Everyone should feel safe riding a bike for recreation or transportation, but sometimes, collisions with other vehicles do happen. Unfortunately, these crashes usually have the most devastating consequences for the bicycle rider, who isn’t protected by airbags, seatbelts, or the steel frame of a larger vehicle. If you’ve been injured in a bicycle accident, it’s a good idea to seek legal advice from an experienced personal injury attorney before you make any decisions. They can go over the details of your accident and explain the options for your situation. In the meantime, here are some common questions people have about bicycle accidents:
You can sue the person who hit you and/or their insurance company on the grounds that their negligence caused the accident and led to your being hurt. Whether or not you can do so successfully depends on your ability to prove the driver was solely responsible for the accident. North Carolina uses statutes on “contributory negligence” in personal injury claims. Essentially, if the person you’re suing is able to prove that you had even a small amount of responsibility for the accident, they don’t have to pay you any damages.
If you’re thinking the driver who hit you will try to claim you were somehow at fault, even if you weren’t, there’s a good chance you’re right. This is definitely a challenge, but in many cases, your lawyer may be able to demonstrate that their claims have no merit and you were not at fault. If you’re dealing with an insurance company that rejected your claim on this basis, please contact a North Carolina bike accident attorney as soon as possible.
It’s also important to understand that a lawsuit is not always necessary. In most bicycle accident cases, we begin by filing a claim with the driver’s insurance company. Even if they initially deny the claim or offer an amount that doesn’t fully cover all your expenses, your attorney may be able to negotiate with the insurance carrier until they agree to an appropriate settlement. This is how the majority of cases are resolved.
But there are some situations where the insurance company may not be willing to pay a sufficient amount, or in some cases, anything at all. Additionally, there are some accident victims whose medical bills and other expenses far exceed the driver’s insurance policy limits. (North Carolina only requires a minimum of $30,000 in personal liability coverage for motorists.) When difficulties like these arise, your attorney may discuss with you the possibility of filing a lawsuit, either against the insurance company or the driver or, in less common cases, both. Depending on the situation, there may occasionally be other options for seeking compensation.
Getting hit by a car is usually a sudden, shocking experience. It can take a moment to even realize what just happened. Once you do, you should check yourself for injuries and call 911 right away. Even if you don’t think you’re hurt, the accident should be reported so that a police report will be available. You may never need it, but if you do, you’ll be glad to have it.
Next, you should try to talk with the vehicle driver. Hopefully, they will pull over and come to see if you’re all right. Exchange contact information and ask about their insurance policy. If you can, try to get their license plate number and driver’s license number, using your phone to take pictures. If they don’t want to give you this information, wait and let the police ask for it.
Take pictures of the scene, including where your bike ended up, damage to the vehicle that hit you, and any injuries you have. While you’re doing this, look around for any witnesses and try to get their contact info as well, or at least note their description.
Even if you feel okay and uninjured, don’t take your own word for it. What does that mean? Sometimes the adrenaline rush that accompanies a traumatic event like an accident can mask the symptoms of an injury, such as pain. Some injuries may not cause pain for a few hours to a few days later. It’s a good idea to get checked out by a healthcare professional even if you think you’re okay. If you don’t want to take an expensive ambulance ride, call a friend or relative and have them drive you to a hospital or urgent care center instead.
In reality, some of these steps may not be doable. If you are bleeding profusely or otherwise seem to be seriously injured, you may not be able to walk around taking pictures or talking to witnesses. You should always put your health first. Stay on the line with the 911 operator and follow any instructions they give you.
If the other driver doesn’t stop but instead speeds off, do your best to get a look at the license plate number. In the event that isn’t possible, make a note of the vehicle’s description so you can give it to the police.
After you’ve received medical attention for your injuries, contact a personal injury lawyer for a free consultation before taking any action, such as filing an insurance claim.
When you hit a person on a bicycle, you should stop immediately and pull over safely, put your flashers on to warn other drivers, and then get out and see if they are all right. If they haven’t done so already, call 911 and report the accident, asking for an ambulance if necessary. Stay with the injured person until emergency services arrive to help them.
Once help has arrived, you will need to explain what happened to the police officers making a report. After they’re done asking questions, you should call your insurance company and report the accident. It’s likely they will be receiving a claim from the injured person.
You can file a claim with the vehicle driver’s insurance company at any time after your accident. Most companies use online claim forms that you can access if you have the policy number.
But if you need medical treatment, you should wait instead of filing a claim right away. Medical care is often expensive, and it’s hard to know just what your insurance will cover and how high your bills will be when you’re still receiving treatment. You have no idea how much to ask for or even what damages you should be seeking. For example, if you develop chronic pain as the result of your injuries, you will want to seek much higher damages than if you were hurt but recovered in a few weeks. Remember that just because your doctor expects you to recover fully and quickly doesn’t mean you actually will – sometimes things don’t go to plan.
However, insurance company policies usually include some language about filing a claim “promptly” following a crash, so you don’t want to wait too long. Additionally, if you were severely injured, it may be months before you know the extent of your medical bills and any permanent effects, but the hospital will want to be paid a lot sooner than that. So it isn’t practical to wait for more than a few weeks, at most, to file a claim.
The best solution is to contact a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible, before filing a claim. Choose one who offers a free, no-obligation consultation for accident victims. They can go over the accident report and advise you on your options, including what to do if your claim is rejected. If you decide to retain their services, they may file a claim for you and take on the burden of talking with the insurance company on your behalf.
This saves you more than just time and aggravation. Dealing with the insurance company directly can be fraught with potential pitfalls. Insurance adjusters often start off friendly, asking what seem like routine questions about the accident. But this can be a trap. They may pick out various things you say and claim these are reasons you were actually at fault.
On the other hand, they might just make you an offer. Often people are relieved, especially if the insurance carrier makes an offer quickly after the accident. Sadly, this can also be a trap. Many early offers don’t begin to cover all your costs, which include medical bills, lost wages for the time you couldn’t work, pain and suffering, property damage and other accident-related expenses, and funeral or burial costs if a loved one died in a bike accident. It’s difficult to calculate how much you should be getting, but a personal injury lawyer can advise you on whether an offer seems reasonable. We strongly advise against accepting any offer from the insurance carrier before you’ve had a chance to speak with an attorney.
The insurance company may pressure you to accept right away, but they can’t force you to. If they are calling and pushing you to accept an offer, remain firm. Ask them to send the offer in writing, and let them know you’ll get back to them soon. Then your next step should be contacting an attorney for a free consultation.
As with any collision, this depends on a variety of factors, including who had the right of way. Under North Carolina law, bicycles are considered vehicles and their rider’s drivers for almost all intents and purposes (with a few exceptions). If the bike has the right of way and a vehicle hits it, then the vehicle driver was almost certainly at fault. On the other hand, if the car has the right of way and the bicycle crashes into it, the bike rider may be at fault.
But remember the contributory negligence statutes we talked about earlier. Many accidents are not 100% the fault of either the biker or the driver, but some combination of both. If this is the case, no one can collect damages.
There are also some situations where it may seem obvious that one person was at fault. For example, what if the car driver ran a red light, or was speeding, or both? They were disobeying traffic laws, and if they ignored the signal, they didn’t have the right of way. That sounds like a pretty clear-cut case of the driver being at fault, right?
It would be easy to assume that the bike rider can collect damages in this situation. But what if the car driver points out that the biker didn’t have the required lights on their bike for nighttime driving, and the accident happened at night? Does this change the fact the car driver ran a red light? No. But the court might find that the bicyclist was a small percentage responsible for the accident, which could change the car driver’s liability for the accident. If the court concludes the biker was even 1 percent at fault, the car driver won’t have to pay anything other than a traffic ticket and probably a higher insurance premium. (Note that their insurance carrier won’t have to pay a claim to the bicyclist either.)
For this reason, anyone who rides a bicycle should make a point to know North Carolina’s laws about bicycle riding and follow them. That way, if you are ever hit by a vehicle while riding, you will have a better chance of being able to successfully pursue a claim for damages.
Again, this depends entirely on the situation. Because bicyclists are considered drivers, most typical rules of the road apply. If the bicyclist is in a crosswalk, they have the right of way. If the car is already in a lane of traffic and the bicycle rider decides to get over into that lane? The car has the right of way, and the biker should move over only when it is safe to do so. (Note that bicyclists are required to use the right lane except when passing, avoiding an obstruction in the road, or the highway is either three-lanes or meant for one-way traffic.)
Like other drivers, bikers should stop or yield before changing lanes or moving onto a road. Bike riders younger than 16 are required to wear helmets, and no one should ride a bike while impaired by alcohol or drugs. You should also use arm signals before you stop or turn to alert others on the road.
Technically you’re only required to report a collision if it causes injury or death or property damage of more than $1,000. So if the cyclist says they’re not hurt, you might be tempted not to file a report, but this isn’t a good idea. In case the biker later realizes they’re injured, you will want to have a report.
The police are required to create a report within 24 hours of investigating a reportable accident, which includes their thoughts on the cause of the crash. However, if they deem the crash unreportable or are otherwise occupied, you can still file your own accident report online. Your attorney can advise you on how to do so.
In many cases, yes, depending on the policy. If a vehicle driver struck you on your bike, their insurance should cover it. (Although, as we’ve discussed above, the insurance adjuster may have various reasons for claiming they don’t have to, including blaming you for the accident.)
But what if the motorist was uninsured or underinsured? If they are uninsured or their policy is simply insufficient for the costs you’ve amassed, you do have the option to sue the driver directly. However, this may not be worth the effort if the driver has few assets. In other words, suing someone who can’t afford to pay the judgment if you win is not worth the time or court costs.
Are you then out of luck? Maybe not. In many situations, your own car insurance may cover your costs, especially if you have uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. Yes, even if you were riding a bike instead of driving a car. Again, this will depend on the specific language in your policy, but in some cases, it is an option.
If not, there may sometimes be other parties you can pursue a claim against. For example, if the driver who struck you was driving somewhere for work at the time, you may have a claim against their employer.
If you or a loved one have been hurt in a bicycle accident that wasn’t your fault, don’t hesitate – please contact Auger and Auger for a free consultation. We’re happy to review your case and explain your options for seeking damages. Call 855-969-5671 or contact us online today.