Bicycle Accident Attorney in Indianapolis
Bicycling provides many advantages to driving, whether it is increased fitness, enjoying the outdoors, helping the environment, or simply providing a more enjoyable means of transportation. And while bicyclists and motorists can share the road, accidents are still common.
If you’ve been injured in a bicycle accident, you should focus on recovery first and foremost. But be sure you know your rights and to seek compensation if your accident was caused by a motorist who was driving unsafely or otherwise improperly.
While bike accidents can happen to even safe and cautious bicyclists, it is important to understand road safety, the risks of cycling, and how an attorney can help you if you’ve been injured.
Common Causes of Bicycle Accidents
Experienced bicyclists are no match for the speed and unpredictability of motor vehicles. Even if you obey all bicycling traffic laws, motor vehicles are only as safe as the drivers behind the wheel. Experienced drivers and especially drivers in urban areas know to look out for bicyclists and to keep their distance when sharing the road. However, drivers can be careless, negligent, or even aggressive toward bicyclists.
Some of the most common causes of bicycle accidents and other traffic fatalities by fault of drivers include speeding, driving at night or at times of low visibility, driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and not paying attention when behind the wheel.
In the latter case, distracted driving is becoming more common. While changing the radio station or even adjusting the air conditioning are forms of distracted driving, operating a cell phone or GPS device while driving is also a form of distracted driving.
Not all distracted driving behaviors are illegal or prohibited, but anything that takes a driver’s attention off the road qualifies as a distraction. For cyclists, drivers’ all-too-frequent distraction can be dangerous.
Motorists can also cause bicycle accidents by making illegal turns or U-turns or by backing out of a parking space without looking carefully. When on the road, passing a bicyclist too closely or even attempting to run a biker off the road can cause a crash.
Running through a red light or stop sign can be dangerous for other cars and for bicycles alike. Finally, even when parked, motorists should open doors carefully, as failing to see a bicyclist can result in an accident.
Safe and Unsafe Cycling
When bicycles and motor vehicles collide, bicyclists almost always suffer worse injuries. Bicyclists are much, much lighter than cars and don’t have as much protection as a car affords.
It is important that bicyclists still ride responsibly, however, and follow traffic rules. Failing to do so can cause crashes with a cyclist’s unsafe practices as a contributing factor.
Common causes of accidents and crashes on part of bicyclists include failing to yield to the right of way, riding during a time of poor visibility or bad weather without using reflective gear, and riding against the traffic flow. Bicyclists should always ride in the same direction in which traffic is flowing.
Bicycles are far more maneuverable than cars. But crossing closely behind cars parked in driveways, parking garages, and parking lots can lead to accidents. Crossing a roadway without properly looking in both directions can also result in a crash. If bicycle lanes are provided, failing to use them can be dangerous.
Different bikes are made for different terrain. Regardless, obstructions on roadways and on bike paths and poorly maintained roads and bike paths can lead to accidents. Bicycles that are not maintained or contain defective, damaged, or worn-out parts are dangerous to ride. And like motorists, bicyclists should never ride under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
It is perhaps unsurprising that, nationally, the majority of bicycle accidents occur in urban areas. More surprisingly, most fatal bicycle accidents occur during the daylight hours, not at night when visibility is lower, according to U.S. Department of Transportation 2017 data.
Indiana bicyclists have a right to use the road as much as automobile drivers. In fact, bicyclists can legally ride in the center of the lane if they wish, although it is recommended to keep to the right side of the lane.
Bicycle Safety Tips
Know Before You Go
Before you set off on your bike, the first thing you should do is put your helmet on. Wearing a helmet can reduce bicycle-related head injuries by as much as 80%, according to the CDC.
But safety gear doesn’t end with a helmet. Your clothing should be bright and reflective, especially if riding during the night time or at other times of low visibility. Nighttime riders are required to have a white light on the front of their bikes and a red light on the back that can be seen from 500 feet away.
Further, bicycles should be equipped with a bell or similar alert mechanism that can be heard from up to 100 feet away. Such alerts are key to keeping pedestrians and other bicyclists aware of passing or oncoming bike traffic.
Safe Riding Practices
Bicyclists who are knowledgeable of and stick to safe biking habits and practices will significantly reduce their likelihood of an accident. You already know that you should always wear your helmet, but keep in mind the less common bicycling safety practices as well.
When possible, riding in groups or in pairs can boost visibility. Always ride in the same direction of traffic flow. Note that pedestrians should be walking against traffic, which is the opposite of cyclists.
Even though you’re on a bicycle, which is much more nimble and maneuverable than an automobile, you are required to follow many of the same traffic rules as cars. For example, bicyclists should also come to a stop and wait their turn when approaching stop signs. Bicyclists should also stop at red lights and wait for green before proceeding.
Keeping hands on the handlebars and your attention fixed on the road and your surroundings will keep you in control of your bike. Still, you are required to use traditional hand and arm signals when making turns. Also, don’t use handlebars for holding bags or other items. All items should be transported in a backpack or on the back of the bicycle.
As far as sharing the road, cyclists can often feel unwelcome on the road or that they are a nuisance to the cars that dominate roadways. But bicyclists have an equal right to the road. Indianapolis, however, has no laws pertaining to cars passing cyclists. The City of Indianapolis does require that drivers leave three feet of space between vehicles and bicycles when passing bicyclists.
When bike lanes are available, use them. Cyclists can ride on sidewalks in Indiana; however, they cannot interfere with pedestrians.
As with drivers of motor vehicles, cyclists should never ride when under the influence of drugs or alcohol. In 2017, alcohol was involved in 37% of fatal bike crashes nationwide, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Common Bicycle Accident Injuries
Falling is part of learning to ride a bicycle. But bicycle falls, accidents, and injuries can happen to riders of any age and of any experience level. Accidents that involve bicycles and motor vehicles are especially dangerous and can cause severe injuries or death. The difference in size and mass between a bicyclist and even a small automobile is significant. Damage and injuries are almost always worse for the cyclist than for the driver of a car.
Certain types of injuries can be common following a collision between a bicycle and automobile or truck. Head injuries are common. About 60% of deaths and 30% of emergency department visits related to bicycle accidents involve head injuries, according to the CDC.
All Parts of the Body Are Vulnerable
Spinal injuries and neck and back injuries can also result. Fractures to shoulders, arms, wrists, hands, legs, feet, and hips are also common. Joint dislocations of the knee and shoulder can occur, as can lacerations and road rash.
In more minor accidents, injuries may be limited to bruises throughout the body as well as cuts, scrapes, and abrasions. Strains and sprains to muscles, ligaments, and tendons can also result. Still, some injuries may not be as immediately apparent, such as injuries to the lungs, liver, kidneys, hernia damage, or other internal injuries.
No matter the extent of your injuries, even if the accident appeared mild, it is important to have a qualified medical provider examine you for any injuries or trauma following a bicycling accident.
Minor injuries from bicycle accidents can still result in costly medical expenses for procedures to properly diagnose injuries or examine a patient after an accident; expensive diagnostics such as x-rays and other tests and scans are often necessary. More serious injuries can require hospitalizations, surgeries, physical therapy, counseling, and other services.
Head Injuries and Traumatic Brain Injury
Helmets can greatly reduce the extent of head injuries, and, therefore, should always be worn when bicycling. Helmets can reduce injury severity, but they do not guarantee safety. Skull fractures, traumatic brain injury, concussions, hemorrhaging, eye trauma, dental damage, and facial contusions (bruises) and scratches can all result after bicycle accidents.
It is unfortunately common for bicyclists to be thrown over the handlebars during a bicycling accident. Such collision leaves cyclists with little control, and severe head injuries can result in traumatic brain injury (TBI).
The extent of damage and severity of TBI depends on the force of impact and injury characteristics. Damage can be limited to a certain area of the brain, and the brain may have been violently agitated within the skull. Bleeding or swelling around the brain can disrupt oxygen supply.
Mild cases of TBI can cause confusion, disorientation, concussion, and loss of consciousness. More serious cases of TBI can result in speech problems, difficulties controlling limbs, emotional difficulties, trouble with mental processing, and coma in some cases.
Even though Indiana law does not require bicyclists to wear helmets, wearing them greatly enhances safety. During impact, crushable foam inside the helmet can absorb damage and reduce or prevent brain damage and head trauma.
What to Do After a Bicycle Accident
Bicycle accidents are traumatic experiences that can cause serious injury and property damage. While it can be hard to think clearly immediately after an accident, there are certain steps that you should take in order to protect your safety and also preserve evidence and strengthen an eventual claim or form of legal action involving the accident.
Taking Action at the Accident Scene
If you’ve been involved in a bicycle accident, your safety and recovery are top priorities. Immediately after an accident, as abilities and injuries permit, make sure that you are not putting yourself or others in more danger. Get yourself and your bicycle moved safely to the side of the road or away from any travel lanes. Do not leave the scene.
You should seek immediate medical attention for any injuries. If you are able to photograph your injuries, your bicycle, the location, and any other surroundings or details, do so. It is also important to inform a qualified medical professional of your injuries so that there is documentation.
Many steps are similar to actions taken after an automobile accident. Call the police to report your bicycle accident and exchange information with the other motorists, bicyclists, or pedestrians involved in the accident. If there were any witnesses, get their contact information.
Strengthening Your Case
As soon as you are able, contact an Indiana personal injury attorney who is experienced with bicycle accidents to begin reviewing your accident. You should not provide a written statement or sign anything involving accident details before sharing your case with an attorney.
Be sure to stay on top of your injuries and any symptoms, following routines and advice prescribed by medical professionals. As you recover, do not post any details about the accident on social media, and save any photographs and statements for only your attorney.
It is also key to protect evidence. Your clothing and any other items damaged in the accident should be preserved for evidence. If your bicycle was damaged, do not fix it or cover up the damage. These materials could be used as evidence for your case.
Protecting Your Rights After a Bicycle Accident in Indianapolis: Five Steps
1. Understand Compensation for Bicycle Accidents
If you or a loved one has been involved in a bicycle accident, you may be entitled to compensation for economic and non-economic damages. Compensation for your property, your injuries, and the hardship and trauma that an accident induces could be owed to you.
Bicycle accident victims can be compensated for their medical bills, pain and suffering, mental anguish and emotional damage, property damage, lost wages, and future damages.
In many cases involving a vehicle and bicycle, the vehicle driver can be held liable. Compensation can be sought by turning to the driver’s liability insurance coverage. If driving is part of the driver’s job and he or she was working at the time of the accident, the driver’s employer may also be liable.
Bicycle accident victims should not have to bear medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost income, and other losses on their own. An experienced Indianapolis bicycle accident lawyer can aggressively pursue compensation for you.
2. Partnering with an Indianapolis Personal Injury Attorney
Determining liability in a bicycle accident case is not always straightforward or easy. Recollection of events can blur, and opposing stories can result. Injury victims trying to investigate and make a claim on their own face substantial challenges.
A legal team can use its resources and legal expertise to fight for you. Steps could include traveling to the accident scene and uncovering all evidence that could prove liability. Legal experts will also use photo and video evidence, eyewitness statements, and police and medical reports to build and strengthen a liability case.
An experienced attorney can also help calculate total expected losses and ensure that medical bills for treatment and examination are covered.
Attorneys and legal teams attempt to engage in good-faith negotiations to reach a settlement for bicycle accident victims, but they can also take cases to trial if a victim cannot otherwise receive fair compensation.
Some people and bicycle accident victims attempt to handle their own cases without assistance from an Indiana bicycle accident lawyer. They often believe that filing a claim will be simple and that they will save money by not involving a personal injury attorney. However, injured victims who pursue their case alone often end up with a denied insurance claim or lower settlement than they are owed.
3. Avoiding Fault as a Cyclist
Bicyclists, as well as motorists, are capable of violating traffic laws. If bicyclists are not riding safely or are negligent in their cycling, they can be held at fault for an accident, even when they are the victims.
Cars are significantly larger than bikes, so bicyclists — not drivers — are usually the ones injured in accidents between bicycles and automobiles. However, determining fault does not depend on the extent, or lack, of injuries. The party that acted negligently would ultimately be held at fault.
Indiana law requires that bicyclists obey traffic laws. Cyclists must adhere to stop signs and traffic lights and also properly yield to oncoming and existing traffic. Bikers must also ride in the same direction as traffic and signal when turning.
Even though motor vehicles and bicycles share many of the same responsibilities and rules for safe operation, bicyclists are still at greater risk when accidents occur. So, always ride safely and be aware of your surroundings.
4. Understanding Shared Fault
It is possible for more than one party to contribute to the cause of a bicycle accident. Any negligence on part of the bicyclist could be used to place a bicycle accident victim as partially at fault for an accident.
Contributory fault, which refers to the contributions that a party made to an injury or accident, can make injury claims more complicated. Indiana legal code states that injured claimants deemed partially responsible for their own injuries may still be entitled to financial compensation for their losses. In cases involving motor vehicles and bicycles, if both the driver’s and the bicyclist’s actions contributed to an accident, a personal injury claim would be subject to comparative negligence laws.
It is, therefore, important to promptly connect with an Indiana personal injury attorney in order to help ensure a fair case and evaluation.
5. Lawsuit Deadlines
States follow a statute of limitations for various types of accident cases, which impart strict deadlines for injury victims to pursue compensation in the form of a lawsuit. Not every claim made after a bicycle accident will need to become a lawsuit; however, it is important to realize that deadlines are in place.
In Indiana, there is a two-year statute of limitations to file a lawsuit over a bicycle accident injury. The two-year window starts from the date when the bicycle accident occurred.
It is technically possible to file a suit after the two-year statute has passed, but a judge could likely dismiss the case. And while two years might seem like a lengthy period, it is best to contact an Indiana personal injury attorney as soon as you can following a bicycle accident.
The more time that is granted to investigate a case and possibly prepare a lawsuit, the better. Further, as time goes on, people’s recollection of an accident and other key evidence can become lost or compromised. While your focus should be on recovery following a bicycle accident, acting fast to partner with an experienced Indiana attorney and legal team will benefit your case and eventual outcomes.
Contact Crossen Law Firm
Team members of the Crossen Law Firm want you to focus on recovery after a bicycle accident and let them handle your compensation case. Crossen has the experience and determination to fight for the compensation to which you are entitled.
Bicycle accidents are unfortunately common. While the injuries and suffering after an accident cannot be undone, the right assistance from a dedicated legal team can help to make sure you are justly compensated following such a traumatic event.
Contact the Crossen Law Firm and ask for a free consultation to learn more about how we can help.
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