When you suffer an injury in a bicycle accident, you will likely deal with physical and financial ramifications in both the short and long run. While your health is of paramount concern, you also have an eye on your finances. The person who caused your bicycle accident must pay in full for the damages they inflicted.
Before you reach that point, you have a legal burden that you need to carry, and you cannot meet this standard on your own. Therefore, one of your first calls after a bicycle accident should be to an experienced attorney who can fight for your legal rights.
An attorney can identify whether you have a claim against another party for compensation for your losses. The best way to know your options is to allow an experienced bicycle accident lawyer to evaluate your situation.
A bicycle accident is the same as any other personal injury case in that it relies on the same legal principle to determine whether you can receive financial compensation. You must prove that the driver was negligent to be eligible for either a settlement check or an award from the jury. The mere fact that an accident happened is not evidence of negligence in itself. Instead, negligence is a legal term of art that has a very specific meaning in a personal injury case.
When you are on the road on a bicycle, every driver in your vicinity owes you a certain duty of care. For the brief moment that they are around you, they must act as any reasonable driver should under the circumstances. This means that they must follow traffic laws and do what an ordinary driver should do. They do not need to be an expert driver. Instead, they must make reasonable efforts to operate their motor vehicle safely.
Personal injury lawyers will explain that there are four elements to the legal test that determines whether a driver was negligent. While you must meet all four of these elements, there are two that may lead to a debate when you file a bicycle accident claim or lawsuit. Of course, the first of the elements that will always be at issue is whether the driver acted reasonably under the circumstances.
Your claim should include evidence that shows that the driver failed to uphold their duty of care by acting unreasonably.
Here are some examples of things that may be considered unreasonable conduct under the circumstances:
Your bicycle accident claim must have support by evidence that shows what happened. To make a compelling argument that someone else was negligent, you must compare their exact actions to the reasonable person standard necessary in a negligence case. Thus, you need evidence for your bicycle accident case.
You cannot investigate your own bicycle accident and obtain the proof you need to prove somebody else legally responsible. You already have enough on your plate and may not know the legal rules for compiling and presenting evidence.
Your bicycle accident attorney knows how to investigate the accident, and they can assemble the following evidence to show what happened:
It is difficult to prove what happened in your own bicycle accident, especially when you may have suffered serious injuries. Thus, you should hire an experienced attorney as soon as possible after the bicycle accident to start gathering the evidence necessary to show that someone else was to blame for the crash. Your attorney will perform a complete investigation right after you hire them and before you begin to lose the necessary evidence.
When you claim compensation, you first look at the driver’s insurance policy. Each driver must have car insurance based on the laws of the state. Although the law requires a certain minimum amount of coverage, drivers are smart to have more than the minimum because they can be personally liable for damages that exceed insurance coverage.
You can claim financial compensation after a bicycle accident, but it does not mean the driver’s insurance company will offer it. Claimants can expect the insurance company to sit back and make them prove their entire case before they even make a settlement offer. For your part, it means that your claim must include sufficient evidence to show that the driver should be liable for your injuries.
If you have filed an insurance claim, the driver’s insurance company will make its own determination of whether the driver was legally responsible for the accident. In many cases, you can successfully persuade the insurance company, and they will make a settlement offer.
If your claim gets denied, you should not lose hope. Instead, you can take the legal process further by filing a lawsuit against the responsible driver in court. You may even choose to go directly to court and skip the insurance company claim phase, although many people elect to begin by filing a claim.
Even if you file a lawsuit in court, you will still be dealing with the driver’s insurance company. Part of the agreement between the driver and their insurance company is that the insurer will step in and provide a legal defense if the driver faces a lawsuit. The insurance company may still make you a settlement offer, even if you have filed a lawsuit.
If you cannot come to terms with a settlement agreement, or if the insurance company still will not pay anything, the jury will decide whether the driver is responsible and how much they should pay.
You can only claim financial compensation for a bicycle accident if you were not to blame for the accident yourself. This argument ties into the causation element of the negligence test. The driver must be the proximate cause of your injuries. If you cannot show this, an insurance company will likely try to blame you for the accident because they are trying to get themselves off the hook from having to write you a large check.
If the driver did not have insurance at all, or they did not have enough coverage to pay for your damages, you may look to your own insurance policy to make up the difference. Your insurance can cover bicycle accidents. Car insurance policies offer coverage when you are involved in an accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver. Hopefully, this coverage was either part of your policy, or you paid extra for it.
You never know when you will need it, and bicycle accidents are so severe that many drivers’ policies may not fully cover the damages they cause. Your insurance company will then cover the difference in damages up to your own policy limit.
Dealing with two insurance companies makes your life even more difficult. No matter what insurance company is involved, they do not like writing checks. Your insurance company is not loyal to you, even though you pay your monthly premiums.
Getting tens of thousands of dollars in compensation and signing away your legal rights will actually be a loss when your case is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. You can rest assured that the insurance company knows the exact value of your case, and they will do everything they can to avoid paying you that amount. That is how insurance companies make money – by paying less than you deserve in accident cases.
While the insurance company making a settlement offer is certainly a milestone in your case, it is often only the beginning of your legal battle with them. It is helpful to know that the insurance company believes they have at least some liability, but there are many more steps you must take before depositing a settlement check in your account.
The initial settlement offer is not always the good news that it seems. In fact, it can show how far apart you are from the insurance company and ultimately settling your case for a reasonable amount of compensation.
Your bicycle accident compensation can include:
If your loved one died in a bicycle accident, your family can file a wrongful death claim to pay for your own personal injury that you suffered when your loved one died. You can recover the income that your loved one should have earned and for your grief and trauma.
Bicycle accidents tend to cause more severe injuries than the average motor vehicle accident. There is little to nothing to protect you from an impact with the car or pavement.
Since your accident compensation depends on your injuries and situation, bicycle accident compensation may exceed that of other accidents.
As much as the insurance company likes to reduce you to a fact and figure, you are a person with your own life and needs. The job of your bicycle accident lawyer, in part, is to humanize you and tell your story when you are fighting for financial compensation.
Your hope is that the end result is full financial compensation for your bicycle accident injuries. Hiring an experienced personal injury attorney is the first step in the process, and it is one that you need to take immediately.
Do not sit at home and wonder whether you can claim compensation. Instead, contact a lawyer right away. Consultations are free with no obligation, so you have nothing to lose by learning about your legal options.