A cycling accident is an accident involving the collision between an individual riding a bicycle and a motor vehicle operator, or the interference by the motor vehicle operator with the bicyclist's ability to operate the bicycle. As with pedestrian accidents, a bicycle-automobile accident can cause severe injuries to the person riding the bike. When an operator of a car fails to pay attention, or is driving distracted, the result can be a serious injury or even death of a bicyclist.
Statistics compiled by the U.S. Department of Transportation revealed that in 2015 (the most recent available data) 818 bicyclists died on US roads, representing an increase of 12.2% over the prior year and the highest figure in twenty years. Some 45,000 bicyclists were injured in traffic accidents. Of those killed 87% were men. In the majority of cases those killed on bicycles were not wearing helmets.
Bicycle Accident Cases
New York State has clear rules regarding bicycles on streets. When the driver of a car hits an individual riding a bicycle it is often a case of negligence – the driver of the vehicle may have failed to act with reasonable care under the circumstances. In this case, the bicyclist (or their family) may be entitled to recover for their injuries through a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit.
In New York juries and courts are permitted to consider the fault of both parties to an accident, and apportion it as they see fit. This is called contributory negligence. This means that if, for example, the bicyclist veered out in front of the car, or ran through a red light, a jury or court will be able to allocate a percentage of fault onto the bicyclist for contributing to the accident.
Common Causes of Bicycle Accidents
A bicyclist being struck by a car can be caused by one of many factors. These can include:
- Driver mistake: which can include the failure of the driver to pay attention to the road or conditions around them; improper lane signaling; running a red light; running a stop sign; swerving out of their lane or driving too fast. A driver is often ticketed for these violations, which can be helpful in proving negligence.
- Distracted Driving: Distracted driving is quickly becoming one of the most common causes of motor vehicle accidents, and there is no exception for accidents involving bicyclists. This includes texting while driving; reading email while driving or surfing the internet. This also includes the simple act of talking on the phone while driving. Studies show that, even when using a hands-free mobile phone, talking while driving causes the driver to become distracted and pay less attention to the road. The failure to pay attention to act with reasonable care is negligence.
- Impaired Driving: drunk or impaired driving has been a problem in the United States for years. Despite the efforts of organizations like MADD, drunk and impaired driving continues to be a primary cause of many automobile accidents in the United States each year. It is estimated that approximately one-third of bicycle accidents involve some form of impairment. This can lead to both criminal charges and negligence claims.
Damages in Bicycle Accidents
Victims of car-bicycle accidents caused by the negligence of the driver are entitled to an award of damages to compensate them. There are several categories of damages available.
Pain and Suffering
These damages are meant to compensate the injured person for the physical injuries that they have suffered from the accident. This includes pain from broken bones or other medical injuries including surgeries and, in the worst-case, pain and suffering through death. Pain and suffering damages are generally broken down into two categories: past and future. Past pain and suffering damages are awarded to a bicyclist for the pain and suffering that she has suffered from the date of the accident to the date of the award. Future pain and suffering damages are meant to ensure that the bicyclist will be compensated for the pain and suffering she will suffer in the future, which can often mean the rest of her life.
Mental Anguish or emotional distress
Victims of bicycle-car accidents are entitled to recover for the mental anguish from the accident. In many cases involving bicycles this will include the fear of riding a bike as well as flashbacks of the accident, among other things including depression and anxiety from the accident. As with pain and suffering, mental anguish damages are broken down into damages for the past, and damages into the future.
One who has been injured in bicycle – car accident because of the negligence of the driver is entitled to an award for any paid and future medical expenses associated with the injury. This often includes medical bills, hospital treatments and follow up care, and can also include things such as wheelchairs and future medical devices or modifications to the home such as installation of ramps.
Loss of Income or wages
When someone is hit by a car while riding a bike, due to the negligence of the driver, serious injuries often result. These injuries often lead to the inability of the individual to work, occasionally for long periods of time. This is particularly true in cases involving a head injury or traumatic brain injury.
When an accident victim is unable to work, she is entitled to be compensated both for her lost wages to date, as well as for her lost wages or earning capacity into the future for as long as she can be expected to be out of work. In cases involving head injuries or traumatic brain injuries following a bicycle accident this can be significant.
In the event that an individual is killed as a result of a bicycle-car accident, their Estate is entitled to recover for the loss, which includes funeral expenses.
Punitive damages are meant to punish a wrongdoer, and in many cases to set an example to society that the conduct was so wrong that we will punish the person for having acted that way. Punitive damages are discretionary, and are generally only awarded in the most extreme cases involving severely egregious acts by the wrongdoer that border on intentional.
At the present time, New York State does not cap damage awards in accidents involving a bicycle and car. This means that an individual is entitled to be compensated for the full amount of their damages, less any reduction for their own fault in causing the accident.
Bicycle Accident FAQ's
New York Personal Injury Attorneys
An injury from a bicycle-motor vehicle accident can be devastating to a family. Bills, inability to work and mental anguish can be overwhelming. We deal with families in distress, and are happy to help you get through this difficult time. Contact us today, or for a quick case evaluation complete our online intake form.