Each bicycle injury case is unique. Each turns upon how it happened and the applicable law.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do not negotiate with the driver. Wait for the police to arrive, or, if they do not respond to the accident, contact them afterwards. This is necessary, because while many drivers are honest and want to do the right thing, some drivers will provide false contact and insurance information if they can. Some drivers will even deny later that they were at the scene. By involving the police, you are ensuring that the driver’s contact and insurance information is correct. Responding police officers may write an accident report; sometimes these accident reports do not contain a statement of the cyclist’s account of the accident. Be certain to provide your account of what happened to the responding police officer. The police may even cite the at-fault driver; if they do, this will be evidence to bolster your case. If you are cited, on the other hand, this will be evidence to weaken your case. If the citation was not warranted by the facts of your case– it happens, law enforcement officers do make mistakes– you will want to have the citation dismissed before your claim is presented to the driver’s insurance company.
Seek prompt medical treatment. Many times, the adrenaline that floods the cyclist’s system after an accident masks injuries the cyclist may have received, leaving the cyclist unaware that he or she has been injured until later, after the adrenaline wears off. By seeking medical treatment, you will have documentation of any injuries you may have sustained. You will need photographs of your injuries and of the accident scene. You will need the names and contact information of the driver and witnesses. Do not destroy or otherwise affect the integrity of any of your physical evidence. For example, do not tinker with or repair your damaged bike; do not wash bloodstains or road marks off your clothing; do not discard your cracked helmet, etc. Do not discuss your case with the driver’s insurance company before talking with an attorney.
You should immediately contact an attorney experienced at handling bicycle injury cases, as soon after the accident as you are able. The attorney will need to have the accident scene investigated while evidence may still be present. The driver’s insurance company will be pressuring you to discuss your case. Do not discuss the accident with the insurance company before talking with an attorney. If you do discuss your case with the insurance company, they may attempt to use your own account of the accident to prove that you were the negligent party. Finally, there are strict time limits for handling bicycle injury claims, and it takes time to develop a case and negotiate with the insurance company. The sooner you talk with an attorney, the better it will be for your case.
Every accident is different; whether you have a case will depend upon the facts of your particular accident, and the law that is applicable to those facts. You should never rely upon what a law enforcement officer or an insurance company tells you about the strength of your case. While law enforcement officers are trained to enforce laws, they are not trained or qualified to offer legal advice. As people who spend their lives in squad cars, they frequently have a “windshield bias,” favoring drivers over cyclists. Don’t be dissuaded by a police report that finds you at fault. The officer’s findings can usually be overcome if the law or evidence was misinterpreted. The insurance company, on the other hand, is your adversary. In fact, as a general rule of thumb, the driver’s insurance company will often attempt to shift all or part of the blame for the accident to you. Therefore, the insurance company is a biased and unreliable source of advice about your case. In contrast, an attorney with experience at handling cases like yours will always give you an honest assessment of your case. If you contact bicyclelaw.com, the merits of your case is something we will discuss during your free initial consultation.
If you have been inured in a bicycle accident, the amount of compensation you are entitled to will vary with each case, and is highly dependent on the facts and legal issues of your particular case, the nature and extent of your injuries, and the amount of your losses. Typical damages that an attorney will consider in evaluating your claim include:
- Past and future medical bills: You are entitled to recover the expense of medical bills you have incurred, and will continue to incur in the future, as a result of another party’s negligence. For example, these damages include emergency room treatment, radiology, surgery, doctors, chiropractic, therapeutic treatment, and other medical expenses.
- Loss or impairment of past and future wages: You are entitled to be compensated for both past and future wages lost or impaired due to injuries you have suffered as a result of another party’s negligence. In order to claim lost wages, it is essential that you have a letter from your doctor verifying that (1) due to your injuries, your ability to work has been lost or impaired, and (2) the length of time this loss or impairment will continue.
- Property damage: You are entitled to recover the cost of repairs or replacement for your property that has been damaged due to another party’s negligence. For example, these damages include damage to your bicycle, components, and accessories.
- Out-of-pocket expenses: You are entitled to be compensated for out-of-pocket expenses you incur as a result of another party’s negligence. For example, the cost of doctor’s prescriptions are compensable.
- Pain and suffering: In addition to injuries for which receipts can be produced, there is another class of injuries which are just as real, but for which no receipts exist. These injuries are classified as “pain and suffering,” and are intended to compensate you for the intangible injuries you’ve suffered as a result of the driver’s negligence. These intangible injuries would include the physical pain you’ve suffered, embarrassment from scarring, depression, mental anguish, emotional distress, a potentially shortened lifespan, and loss of enjoyment of life. For cyclists, the loss of the ability to ride for transportation or pleasure, or to compete, would be an example of “loss of enjoyment of life.” Because there are no receipts for “pain and suffering,” the amount you are compensated will be dependent upon your attorney’s effectiveness at conveying the extent to which your pain and suffering has affected your life.
- Punitive damages: Occasionally, if a jury feels that the behavior of a negligent party was particularly egregious and outside the bounds of community standards of behavior, the jury may decide to punish the negligent party by awarding the injured person punitive damages.
It is often difficult in the early stages of a case to determine a precise amount of damages to seek, because the full extent of the damages may not be immediately apparent. For example, the total cost of present medical care may not be established immediately after an accident. Until the injured cyclist has either fully recovered, or at least reached a plateau in recovery from his or her injuries, it is impossible to determine what current medical expenses are, let alone attempt to determine what future medical expenses, if any, will be incurred. Likewise, depending upon the extent of permanent injury, the loss or impairment of future wages will also be unknown shortly after the accident. Nevertheless, after assessing the particulars of your case, an experienced bicycle accident attorney will be able to advise you in general terms what your case may be worth.
That will depend on the specifics of your case. The insurance company is your adversary, so in many cases, the insurance company will attempt to offer you less to settle your case than you are entitled to. Sometimes, due to the facts of your case, the insurance company may make you a fair settlement offer. Regardless of which approach the insurance company takes, it is never a good idea to negotiate directly with the insurance company until after you’ve talked with an experienced bicycle accident attorney, because the insurance company will attempt to use everything you disclose to build a case against you. Many cases involve complex factual and legal issues, requiring the services of an experienced attorney and accident reconstruction engineer in order to successfully recover the damages you are entitled to. If the full extent of your injuries is known, and if case is not complex and the offer is fair, we can advise on this at your initial free consultation.
Your initial consultation is free of charge, with no obligation. We frequently are able to help people help themselves in this initial call. If we decide to work together, our fees are contingent upon success. If we successfully recover compensation, we will receive a percentage of the recovery amount. If we are not successful in recovering compensation for you, you will not owe anything to us.
We are trial attorneys, and are prepared to go to trial if necessary. However, the fact is most lawsuits never proceed to trial. Most lawsuits are settled out of court– sometimes even on the courthouse steps! Nevertheless, in those rare cases where the driver’s insurance company does not agree to just compensation in settlement of the cyclist’s claims, the injured cyclist will have to decide whether to accept the insurance company’s offer or proceed to trial. Generally, the stronger your case– something determined by the particular facts of your case and by the groundwork laid by your legal team– the greater the pressure on the insurance company to settle your claims fairly. This is because the power you hold in negotiations with the driver’s insurance company is your right to sue for just compensation. Without that power, the insurance companies have no incentive to offer you fair compensation for your injuries. One major reason attorneys are significantly more successful than unrepresented accident victims at recovering compensation is because the driver’s insurance company faces the very credible threat of a lawsuit if it does not offer a fair settlement. The bottom line is we work for you. While it is our job to advise you on risks and benefits, we settle the case or try the case based on your decision.
If your bike has been damaged, you are entitled to be compensated for the cost of repairs, or, if it cannot be repaired, you are entitled to be compensated at the replacement value (and not at the lower “depreciated” value that the insurance companies will offer). This part of your case is usually resolved quickly, before your bodily injury claim is resolved. In most cases, we can get you a check for your bike within 30 to 60 days.
If you have an automobile insurance policy, you will be covered by your auto policy’s Uninsured Motorist/Under Insured Motorist (UM/UIM) coverage on your auto policy. You pay for this coverage, and if you are hit by an uninsured or underinsured motorist, it’s as if the motorist did have adequate insurance. For this reason, we advise cyclists to always carry the maximum amount of UM/UIM on their auto policies. We have a very thorough piece discussing this further: Cover yourself! Liability insurance for the cyclist. However, you should be aware of the following caveats when making a claim against your own insurance policy:
- It’s not uncommon for a cyclist who has been hit by an uninsured or underinsured driver to be advised by his or her insurance agent that UM/UIM does not apply to cycling accidents. This advice is incorrect– cyclists with UM/UIM coverage on their auto policies are covered if they are involved in a collision with an uninsured or underinsured driver.
- If you are filing a UM/UIM claim with your insurance company, your own insurance company becomes your adversary on that claim.
- If you have been hit by an underinsured motorist (i.e., a motorist whose low policy limits are inadequate to cover your damages), you can claim against your UIM coverage for damages above the underinsured motorists policy limits but within your own UM/UIM policy limits. However, you will need permission from your own insurance company before you accept a check from the motorist’s insurance company. This is vitally important. If your insurance company does not consent to settle before you accept a check from the underinsured motorist’s insurance company, you may be unable to claim against your own UM/UIM coverage.
We help bicyclists, ranging from collisions to dangerous road conditions (for example wheel-eating potholes and storm grates) to defective bicycles and parts, known as bicycle product liability claims.
We have lawyers licensed in Oregon and California, and have an extensive network of experienced lawyers throughout the United States we associate with. Bicycle Law lawyers, through co-counsel relationships, have participated in cases in over 35 states. Bob Mionske, Bicycle Law’s founder, has assisted cyclists in all 50 states.
Yes. When you contact us you will be able to speak with an experienced bike attorney. If one of us is not immediately available, we’ll find a time to talk as soon as possible that works for you.