Bicycles are fun for recreational purposes, and they have several health benefits. Avid cyclists can attest to increased cardiovascular fitness and improved mobility amid other advantages. Sadly, as beneficial as cycling is, bicycle riders are at risk of accidents when riding on busy roads.
Cyclists, unlike motor vehicle drivers and passengers, do not have protection when they crash. If the bike accident involves a fault driver, the victim is entitled to get compensated for damages. Our bicycle accident attorneys at Kelly & Associates are experts in helping crash victims get a settlement from insurance companies.
How Often Do Bike Crashes Happen in Massachusetts?
Bicycle crashes may not be as common in Massachusetts as other parts of the United States, but it does happen. What’s more, when it happens, it results in physical injuries or deaths. According to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, there were four bicycle fatalities in the state in 2018.
Research carried out by the department showed that between 2014 and 2018, over half of all bicyclist deaths occurred between the hours of 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. The male gender was mainly affected at 85%. By age, cyclists over 55 years or older accounted for 40% of deadly crashes from 2014 to 2018.
Bicycle riders below 21 years were responsible for 17% of all fatalities within the same period. The data showed Friday as the worst day for bicyclist fatalities, with 12 of 46 deaths (26%) between 2014 and 2018. The department advises riders to promote safety and only travel under safe conditions.
Common Causes of Bicycle Accidents in Massachusetts
According to a 2019 report, the number of preventable deaths from cycling accidents increased by 6% in 2019. The number grew by 37% in the past decade, from 793 in 2010 to 1,089 in 2019. Since accidents are preventable, it is best to know the causes and avoid situations resulting in one.
Below, we list the common causes of bicycle accidents in Massachusetts.
- Distracted Driving
Driver inattention, as well as cyclists, is a leading contributor to traffic accidents. Distractions can be manual, visual, or cognitive (mental). When a bicycle rider takes their attention from the road, crashes happen. The same is true for drivers involved in motor vehicle accidents.
Cyclists and drivers must ensure they pay attention to the road. Avoid calling, texting, eating, looking around, or intense mental activities when on the road. Keeping away distractions prevent accidents, thereby saving lives.
- Failure to Leave Sufficient Buffer
When cyclists leave bike lanes to travel on general roadways, car drivers often follow too closely. When motorists travel less than three feet from a bicycle rider, it creates a dangerous situation. The lack of safe distance makes it easy for drivers to hit cyclists. It also reduces the bicycle rider’s chances of avoiding a collision.
When motor vehicle operators speed, they have less time to make decisions and stop in time to avoid a collision. Additionally, high-speed crashes result in catastrophic injuries and bicycle fatality. This is why cyclists must stick to bicycle lanes and ride on bike trails.
- Weaving Through Traffic
When drivers weave in and out of traffic, they hardly see bicycle riders on the road. Also, it makes it less likely for them to make evasive maneuvers to avoid collisions. Plus, weaving drivers drift onto bike lanes and roadway shoulders.
- Turning Without Looking
Most bicycle accidents with drivers involve turning without looking. Accidents like this happen mostly at intersections. As a vehicle driver, keep in mind that even if you have the green light, you still have to look carefully before driving through intersections.
- Running Red Lights or Stop Signs
Accident report data show that Massachusetts intersections are prone to crashes. This is because road users fail to obey traffic rules and run stop signs or red lights. Drivers who are guilty of this often fail to watch out for bicycle riders, leading to collisions.
- Failure to Yield
When motor vehicle operators and cyclists fail to yield the way to each other, collisions are bound to happen. Whether it is at turns, intersections, or roundabouts, drivers or bicyclists who do not have the right of way should yield to each other.
Another thing that could cause bicycle accidents is open doors. Dooring accidents happen when drivers fail to look before opening their doors. An oncoming cyclist can collide with the door leading to an injury. Impairment also causes accidents of this nature. If you find yourself in a bicycle collision, contact an experienced lawyer to determine your legal options.
What Are the Injuries Sustained in Bicycle Crashes?
According to the Center for Disease Control, bicycle trips account for only 1% of all trips in the United States. However, bicyclists face a higher risk of crash-related injury and deaths than occupants in motor vehicles. Most bicycle victims who survive auto-bicycle collisions suffer severe injuries.
It is rare for victims of this type of accident to walk away with minor wounds. CDC data shows that since 2010, fatal and non-fatal crash-related injuries to bicyclists resulted in lifetime medical costs and productivity losses of $10 billion. With these numbers, it’s not surprising that bicycle injury victims file injury claims against the fault party.
Below are some of the injuries sustained by bicycle accident victims.
- Spinal cord injuries
- Broken bones
- Sprain and strains
- Head injuries
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Internal bleeding and organ damages
- Road rash
Injuries from bicycle accidents cost a lot in medical care. An injured bicyclist might need life-long care and therapy. All these are reasons why injured cyclists deserve to get fair compensation from the negligent party. Working with a bicycle accident lawyer makes the process easier and faster, and insurance adjusters take you more seriously.
What Compensation Can an Accident Victim Get?
A bicycle accident claim comes under the purview of personal injury actions. A person who wants compensation for injuries suffered can do one of two things. The first is to file an insurance claim against the responsible party’s insurance provider. The insurer will carry out an investigation and either pay a settlement or choose not to.
The second is to commence a personal injury lawsuit. You can start this action when your insurance company refuses to pay you or makes a low settlement offer. You can also initiate the civil action while negotiations are ongoing with the fault party’s insurer.
Filing while negotiations are ongoing saves from you getting statute-barred. In Massachusetts, bicycle riders have three years to file a personal injury action. The time starts counting from the time the cyclist suffered the injuries. Once the lawsuit comes outside that time, the Statute of Limitations bars it.
Whether it is an insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit, a bicycle accident victim is entitled to monetary damages. These compensatory damages are economic and non-economic. They cover:
- Lost wages (past and future)
- Medical bills (current, past, and future)
- Property damages
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Mental anguish
- Loss of consortium
- Funeral and burial expenses
The last two apply to wrongful death claims. A wrongful death action is what families file after the cyclist dies in a bicycle crash. However, in Massachusetts, only the executor or administrator of the victim’s estate can file a wrongful death lawsuit.
Lastly, a victim can get punitive damages. Punitive damage is what courts award for grossly negligent conduct. Insurance companies cannot grant this compensation type. Find out more about the award of punitive damages from our bike accident lawyers.
What To Do After a Bicycle Accident?
Whether an insurance company will offer you a fair settlement depends on the steps you take after the accident. These steps involve the evidence you will present during the claims process or the injury lawsuit. To maximize your compensation, ensure you do the following.
- Get Medical Treatment: It is common to hear that you should make a report after an accident. But as an injured bicycle rider, you would most likely not be in a physical shape to file a police report. The best thing to do is get treated and focus on it. While receiving treatment, keep receipt of every treatment cost and other out-of-pocket expenses. Ensure your doctor makes detailed entries as they are evidence to show your injury extent. Also, take pictures if you can; photographic evidence is always helpful.
- Obtain a Police Report: Massachusetts law enforcement agencies always respond to accident scenes. Once you feel up to it, find out the agency that handled your case, and get an accident report from them. You can also apply online if you choose not to visit the agency’s office.
- Track Down Witnesses: Chances are the investigating agency spoke to witnesses and still has their contact details. Track them down, and see if they still actively remember everything that happened. Then ask them if they will testify on your behalf.
- Gather Evidence: You also need to gather as much evidence as you can. Depending on how long you spent in the hospital, you might need to get the proof you need from the police. If they called an accident reconstruction expert to the scene, get their report.
Involve a Lawyer: Due to the severe nature of bicycle injuries, a lawyer is your best bet at maximizing compensation. While you recover, they will handle the investigation and get all the evidence your claim needs to succeed.
Kelly & Associates Can Help With Your Bicycle Accident Claim
Recovering from a bicycle accident will take a lot of time and willpower, leaving you with little time to work on your claim. But if you team up with our experienced lawyers, we will work on your case while you focus on your recovery. Contact us today to find out more about our services.