Hit by a car while riding your bicycle? Here's what Texas law has to say:
Whether from concern for the environment or for the health benefits, more people than ever are commuting via bicycle in our nation's cities. While in some areas of the country bicycles have been a part of the urban landscape for decades, sharing the roads with motorists, with few incidents, that is certainly not the case in Texas. While the car and truck are still king in Texas, an increasing number of people choose to commute via bicycle. In such inhospitable places as downtown Dallas now have numerous bike lanes.
Unfortunately, while cities around Texas increasingly role out the red carpet for bicyclists, the greeting from many motorists is much less hospitable. The dangers of riding a bicycle in Dallas and other Texas cities are quite real, as a number of motorists are under the mistaken impression that roadways are for cars, not bikes. Tragically, this attitude also leads to a lack of respect for bicyclists and a greater chance of them being injured in accidents with cars. As you can imagine, these accidents do generally end well for person riding the bike.
Well motorists owe just as much duty to bike riders as they do to any other vehicle on our roads. In some instances, such as areas near parks and trails, as well as designated bike lanes, this duty is heightened. When a driver carelessly injures a bicyclist, the cyclist often has a personal injury claim against the driver. However, due to negative stereotyping and jury perception, high pressure insurance tactics, and general cultural lag as it pertains to bikes, recovery can be difficult without the assistance of an experienced car accident attorney, like those at Grossman Law Offices.
Questions answered on this page:
- How do accidents where bicyclists are struck by cars differ from other car accidents?
- How are jury perceptions of injured bicyclists different than those involving other motorists?
- How do insurance companies use comparative fault to intimidate bicyclists from pursuing personal injury claims?
- How can an attorney who has experience representing bicyclists help you maximize your injury claim?
Statistics Concerning Injuries and Fatalities
Most auto accident injuries and fatalities are the result of multiple vehicle accidents; However, despite being less common, accidents involving riders generally result in more severe injuries and proportionally more deaths. Bicycle accidents account for roughly 2% of traffic related fatalities a year, and roughly the same number of traffic-related injuries. Unfortunately too, a lot of these bike accidents involve children under the age of 15. The reason this is so crucial is because children are afforded a greater protection under the law. If your child has been injured or killed due to a negligent driver hitting them, your child's rights will likely be greatly favored over those of the careless driver. However, this is not true for all bicyclists who are hurt or killed due to being hit by a car.
Jury Bias Against Bicyclists and How We Combat That
If your claim advances to trial, you will need an experienced and persuasive accident attorney to convince the jury that you were not at fault for the accident. Most juries automatically favor the driver and wrongfully assume that the bicyclist caused the entire accident. They think that the bicyclist carelessly darted into traffic while crossing the street, or they mistakenly assume that a bicyclist crossing the intersection simply was not paying attention to the crossing signals or the flow of traffic. These jury members automatically assume negligence of the rider despite the fact that the leading cause of bicycle accidents is the failure of the driver to yield to the rider.
Drivers think that they own the roadway and, generally, find bicyclists to be more of an annoyance than someone legally permitted to use the same roads. We can help you prove to the jury that the truth in your situation is that you were doing everything the right and cautious way, and that you are not responsible for your injuries. We may be able to establish through phone records that the driver was negligently texting on their phone at the time they veered into the bike lane and hit you. There are numerous ways in which we can prove your claim and help you seek financial compensation to aid in your recover.
Furthermore, we are quite familiar with the Texas Transportation Code, which regulates the laws regarding bikes. Most juries are shocked to find out that the law demands that bicycles be treated the same as car, except in certain, clearly defined instances. For example, Sec. 551.101 states:
RIGHTS AND DUTIES. (a) A person operating a bicycle has the rights and duties applicable to a driver operating a vehicle under this subtitle, unless:
(1) a provision of this chapter alters a right or duty; or
(2) a right or duty applicable to a driver operating a vehicle cannot by its nature apply to a person operating a bicycle.
(b) A parent of a child or a guardian of a ward may not knowingly permit the child or ward to violate this subtitle.
When juries see that the law is very clear on how bicyclists are to be treated, essentially like a motorist on the roadway, it helps to chip away at any jury bias and allows the jurors to treat the injured bicyclist as they would a motorist injured by a driver's negligence.
Sometimes cyclists who have been hit and injured by a driver wrongfully believe that they will not be able to recover any damages unless the driver was 100% at fault. You might think that if it was partially your fault, that you were actually the cause of the accident and, therefore, you would probably receive nothing if you attempted to file suit. Although this a very common belief, it is completely inaccurate. Like many states, Texas follows a comparative negligence model when determining who is at fault in a particular accident. This allows for individuals to recover even if they share some of the blame in the accident, as long as they do not have a majority of the blame. In this model, individuals may share up to 49% of fault in a case and will still be able to recover. However, your recovery will be reduced by the amount you are found to be at fault.
For example, let's say an individual bike rider in Downtown Dallas was crossing Commerce Street and was struck by a vehicle, sustaining $100,000 in damages. If the cyclist was found to be 40% at fault in the accident and the driver who struck him was found to be 60% at fault, the rider may recovery up to $60,000 for their injuries. Put simply, while you may not be awarded 100% of your damages, you could still receive a very large payment to cover the majority of the your injury costs and this money may be crucial to your recovery and well-being.
What might lead to some of the blame being placed on the bicyclist? Perhaps the bike was not equipped with proper safety equipment. According to the Texas Transportation Code, Section 551.104, bicyclists are required to have the following safety equipment:
SAFETY EQUIPMENT. (a) A person may not operate a bicycle unless the bicycle is equipped with a brake capable of making a braked wheel skid on dry, level, clean pavement.
(b) A person may not operate a bicycle at nighttime unless the bicycle is equipped with:
(1) a lamp on the front of the bicycle that emits a white light visible from a distance of at least 500 feet in front of the bicycle; and
(2) on the rear of the bicycle:
(A) a red reflector that is:
(i) of a type approved by the department; and
(ii) visible when directly in front of lawful upper beams of motor vehicle headlamps from all distances from 50 to 300 feet to the rear of the bicycle; or
(B) a lamp that emits a red light visible from a distance of 500 feet to the rear of the bicycle.
So perhaps the bicyclist has a light, but it is only visible from 200 feet away, instead of 500 feet. This would reduce the distance from which a driver could see the bike rider, but not so much that it would make an accident unavoidable. A clever defense attorney might point out that while the accident would have happened, even if the light was the proper brightness, the shorter reaction time meant that his client hit the bike rider at a greater speed than he would have if the light had given more warning. As a result, the injuries the bicyclist were more severe than they otherwise would have been, because of the bike rider's negligence.
While this is hypothetical, it clearly illustrates the complexity of the law as it relates to bicyclists who were injured by automobiles and the need for an experienced accident attorney to vigorously advocate on your behalf.
Recovering Damages Through an Insurance Company
Anytime your car is negligently hit by another, you automatically know that, if the other driver has insurance, that you can seek compensation under their insurance policy. Despite this, we have had countless clients ask us whether this same theory applies if they have been hit by another car while the client was riding a bike. The answer is yes. The negligent driver's insurance policy should cover any damage they cause and are found to be liable for. Of course the details of every insurance policy varies, but this will be the most likely solution to helping you receive payment for your damages.
What if the person who hit you does not carry any insurance? First, if the driver does not have any liability insurance then they are in violation of Texas law and need to be prosecuted by the state. We can help assist you in making sure they are held accountable for their disobedience of the law and total disregard for your well being. Although it is great for the state to hold them accountable for their blatant violation, how does that help you pay for your exorbitant medical bills? How does it help you pay for your daily living expenses when you are forced to miss work for an extended period of time following your accident? This is another reason why you need to contact us today to make sure that you are adequately taken care of.
Many people do not realize that even though you were not in your car at the time of the accident, if the driver who hit you is uninsured then you can still recover under your own insurance policy by filing an uninsured motorists claim. Unfortunately, just because you are dealing with your own personal insurance carrier, this does not mean that they will be overly accommodating and automatically pay for all of your damages. Through our experience we have typically found that many of our clients' insurance carriers are incredibly difficult to work with and extremely reluctant to pay your damages when its their money on the line. We can assist with your claim and expedite this recovery process by working with your insurance company, holding them accountable for what they owe you.
What You Need to Do After a Bike Accident
The first thing that you should do after being struck by a vehicle while riding a bicycle is to call 911. If you have been injured or hurt in any way, you will need to file a police report and you will most likely need immediate medical assistance. If these emergency responders are involved and come to the scene of the accident, they will probably create documents, which can be very helpful to the litigation of your claim.
For instance, a police report or an EMT report documenting your injuries could be crucial in proving your damages, as well as the liability of the negligent driver. In addition to information documenting the time and location of the accident, the extent of your injuries, a description of the accident, and the surrounding conditions which may have affected the incident, there are several other important facts which you should collect if you have been hit by a car. We need the legal names and addresses of every person involved, including an passengers in the vehicle or witnesses who actually saw the accident occur. And we also will need the phone numbers of all these people in order to contact them further about your claim.
If you are struck by an individual who is trying to flee the scene you should attempt to make out their license plate number. Secondary efforts can be made by taking pictures of the accident scene. While you certainly have other things to worry about immediately following an accident, you should contact an accident attorney as soon as possible. We have seen the ways in which defense attorneys try to take advantage of your situation and attempt to label you at fault. At Grossman Law Offices, we know the tricks used by insurance companies and we know how to beat them. Call us today, at (855) 326-0000, to schedule your free consultation or have us answer any questions you may have.
If you are a bicyclist who has been injured by a car, you may also be interested in the following related articles: