Who Is Liable for Injuries in a Bicycle Accident?
Generally, the individual who caused the accident is liable. For instance, if you were riding your bicycle through an intersection and a car ran a red light and hit you, that driver may be liable for your injuries. In this situation, a personal injury attorney may be able to help you bring a lawsuit forward against the at-fault driver.
However, if you cause the accident, you may be able to make a claim against your own auto insurance. Some policies have coverage that kicks in when you are injured as a pedestrian or a cyclist. In this situation, you may also want to consult with an attorney, and see if they can help you negotiate a fair settlement with your insurer.
What Is Contributory Negligence?
In many personal injury cases including bicycle accidents, contributory negligence may come into play. Contributory negligence refers to cases where the defendant was partially at fault for some of the accident.
For instance, if a speeding car hits a bicyclist, the driver may have caused the accident, but if the bicyclist ran a stop sign just before the accident, the courts may suggest that the bicyclist contributed to the accident.
Typically, your settlement is reduced by the portion of the accident caused by you. To explain, imagine the courts say that you deserve a $500,000 settlement, but they also establish that you were responsible for 20% of the accident. When you reduce this settlement by 20%, the remaining amount is $400,000.
What Are Georgia’s Bicycle Laws?
To establish contributory negligence, the defense lawyers for the person who caused the accident may try to argue that you weren’t following Georgia’s bicycle laws. Under Georgia law, bicycles are considered vehicles, and as such, they are not allowed on sidewalks if the cyclist is over the age of 12 years.
Additionally, bicyclists cannot legally transport passengers on the handlebars, and they shouldn’t carry passengers under one year of age unless they are in a bicycle trailer or infant sling, following the rules specified by the manufacturer. You must also ride in the same direction as traffic, and you need to have lights at night.
At the same time, your attorney may try to argue that the at-fault motorist did not follow laws in a way that contributed to the accident. In particular, motorists are required to yield to bicyclists in the bike lane, and they must leave a safe distance of at least three feet between their vehicle and bicyclists.
What Should You Do If You Are in a Bicycling Accident?
After an accident, first ensure you are safe. Get out of traffic and contact the authorities to report the accident. Also, seek medical attention as soon as possible. Even if you feel okay, you may have a concussion, whiplash, or another serious injury. Sometimes, the adrenaline that kicks in after an accident can make you not feel certain injuries.
Always take contact and insurance information from the at-fault motorist, and if possible, get contact information from witnesses or bystanders. Ideally, you should not speak with the at-fault motorist or their insurance company on your own after the accident. Let a professional handle the communication for you, so that you avoid the risk of accidentally admitting fault or accepting a low ball offer.
To set up a case evaluation for your bicycle accident, contact us today. At the Law Offices of Wells and McElwee, P.C., we work with clients in a number of different personal injury cases.