Deaths in the U.S. Here, it highlights that, despite only having around 6% of the US population, a disproportionate 16% of bicyclist fatalities occurred in our state.
If you or a loved one were injured on a bicycle in Fort Lauderdale, you are certainly not alone. Partially because of this unfortunate prevalence of accidents in Florida, the attorneys at Kogan & DiSalvo have obtained years of experience litigating exactly these types of cases.
What are the most common causes of bicycle accidents?
There are several common causes of bicycle accidents in Florida. The four most common are:
- Driver error
- Hazardous roadways
- Bicycle defect or malfunction
- Cyclist error
There are many driver errors that may cause bicycle accidents. Because bicycles are much smaller in size than automobiles, drivers do not always see cyclists and may crash into them. This is especially true when cyclists are traveling straight and cars make a right-hand turn onto another roadway.
Dooring, the act of opening a car door into the path of a cyclist, is also very common in Ft. Lauderdale, and it is against the law. Dooring can cause severe injuries in cyclists, including causing the cyclist to be thrown into traffic, potentially causing them to be hit by another car. When this happens, one or more drivers can be found at fault.
Hazardous roadways such as large potholes that have not been fixed, broken sidewalks, or other hazards can cause a bicycle accident. In cases such as these, the City of Fort Lauderdale or the property owner may be held responsible for any injuries caused. This can include factors such as whether there were previous accidents or other events involving the property that should have provided notice of the hazardous condition.
Bikes can also be struck by buses, other cyclists, and trucks. Cyclist injuries can also result from poor road conditions, lack of or poorly designed bike lanes, or uncleared debris from an accident left in the street.
There are also instances in which a bicycle can be defective and cause an accident. This can include brake failure, defective carbon frames, or failure to meet safety standards, to name just a few. In these cases, the bicycle manufacturer may be found at fault for the accident and may be sued under a few different causes of action depending on the circumstances. When a bicycle accident occurs due to one of these causes, and the cyclist has suffered injuries as a result of it, it is imperative that injured parties call a bicycle accident lawyer in Ft. Lauderdale.
Types of bicycle accidents
Although every accident has its own unique facts, there are several common types of bicycle accidents:
- “Right Hook:” This is one of the most common accidents, when a car attempts to pass a cyclist to make a right turn and does not make enough space, striking the cyclist or not allowing them enough reaction time to avoid them. This is called a “Left Hook” when it is done to an oncoming cyclist.
- “Right Cross:” Another common accident, this happens when a car pulls out of a parking lot, driveway, or side of the street from the right. This results in either the vehicle colliding with the cyclist or the cyclist colliding with the side of the vehicle due to a lack of time to react. It is known as a “Left Cross” when the driver starts from the left side of the street.
- Red Light Accident: These occur when a bike is struck by a car from behind while stopped at a red light, either by rear-ending or turning into them.
- Being “doored”: This happens when a motorist opens a door into a cyclist or a short distance ahead of them that does not allow them time to react.
- Sliding out on ice, sand, water, or due to other environmental hazards.
- Cycling into a pothole, which can be further exacerbated by a rim buckling. This can result in throwing the cyclist over their handlebars and into the street.
- Collision with another cyclist
- Loss of control
- Cycling into other hazards
Though some of these accidents have factors that are inherently more severe, they can all happen at high speeds and involve injuries from the fall.
What are some common bicycle accident injuries?
Even when helmets are worn, additional safety equipment is utilized, and all traffic laws are obeyed by cyclists, accidents still happen. Injuries suffered after a bicycle accident can be catastrophic, with the severity of the accident depending on many factors. Without a large metal frame surrounding them, and nothing between them and the road or curb if they happen to fall, cyclists have little protection. With reasonable experience, they can be traveling as fast as 20 mph at the time of the accident. The most common injuries suffered due to bicycle accidents are:
- Head trauma, including life-altering traumatic brain injury (TBI)
- Neck injuries
- Back and spinal cord injuries
- Broken bones, especially the legs, arms, ribs, and pelvis
- Internal bleeding
- Damage to internal organs
TBIs can be a particularly bad type of injury, and that is why the first piece of safety equipment recommended for biking is a helmet. TBIs include concussions, contusions, hemorrhages, hematomas, and other injuries. According to the Mayo Clinic, TBI symptoms include:
- Cognitive symptoms like
- Loss of consciousness
- Feeling dazed, confused or disoriented
- Problems with memory or concentration
- Depression or anxiety
- Slurred speech
- Sleeping more than usual or being unable to wake
- Persistent headaches
- Weakness or numbness in fingers and toes
- Sensitivity to light or sound
- Nausea and vomiting
- Convulsions or seizures
- Pupil dilation
These injuries can significantly affect a victim as they can change what they are cognitively and physically capable of, as well as their mental state. This can affect their lifetime earning potential and lifestyle, inflicting changes that are often permanent and difficult for victims and their families to cope with. As with other severe injuries from cycling accidents, this can lead to the death of the injured party.
No matter the injury suffered, an individual should contact a bicycle accident attorney in Fort Lauderdale to help them substantiate a claim.
How much compensation is available in a bicycle accident case?
When it comes to insurance, Florida is a no-fault state. This means that, should a motor vehicle get into an accident, injured parties must go through their own insurance company for personal injury protection (PIP) benefits to cover up to the first $10,000 in medical care costs. Cyclists will use their own PIP if they have an automobile policy. A local personal injury lawyer can help an individual recover such compensation.
In order to claim compensation, the cyclist must be able to show that:
- The driver, local government, or product manufacturer owed a duty of care to the cyclist who was injured;
- They breached that duty of care; and
- The cyclist was injured as a result of that breach
These can be complicated questions of fact and law depending on the circumstances of the accident, such as the apportionment of fault between the parties and damages suffered. The payments resulting from these injuries also include several factors. A few examples are the details of insurance policy limits, requirements of each party’s insurance policy, and how the damage to a victim’s lifestyle and earning potential can be calculated.
Under Florida law, a wrongful death lawsuit requires that a person or entity cause someone’s death by a wrongful act, negligence, default, or breach of contract or warranty. A wrongful death lawsuit will allow survivors to recover for:
- Loss of support and services decedent provided to survivors, such as childcare or other caretaker roles
- Loss of companionship, guidance, instruction, and protection
- Medical expenses
- Funeral Expenses
- Lost wages and other benefits for the projected lifetime of the decedent
- Additional factors unique to individual clients
These damages, however, must typically be named in the complaint. This document is filed at the beginning of a lawsuit.
Additionally, Florida is a modified comparative negligence state. Under Florida negligence law, this means that if an injured party is partially at fault for the accident that they are basing the lawsuit on, their recovery for damages will be reduced in proportion to their fault up to 50%. If the injured party is found to be 51% or more at fault for their injuries, they will be barred from recovery entirely.
Which party bears fault and what the damages are can be complicated questions. Bringing in an experienced attorney early on is strongly advised, and our bike accident lawyers in Fort Lauderdale at Kogan & DiSalvo can help.
Statute of Limitations and Proving Negligence in Bicycle Accident Cases in Florida
For a typical bicycle accident, as in other negligence causes of action like many car accidents, the statute of limitations is two years from the date of the accident. In the tragic event of a fatality from the accident, the statute of limitations is also two years from the death of the victim for a wrongful death lawsuit. However, these statutes are subject to factors that can reduce the time period.
A wrongful death or negligence lawsuit will require proving fault by a “preponderance of the evidence,” essentially meaning “more likely than not” an action or inaction by another party caused the injury, damages, or death. As suggested, this will include a court considering the evidence gathered and submitted for the case. Because proving fault in these lawsuits can get complex, it is advisable to begin documenting evidence early before memories fade, witnesses move, or evidence becomes unavailable.
What to do after a bicycle accident
To make a claim with an insurance company or prove fault in a negligence or wrongful death lawsuit, evidence will be needed. This will be used to demonstrate fault and damages to the insurance adjuster, judge, and/or jury.
Because opportunities to document evidence – such as conversing with witnesses, taking photos of conditions of the road, and even writing your own account while your memory is fresh – may only be available for a limited amount of time, it is highly recommended that you begin documenting evidence as soon as immediate concerns such as getting to safety, reporting the accident to the police, and administering first aid have been completed. Many of the following evidence-gathering steps can be done with your phone immediately following the bike accident, such as:
- Stay at the scene and get the contact information of any parties who witnessed or were involved in the accident;
- Take photos and videos of any damage to the bike, injuries to individuals, damage to vehicles, road conditions, road signs, and traffic lights;
- Interview witnesses and create your own account while your memory is fresh of the circumstances leading up to the accident;
- Fill out a police report. Though it does not mean that the police are a witness, the police report will help put facts on the record;
- Preserve your bicycle, even if it’s completely destroyed, to demonstrate potential forensics like the angle of impact
- Make an appointment with a medical specialist who can diagnose, document, and treat your injuries; and
- Keep track of medical bills, bicycle repair bills, and any other costs that are associated with the accident.
It is often worth returning to the scene to follow up with an additional investigation, which can include documenting the size of the bike lane, the angle of the road, and other issues that could have been a factor in the accident. This can also include research into whether an individual, business, or government body should have been aware of and taken action to address a dangerous condition that caused an accident.
A wrongful death case similarly requires investigating facts and documenting evidence to prove fault. This will often involve a more detailed police investigation and report as law enforcement becomes more involved with an accident that involves a fatality that could lead to serious criminal charges.
In addition to documenting evidence of damages, some other steps recommended by experienced experts are not posting on social media about the accident and speaking with an attorney before having a conversation with an insurance representative. Posting on social media can offer evidence to an opposing side’s attorney or insurance agent.
When you speak with an insurance company, they may be quick to offer a settlement worth far less than an injured party could recover to discharge liability for damages that may not yet be fully known. An experienced attorney can provide an estimate of what can be recovered and follow up should injuries be revealed that were not immediately apparent.
Bike Safety Equipment and Preventative Measures
While safety equipment cannot prevent or lessen every accident, it can reduce the likelihood and the severity of injuries. A few things for cyclists to consider to make their leisure activity or commute safer are:
- Helmet: a properly fitted bike helmet can help to prevent and reduce the severity of brain injuries. The fit is essential as it will keep the helmet secure and prevent it from falling into a cyclist’s face, distracting them and obscuring their vision;
- Reflective tape, vest, rear reflector, or other reflective gear: Reflective surfaces like a red rear reflector bring more attention to a cyclist, who can often go unnoticed by motorists. This is especially important at night as it will reflect headlights at dusk and later when visibility is low;
- Front light: Similar to reflective surfaces, a front light will alert oncoming vehicles of your presence, which they may otherwise miss at night;
- Tire pump, tire levers, patch kit, and spare tube: One of the most common issues for cyclists is a tire puncture. Even a small puncture will result in low tire pressure. This will result in the bike being more difficult to operate, and the tire being more vulnerable to further damage. This can lead to issues like the rim collapsing if it hits an object or pothole, potentially throwing the cyclist over their handlebars if it buckles. Having the equipment to inflate or replace a tire while on a ride can increase safety (and prevent a cyclist from having to walk their bicycle home);
- First aid kit: a first aid kit, preferably with some training, can help you or someone else at the scene administer first aid in the event of an accident or injury. There are specialized first aid kits, often called “crash kits,” that are made to treat the type of injuries arising most frequently in cycling accidents;
- Shatter-resistant eyewear: Eyewear can prevent eye injuries from potential oncoming objects. As the glass in eyewear can break and become a hazard, having shatter-resistant eyewear is recommended; and
- Bike in numbers: Biking in a group allows for more visibility, as well as assistance should a tire get a puncture or an accident occur.
Benefits of a Fort Lauderdale bicycle accident lawyer
If you or a loved one has been injured in a bicycle accident and you would like to discuss your legal options to receive compensation for any injuries, pain, or damage to property sustained as a result, you can speak to a Fort Lauderdale bicycle accident lawyer that can help right away. Our firm practices only personal injury law, allowing our attorneys to deepen their expertise on the complex legal issues surrounding cases like bicycle accidents.
A knowledgeable, experienced personal injury attorney in Fort Lauderdale can spot potential issues in a case and make sure that all of your potential claims are included early in a lawsuit as required by Florida law. Perhaps most importantly, even a brief consultation can offer context to help inform your decisions on how to proceed, and let you know when you can expect a settlement to be reached, considering the damages suffered, details of your case, and evidence. Call us today for a FREE, no-obligation case review!