Injured in a Cycling Accident? Can I sue?
As Broward County personal injury attorneys, we have recently seen an uptick in the number of cyclists and pedestrians injured by automobiles. The uptick in accidents has been most notable during rush hour and/or in turning lanes near intersections. Clearly South Florida’s high number of teenage and elderly drivers, in combination with the number of drivers texting and driving (and checking Social Media while driving) has negatively impacted the cycling community – drivers are simply not paying attention or sharing the road with cyclists.
Unlike a driver or passenger in a car, cyclists ride completely exposed (i.e. no steel encasing, seat belts, air bags, etc) notwithstanding a helmet. Additionally, cyclists are often struck without the opportunity to prepare (or brace) for impact (i.e. a driver turning on a red light into a bike path). As a result, a cyclist who is struck by an automobile (even at a low speed) may incur significant injuries. One of our recent cycling clients who was struck by an automobile at less than 5 mph (estimated) incurred a large herniated disc in his lumbar spine (a permanent injury) that requires multiple steroid injections to help alleviate the pain. This particular cyclist rode home from the accident scene and did not feel any pain until two days following the accident.
Who will pay for my medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering as a result of this accident?
Commonly, cyclists involved in accidents who do not have health insurance mistakenly wait to receive medical treatment as they are unaware they can utilize their automobile insurance benefits to cover such medical treatment. I can’t stress enough that this is a mistake.
In Florida, cyclists (including pedestrians) have access to Personal Injury Protection (PIP) benefits. PIP benefits can cover both medical bills and lost wages up to $10,000.00.
If at the time of the accident a cyclist: (1) owned a vehicle (with PIP coverage); (2) did not own a vehicle but resided with a legal resident who owned a vehicle (with PIP coverage); or (3) did not own a vehicle but the at-fault driver had PIP coverage, the cyclist would be entitle to realize these PIP benefits.
PIP benefits can be most beneficial to cyclists that require immediate medical assistance but do not have health insurance as the PIP benefits would cover their medical treatment. (As of the date of this article) to recover PIP benefits, an accident victim must seek medical treatment within 14 days from the date of the accident and only from a specified medical professional. Please call our office if you have any questions regarding these benefits.
After a cyclist’s PIP benefits are exhausted (or assuming PIP is unavailable), the cyclist can always attempt to recover from the at-fault driver’s insurance (aka Bodily Injury “BI” Insurance). This is frequently accomplished with the help of a personal injury attorney (sometimes through a lawsuit). The injured cyclist can seek to recover past and future medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering (including the loss and enjoyment of life) through the at-fault driver’s insurance. These damages (even for a soft tissue injury) can be significant. [If PIP was available], the cyclist can seek to recover for their pain and suffering only if their injuries are of a “permanent” nature. The “permanency” of injuries can be hotly contested during litigation as pain and suffering is oftentimes the highest dollar value in a personal injury case. As such, it is important to have an aggressive personal injury attorney familiar with cycling cases fighting for you on this crucial issue.
In the worst cases involving death, the estate of the deceased is entitled to recover damages under the Florida Wrongful Death Statute.
Who will pay for my medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering if the at-fault driver is uninsured, underinsured, or is unknown?
Assuming the at-fault driver is uninsured, underinsured, or is unknown (i.e. hit and run driver), the injured cyclist can seek to recover damages through their own insurance company through their uninsured motorist’s coverage or “UM” coverage. An individual can purchase UM coverage for an amount equal to their automobile insurance’s Bodily Injury (BI) Limits. We encourage all of our friends and family to “max out” their UM coverage so they are adequately covered in the event they are involved in an accident where the at-fault driver does not have adequate insurance. Please note that it is estimated that 33%-40% of drivers in South Florida do not have any automobile insurance.
Why do I need a personal injury lawyer, I have health insurance?
A common misconception between cyclists is that because they have health insurance there is no reason to consult with a personal injury attorney. Health insurance will cover an injured cyclists medical bills only; Health insurance will not cover an injured cyclists lost wages or pain and suffering. To reiterate, pain and suffering is oftentimes the highest dollar value in a personal injury case. An experienced personal injury lawyer may be able to secure a settlement offer (or jury verdict) for a client of anywhere between 2x to 100x (or more) in pain and suffering that the cyclists medical bills alone.
Not all personal injury attorneys are created equally
Cyclist cases can be difficult to a novice personal injury attorney. These cases can be hotly contested as to causation / liability (i.e. who is the more at fault party – the cyclist or the driver). As such, we oftentimes send out an investigator to the scene to interview witnesses, take pictures (i.e. skid marks), and pull surveillance videos. We also have the ability to subpoena cell phone records of the driver to see if he/she was texting or on the phone and retain experts such as accident reconstructionists to rebut the driver’s claims that he/she was not at fault. We also scour the internet for Twitter and Facebook posts that could prove the driver was negligent or impaired (i.e. a Facebook Post “Too Drunk to Care” posted minutes before the accident). The ability of a personal injury lawyer to spot these (and other) issues could make or break a cyclist’s case.
Don’t Assume Your Injuries Are Insignificant
Our personal injury attorneys have observed injuries to cyclists ranging from soft-tissue injuries (such as a bulging or herniated disc(s)) to broken bones, paralysis and even death. Even on a soft-tissue injury, the medical treatment and lost wages alone, notwithstanding the accompanying pain and suffering, can total tens of thousands of dollars. What is your pain and suffering worth? — Find out by calling one of our experienced personal injury attorneys for a FREE consultation. Remember, personal injury attorneys are compensated on a contingency fee basis – you do not pay us one penny unless we collect.
Hiring the right personal injury lawyer who has experience representing injured cyclists could be one of the most important decisions you may ever make. Call Lyons, Snyder & Collin to learn how we can help you.