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The Washington State Department of Transportation proudly advertises the state’s longstanding #1 ranking as a Bicycle Friendly State by The League of American Bicyclists. It’s true: Washington is a great place to ride a bicycle. The state has a comprehensive biking infrastructure, a commitment to encouraging cycling, and strong public awareness of the benefits of riding a bike.
With all of those bicycling-friendly traits, you’d think riding a bike would be very safe in Seattle and its environs. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. The Washington Traffic Safety Commission (WTSC) reports that between 2005 and 2016, the number of bicyclist traffic fatalities trended upwards. In fact, the most recent data show a significant increase in the number of fatalities and serious bicycling injuries over the past four years in particular.
If you suffered injuries or lost a loved one in a Seattle-area bicycling accident, you may have the right to monetary compensation. Contact the skilled, Seattle bicycle accident attorneys at Boohoff law today to learn more.
Attorney Tatiana Boohoff and her fellow attorneys at Boohoff Law offer clients in the Seattle area years of combined experience representing victims of bicycle accidents. Attorney Boohoff brings with her a wealth courtroom prowess, legal expertise, and a reputation as an aggressive, diligent litigator with a strong commitment to client service.
Tatiana graduated from top-ranked Boston University School of Law. She focuses her legal practice solely on advocating for the rights of personal injury victims who deserve accountability and compensation for their injuries.
About Bicycle Accidents
Bicycle accidents leave a wake of devastation in the lives of their victims. Unlike motorists, bicyclists take to the roads with relatively minimal protection from the hazards posed by road conditions and vehicular traffic. When a bicycle collides with a car or truck, the cyclist usually sustains the brunt of the impact. As the statistics above attest, cycling fatalities are on the rise in Washington. Even when cyclists survive a collision, they’re often left with severe, life-altering injuries that require years of care and rehabilitation.
Bicycle accidents result from a combination of environmental factors and behaviors on the part of drivers and cyclists alike. The National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration (NHTSA) compiles data about fatal bicycle accidents around the country. That information gives us some insight into where, when, and how cycling accidents happen.
Where. According to the NHTSA data, the vast majority of cycling fatalities happen in urban areas and on roads or at intersections. In contrast, relatively few fatal bike accidents happen in bike lanes, on road shoulders, or in other locations. This national data is also borne out by data from WTSC, linked above.
When. The national data show fatal bicycle accidents happen equally in daylight and darkness. However, the most dangerous time of day for bicyclists is in the afternoon and evening.
How. WTSC data show that “an overwhelming percentage of crashes occur when the driver overtakes the bicycle rider from behind or when a person riding a bicycle is either crossing or entering a roadway.” These circumstances commonly result from driver inattention and failure to yield the right of way to a cyclist. Alcohol use by motorists and cyclists also contributes to crashes, as does how fast the motor vehicle was traveling at the time of the collision.
It is common for vehicles to sideswipe cyclists who are riding with traffic, which is one of the most common settings for an accident according to WTSC data. Another common collision is one in which the cyclist runs into the side of a vehicle that cuts the cyclist off while making a turn (often a left-hand turn).
Finally, urban cyclists, in particular, are familiar with the danger of doorings. A dooring happens a driver or passenger of a motor vehicle opens the door of the vehicle into the path of a cyclist. Most often, these accidents happen when the cyclist approaches the vehicle from the rear while the vehicle is stopped or parallel parked. The vehicle occupant fails to look backward before opening the door, and the cyclist collides with the open door and often flips over it. Doorings can result in devastating injuries because of how sudden and unexpected they are for the cyclist, who often collides with the door while traveling at full speed.
Bicycle accidents frequently end in the death of the cyclist, because of the virtual absence of physical protection for the cyclist in an impact with a car and the road surface. Helmet use can reduce cycling fatalities by a significant margin. However, currently, there is no statewide cycling helmet law in Washington State, although some cities, including Tacoma (but not Seattle), have enacted helmet laws.
Even when a cyclist survives, a collision can inflict significant and lasting injuries. The cyclist’s body typically impacts the vehicle and/or the road surface with great force and at awkward angles. Some of the more common and life-altering injuries that result from these accidents include:
- Traumatic brain injuries, particularly when cyclists do not wear a helmet;
- Spinal cord injuries resulting in partial or total paralysis;
- Crushed or traumatically amputated limbs, particularly if a vehicle runs over the cyclist after the initial collision;
- Extreme lacerations that result in disfiguring scars and the need for painful skin grafts;
- Broken bones and orthopedic injuries, especially injuries to extremities when the cyclist tries to brace for an impact; and
- Severe internal and soft tissue damage resulting from the trauma and sheer force of an impact.
Some of these injuries heal over months or more, but many leave the victims with long-term disabilities and the need for extended medical care and physical therapy. In seeking damages for injuries sustained in a bicycle accident, a Seattle bicycle accident attorney will often spend significant time and resources determining the magnitude of the client’s long-term medical needs, in order to make sure the client demands and receives adequate compensation from parties with legal liability for the accident.
Common Parties With Legal Liability for Bicycle Accidents
The cause of a bicycle accident is only one part of the multi-chapter story an experienced Seattle bicycle accident story attorney needs to tell in order to recover appropriate damages for her client. It is also critically important to identify each and every person or entity who may have legal liability for causing the accident. The accident’s cause can point attorneys in the direction of those parties, but the attorney may have to do additional investigation to make sure no party with potential liability has been overlooked. Some of the most common parties who have liability to cyclists for injuries inflicted by an accident include:
Motorists. Seattle drivers have a duty to share the road with cyclists. The scope of that duty varies depending on driving conditions, but in general, a driver who overtakes a cyclist aggressively and with inadequate distance between them, or who fails to yield to a cyclist at an intersection or when either of them is turning left, may end up with legal liability for the cyclists injuries in a resulting collision.
Commercial/governmental vehicle operators. When motorists operate vehicles owned by their employer or an entity for whom they serve as a representative, that entity may also have liability for the driver’s actions behind the wheel. For example, a municipality may face liability to a cyclist injured in a collision with a city bus.
Government road agencies and their contractors. Local and state governments, and those who work for them, have an obligation to design and maintain safe public roadways. Some road design and maintenance decisions create particular dangers for cyclists and may leave those entities exposed to legal liability.
Bicycle equipment manufacturers. If a cycling injury ties back to defective equipment used by the cyclist, such as a poorly-designed helmet or malfunctioning gears, then the manufacturer of that equipment could face liability to the cyclist.
Of course, it’s important to keep in mind that every cycling accident is different. The parties with potential legal liability to a cyclist for injuries will likely vary from case-to-case. The best way to identify parties with potential liability is to retain the services of an experienced, diligent Seattle bicycle accident attorney.
Under Washington State law, bike accident victims and representatives of cyclists killed in those accidents typically have a right to take legal action for compensatory damages against parties with legal liability. We classify these damages in two general categories: economic (or special) damages, and non-economic (or general) damages.
Economic damages reimburse out-of-pocket costs directly related to the accident and its resulting injuries. They include:
- Un-reimbursed medical bills;
- Chronic or long-term care costs;
- Assistive medical devices and home modifications;
- Physical therapy;
- Lost wages from time off from work while recovering; and
- Lost income or employment opportunity due to injuries and disabilities.
In Washington, the party with legal liability for a bicycle accident may have the right to pay economic damages over time, instead of in a single payment.
Non-economic damages pay an accident victim for injuries that are more difficult to quantify in dollars-and-cents terms. They include:
- Pain and suffering;
- Damage to personal relationships (a.k.a. loss of consortium/companionship/parent-child relationship); and
- Negative impacts on quality of life.
Unlike many other states, Washington State law caps non-economic damages at 43 percent of the average annual wage in Washington multiplied by the cyclist’s life expectancy at the time of the collision (with a minimum of 15 years). Washington law also generally does not allow for an award of punitive damages.
Start Working With Our Seattle Bicycle Accident Attorneys Soon
Bicycle accidents inflict painful injuries and bring significant emotional challenges for cyclists and their loved ones. The aftermath of a cycling accident frequently entails burdensome medical care, financial stresses, and unwelcome interactions with doctors, law enforcement, and insurance adjusters, among others.
The team at Boohoff Law understands how, at this difficult moment, finding legal representation may be the last thing on an injured cyclist’s mind. Nevertheless, the sooner you consult with an attorney about a bicycle accident, the better your chances of protecting and advancing your rights to significant compensation.
For one thing, Washington State has a general statute of limitations on personal injury claims of just three years. That may not seem like a short time, but for lawyers, it is. A skilled personal injury attorney needs time to investigate the causes of a bike accident and to identify the parties potentially liable. As time passes without an investigation, critical evidence may get thrown away or cleaned up, and the memories of crucial witnesses may fade. The best way to investigate a cycling accident is to start as soon as possible.
Additionally, insurance companies for the parties with potential legal liability will not waste time doing their own investigation. But, instead of seeking the truth, insurance adjusters will often try to build a body of evidence that minimizes their liability. They may also try to get an injured cyclist or his family to accept a quick, low-ball settlement offer. Having an experienced bicycle accident attorney on your side can protect against losing your rights to aggressive insurance practices.
What rights do cyclists have in Seattle?
Washington state and local Seattle laws govern bicycles. Generally, bike riders have all the same legal rights and duties as motor vehicle operators and pedestrians. However, the following special provisions apply to cyclists:
- Bicycles cannot carry more people than intended by design, with exceptions for securely attached small children.
- Cyclists cannot ride bikes attached to moving vehicles.
- Cyclists may not ride more than two across on roadways.
- Bicycles must have specific lights and reflectors when in use between sunset and sunrise.
- Bicyclists should use Seattle’s bike lanes whenever possible, and should ride with traffic, on the right side of the road. Seattle doesn’t prohibit riding on sidewalks, but there they must yield to pedestrians.
Cyclists must obey all traffic laws and signs, and additional restrictions apply to roadways without bike lanes. However, just because a cyclist violated specific bicycle or traffic regulations does not mean he or she can’t recover damages for injuries, since the violation may not have contributed to any injury.
Do bike riders have the right of way on Seattle roads?
For the most part, no. Riders must obey all right-of-way laws applicable to motor vehicles when on a roadway, and all right-of-way laws applicable to pedestrians when on a sidewalk or in a crosswalk. Cyclists have the right of way when lawfully riding through a crosswalk or when they would have such a right while driving a motor vehicle. However, bicyclists riding more than two abreast outside of a designated bike lane cannot impede traffic, and must ride single file to avoid doing so.
Cyclists riding at a slower rate than the average speed of traffic must use a marked bike lane. If no bike lane exists, cyclists traveling below the rate of traffic must ride as close to the right-hand curb or right edge of the roadway as possible, to permit motor vehicles to pass. Cyclists may, however, pass another bicycle or car moving in the same direction, move into traffic to make a left-hand turn, or navigate around roadway hazards. Cyclists riding on a one-way highway with two or more lanes may ride nearest to the left-hand curb.
Can I recover compensation if a car hit me outside a bike lane?
Yes. Not all Seattle roads have bike lanes. Further, cyclists only need to use a bike lane if traveling below the average speed of traffic. A rider has the same right to seek compensation after a motor vehicle accident as a motor vehicle driver. Any cyclist riding outside of an available bike lane at the time of an accident may have reduced financial recoveries, if being outside of the available bike lane contributed to the accident. Riding outside the bike path does not bar your right to personal injury compensation, however. Speak with a qualified Seattle bike accident attorney at Boohoff Law about contested bicycle-motor vehicle accidents.
Does it matter if I wasn’t wearing a bike helmet when I was injured?
No. Neither Washington state nor the city of Seattle require bicyclists to wear helmets. Not wearing a helmet, of course, can subject you to greater injuries, and defendants often argue for reduced financial recoveries for traumatic brain injuries in such cases. Speak with our qualified bicycle accident attorneys immediately if this topic arises during insurance negotiations.
What injuries do bicyclists commonly suffer during motor vehicle accidents?
A simple tap from a motor vehicle may cause a Seattle cyclist life-changing or fatal personal injuries. Seattle bike riders commonly report the following serious bike accident injuries:
- Fractures – Depending on the angle and speed of impact, riders often suffer painful femur, tibia, fibula, hip, ankle, shoulder, and wrist fractures during motor vehicle impacts.
- Facial Damage – Rear-end or roadway hazard accidents may cause cyclists to flip over their handlebars and suffer nose fractures and facial damage, resulting in permanent scarring.
- Impalement Injuries – The impact and fall angle may result in parts of the bike, such as the handlebars or pedals, impaling the rider.
- Dislocated joints – Sideswipe accidents and impacts often cause riders to land on their knees, hips, and shoulders, causing painful dislocations.
- Traumatic brain injuries – Even with a helmet, riders may suffer concussions or potentially fatal traumatic brain injuries. Cyclists may suffer from a direct impact injury to the head if struck by an SUV or truck.
- Spinal damage and paralysis – Any damage to the spinal cord and its delicate nerve fibers could result in loss of movement below the area of injury. Riders run over or trapped under motor vehicles often suffer from permanent spine damage.
- Torn tendons and ligaments – Car impacts may result in damaged ACLs, as well as torn neck and back ligaments. These body parts will not regrow and may require surgery to repair.
Negligent drivers cannot disclaim liability because you were riding a bike at the time of the accident. You have the same right to compensation as other drivers after being injured while riding your bike in Seattle. Be on alert for insurers attempting to convince you otherwise.
If you lost a loved one in a Seattle bicycle accident, you might have a wrongful death claim to recover compensation. Connect with a Seattle bike accident attorney at Boohoff Law today to discuss holding a reckless driver accountable for fatal road and mountain bike injuries.
Is there such a thing as premises liability for bike accidents?
Yes. Whether you were injured by a negligent driver or because of dangerous sidewalk hazards, these are personal injury claims. Seattle property owners, including the state, might be obligated to provide specific legal duties to bike riders. These duties may include inspecting and making designated bike areas reasonably safe for riders, or warning riders of potential roadway hazards.
Special procedural rules apply to negligence claims against a state or local government. You might need an accident lawyer to help you file an administrative claim with your local transportation department for injuries caused by a roadway or sidewalk hazard.
Can I sue a bicycle rental company or manufacturer for a Seattle bike accident?
Possibly. If your injuries occurred because of a defect in the bike’s design or lack of rental bike maintenance, you may have a product liability claim. Product liability is a subset of tort law and a type of personal injury claim. Some bicycles cost more than used cars and come with certain safety warranties. You might have a claim against a seller, manufacturer, or designer of a defective bicycle or bike equipment if it caused or contributed to your injuries.
Who may be liable if I was injured while riding my bike?
Drivers owe a duty of care to all other vehicles on the road, including bicycles. Further, bike lanes cannot contain hidden hazards likely to injure the riders required to use them.
An experienced bicycle accident lawyer could hold the following people or entities liable for a Seattle bike accident:
- The negligent vehicle operator
- The owner of the negligent driver’s car or truck
- A rental car company
- A negligent driver’s employer
- A bike rental company
- The bike manufacturer or designer
- The bike seller
- Another cyclist
- A negligent property owner
- A reckless pedestrian
- A state or local government
Liability depends on the nature of the accident and the facts of each case. If multiple reckless or negligent parties contributed to a bike accident, a jury might prorate liability accordingly.
What type of compensation can I recover if I was negligently injured while riding my bike?
Washington State permits injured claimants to recover damages for direct economic and non-economic losses sustained in a negligently caused bike accident.
These compensatory damages may include the following:
- Hospital bills
- Doctors charges
- Lost past and future income
- Loss of enjoyment of life, including riding
- Property damage to a bike or other personal items
- Pain and suffering
- Rehabilitation expenses
- Medical equipment
- Pharmacy bills
- Nursing care
- At-home help
In rare cases, claimants may recover punitive damages. Riders might claim a punitive award directly from a negligent defendant (but not his or her insurer) if the injuring conduct was intentional or reckless. Examples include cases where a driver intentionally baits or strikes a rider. These damages are designed to punish the offender, rather than compensate the victim. Speak with a lawyer today if you believe a driver intentionally injured you in an accident.
Is there a limit on the amount of compensation I can recover after a Seattle bike accident?
Washington State does have a cap for noneconomic damages like pain and suffering.
Practically speaking, personal injury claims typically settle within the liable insurer’s policy limits. Most drivers do not have the out-of-pocket resources necessary to compensate riders for serious personal injuries. After a bicycle accident, cyclists may also recover damages from a negligent property owner’s insurance policy or their own underinsured motorist policy. In some cases, a business might be liable for the negligent acts of an employee and have sufficient resources to compensate an injured claimant following a jury verdict.
What is the statute of limitations for Seattle bike accident claims?
Bike accidents fall under the general three-year statute of limitations for negligence actions. Speak with a Seattle bike accident attorney at Boohoff Law in case an exception applies that could decrease that time. Moreover, you will want to move fast to preserve evidence and expedite your bike accident claim.
How can I file a personal injury claim after a Seattle bike accident?
Bike riders injured due to the negligent or reckless conduct of another should make an insurance claim—and we can help you do that. Such claims may include recovering benefits from your no-fault insurer or the liable party’s bodily injury policy. Experienced personal injury attorneys often assist clients with the insurance claims process. Many insurance adjusters review personal injury settlement packages and make a financial offer without the need to file expensive litigation.
An attorney may negotiate a higher settlement with an insurer or retain an expert economist to calculate the value of your past and future losses. Do not settle a bike accident claim without speaking with a qualified personal injury lawyer. Once you sign for a settlement, you waive all future claims for damages against the insured party. If one or more liable parties refuse to settle the case, your bike accident attorney might file a personal injury or wrongful death complaint. Plaintiffs must file civil litigation within the applicable statute of limitations. Settlement negotiations and insurance guarantees do not delay this filing deadline.
How much does it cost to retain a bike accident lawyer?
Personal injury lawyers, such as the experienced bike accident attorneys at Boohoff Law, typically work on a contingency fee basis. In contingency fee cases, the lawyer takes the case in exchange for a percentage of the final verdict or settlement. Most law firms even front expert witness charges, filing fees, and litigation costs for viable claims.
If attorneys cannot recover compensation or recover insufficient funds, claimants typically owe nothing to their lawyers. Contingency fee structures incentivize attorneys to help injured claimants struggling with lost wages and medical bills, while at the same time encouraging lawyers to fight for the highest possible verdict. Discuss the viability of your bike accident case with our experienced Seattle personal injury counsel today.
At Boohoff Law, we love our bikes and take great pride in representing Seattle-area cyclists who have suffered injuries in accidents on local roads.
We know what it’s like to have your life upended by a cycling injury, and want to give you the best possible chance of obtaining the compensation you deserve.
We offer a free, confidential, no-obligation consultation for injured cyclists to learn about their legal rights and determine a path forward that fits their needs and circumstances.
“Really pleased with Boohoff Law! Received immediate responses when I had any questions. Treated amazing by all staff and made this process a true breeze!! Bill represented me professionally and received more than I ever expected. Will be recommending the Boohoff Law team to everyone!”
– Caitlyn M.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Boohoff Law P.A. Seattle Location
2200 6th Avenue, Suite 768
Seattle, WA 98121