May is National Bike Safety Month—and with warmer weather, more cyclists are heading outdoors, which means the number of bicycle accidents rises sharply as well. If, despite your best efforts, you are in an accident while riding your bike, it’s important to understand your legal rights and what steps to take.
What to do if you are in a bike accident
As with a car accident, if you sustain an accident with an auto while riding your bike, if you can, you should:
- Remain at the scene, call the police to report the accident and provide a statement for the police report
- Exchange information with the vehicle owner; at a minimum, try to get the make, model and license plate of the vehicle
- Take pictures of all your injuries and any damage, even if it appears insignificant at the time. If you don’t have a camera, be sure to write down the details as soon as you are able, so they are fresh in your mind
- Seek medical attention for injuries so you have a medical report—even seemingly minor injuries can become serious
- Get names and contact information of any witnesses
If you are considering a lawsuit, do not get rid of or make repairs to your bicycle, your helmet or other gear, or the clothes you were wearing during the incident. Also, do not give them to anyone without first consulting your attorney.
Determining if you have a case
Negligence is a key factor in determining whether you have a personal injury case after a bicycle accident. Bike riders are expected to follow the same traffic laws as autos, such as riding on the right side of the road, signaling turns, and obeying traffic signs and signals. If you, as the bike rider, are at fault in an accident, you likely can’t sue for damages, and may even be responsible for damage and injuries to others.
However, you may have a valid personal injury case if the accident is either the result of negligence on the part of an auto driver—drifting into a bike lane, running a stop sign, etc.— or on the part of a city or town for not maintaining road safety—unmarked roadwork or potholes in the bike lane, for example.
Compensation for bicycle accidents
If you are in a bike accident due to someone else’s negligence, you may be eligible for compensation for:
- medical expenses (current and future)
- lost wages
- damage to or loss of your bike
- emotional distress
Some expenses may be covered under insurance, either yours or the other party’s, or you may need to file a personal injury lawsuit.
To know for sure, your best bet is to first contact a lawyer who is experienced in personal injury cases involving bicycles. These cases can be complicated, and there are many requirements that must be met, so your best chance of a successful resolution is with an experienced attorney who can guide you through the process.