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Even though you were riding a bicycle instead of driving a car, your legal options after an accident with an automobile are much the same as they would be if you'd been in a motorized vehicle. Assuming the other driver was at-fault for the accident, you may make a claim against the driver's insurance for damages. If you and the insurance company are unable to arrive at a satisfactory settlement, you may launch a personal injury suit against the other driver.
What to Do Before Filing Your Bicycle-Car Accident Claim
Before filing a claim against the other driver's insurance company, perform your due diligence. If you were conscious and able after the accident, you hopefully took photographs of both your bicycle and the other vehicle, from multiple angles. Additionally, you want photos of the accident scene itself. You also want the names and contact information of any witnesses, as well as the driver of the vehicle that hit you.
As soon as possible after the accident, create a written record of exactly what occurred, while the details are fresh in your mind. Also, seek medical attention, even if you do not believe you have any injuries. In traffic accidents, many common injuries do not manifest until a day or two after the accident. If you wait too long to visit a doctor, the insurance adjuster will likely claim that the accident did not cause your injuries.
Damages in a Bicycle-Car Accident Personal Injury Suit
Damages represent the financial cost of your accident based on both your out-of-pocket expenses and the pain and emotional distress caused by the accident. Compensatory damages seek to return your life to what it was before the accident. This includes reimbursement for medical bills, lost income, and pain and suffering. Punitive damages are reserved for cases in which the defendant's behavior is judged particularly reckless, careless, or egregious.
Are My Medical Expenses Covered in a Bicycle-Car Accident Case?
Your damage claims include the cost of any medical treatment you received due to injuries sustained in the accident. Typically, you include any insurance co-pay amounts for doctor visits, lab work, and prescription medications specifically related to treatment of your injuries. You may also claim ER visits, surgeries, transportation to and from treatment, physical therapy, and chiropractic treatments.
If your doctor recommends future treatment, such as additional surgeries or ongoing physical therapy, these costs are also included in your claim for medical treatment damages.
Are My Lost Wages Covered in Bicycle-Car Accident Settlement?
If you missed time from work due to the accident, you may be entitled to compensation for your lost wages, even if you used personal time such as sick leave to ensure you received your full pay. In addition, any reduction expected to future earnings, called "loss of earning capacity," is also included in your lost wages claim.
Are Personal Property Damages Covered in a Bicycle-Car Accident Case?
Any personal property damaged in the accident is eligible for your damages claim, including the cost to repair or replace your bicycle. You may also include your protective gear, such as your bike helmet, and any clothing or other items damaged in the collision.
How to Calculate Non-Out-of-Pocket Damages in a Bicycle-Car Accident Case
Some damages are difficult to quantify, as they have no defined monetary cost. These include pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment, and loss of consortium. There is no universal means of calculating these claims. However, your attorney may multiply your out-of-pocket damages by a number between 1.5 and 4 to arrive at a rough estimate.
Pain and suffering includes the pain you felt during and after the accident, including any ongoing pain. Emotional distress refers to the psychological impact of your accident. For example, many accident victims suffer from anxiety and insomnia. Loss of enjoyment includes any daily activities your injuries preclude you from enjoying, such as exercise and hobbies. Loss of consortium refers to personal relationships, typically between spouses or parents and children. This may include sexual dysfunction or loss of companionship.
What are Punitive Damages in a Bicycle-Car Accident Case
As stated, punitive damages are reserved for extreme cases, such as DUI. They serve as punishment for the defendant's behavior and may act as a deterrent against the defendant repeating those actions in the future. Punitive damage awards may be quite high, so most states have instituted caps on the amount juries may award in punitive damages.
Bicycle-Car Accident Settlement Examples
To give you an idea of the wide variability in settlements awarded for a bicycle-car injury case, we provide a few examples.
- A girl riding her bike to school was struck by a car. She received the full insurance policy limits from both the driver's insurance and her parent's underinsured motorist insurance, for a total of $250,000. The plaintiff's attorney also created a structured settlement annuity with the proceeds, for the victim to begin collecting once she reaches age 18.
- An Illinois bicyclist riding to work was hit by a school bus, sustaining a tibia injury requiring surgery. He received a settlement of $550,000 from the state.
- An Atlanta bicyclist's front tire struck a sewer grate placed in a position parallel to the curb, causing the bike's tire to stick and sending the cyclist flying. He suffered facial injuries requiring surgery and his attorney sued the City of Atlanta for failing to properly install and maintain the sewer grate. The city settled for $62,500.
- A New York bike messenger was hit by the driver of an SUV, whom witnesses say ran a red light. The cyclist sustained injuries to the tibia and fibula, requiring multiple surgeries. The case settled, but not until it spent three weeks at trial, for $1.25 million.
Schedule a Free Bicycle-Car Accident Consultation
If you are the victim of a bicycle-car collision, schedule a free consultation with a personal injury lawyer to discuss your case. He or she will advise you on the merits of your case and help set reasonable expectations as regards possible damages.