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, knowledgeable bicycle accident attorneys at Boohoff law today to learn more.
About Boohoff Law Bicycle Accident Attorneys
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.
Common Characteristics of Bicycle Accidents
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.
Common Bicycle Accident Injuries
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.
Common Damages for Bicycle Accident Injuries
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.
Please Contact Boohoff Law Seattle Bicycle Accident Lawyers 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.
If you sustained a serious injury or lost a loved one in a Seattle-area bicycle accident, contact Tatiana Boohoff and her team at Boohoff Law today, or call them at (877) 999-9999. 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.
“Everyone here is so helpful. They jumped through every hoop necessary to get me the settlement I rightfully deserved. Tracey and Maria are super sweet. They made me feel right at home. I absolutely recommend Boohooff Law and will use them again in the future if I am ever in a similar situation. Thank you all at Boohooff who helped me with my case. 10/10 stars hands down!”
– Brandy K.