What You Need to Know About Bicycle Accidents

Bicycles are a good way to get around in places like Manhattan. Riders get a nice bit of exercise as they go to and from their destinations. Additionally, bicycles are easy to operate, basically free to maintain, and easy to park.

Unfortunately, bicycles are also very dangerous, especially in busy areas like Manhattan. Bicyclist and pedestrian fatalities have increased 32 percent since 2008. 

These victims deserve compensation for their injuries. This compensation usually includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.

A New York personal injury attorney works hard to obtain this needed compensation. At the same time, the insurance company’s lawyers work very hard to reduce or deny damages in the case.


Your Claim for Damages

Speed is a critical factor in many bicycle-vehicle collisions. If the tortfeasor (negligent driver) is traveling less than 20 m.p.h., the victim’s death rate is less than 10 percent. But that death rate skyrockets to 90 percent if the tortfeasor is traveling faster than 30 m.p.h. 

Head injuries are very common in these situations. Contrary to the popular myth, the brain does not take up the entire inner part of the skull. In fact, it is not even close. The skull is more like a water tank which contains cerebrospinal fluid. This fluid suspends the brain in space. So, when the crash throws the rider off the bike, the brain slams against the front of the skull.

Helmets do nothing to stop these motion-related head injuries. And, once the brain cells die, they never regenerate. Surgery and physical therapy may ease brain injury symptoms, but they do not “cure” the victim.

Legally, to recover compensation for these injuries, victims may pursue ordinary negligence claims, or they may use the negligence per se shortcut if it is available. Negligence is a lack of care. Most drivers have a duty of reasonable care. If they violate that duty, and failing to watch out for bicyclists clearly constitutes such a breach, they may be liable for damages.

Sometimes, a statute, like a right-of-way law, establishes the standard of care. So, if the tortfeasor violates a safety law, and that violation causes injury, the tortfeasor may be liable for damages as a matter of law. It does not matter how “careful” the tortfeasor was.


Insurance Company Defenses

Contributory negligence is one of the most common insurance company defenses in all vehicle collision cases. These legal loophole shifts blame from the tortfeasor to the victim.

For example, Betty Bicyclist might have straddled the line in the bicycle lane at the same moment Terry Tortfeasor was speeding. In cases like these, the jury must divide fault on a percentage basis.

New York is a pure comparative fault state. So, even if the victim was 99 percent responsible for the crash, the victim still receives a proportional share of damages.

Last clear chance is often an issue in intersection collision claims. Assume Betty looked to her left as she entered an intersection on a green light and saw Terry run the red light. At that point, she may have had a chance to avoid a crash, perhaps by stopping suddenly.

However, there is a difference between the last clear chance and any possible chance. If the road was wet, Betty probably would not have been able to suddenly stop her two-wheel bicycle. So, this loophole probably would not apply.


Connect with a Savvy Attorney

Bicycle crash victims may be entitled to substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in New York, contact Michael J. Redenburg, Esq. P.C. After-hours visits are available.