In the sunshine state, bicycling is a more than just a pastime. It's a method of transportation for hundreds, and a lifestyle for many. Unfortunately, Florida continues to be one of the nation's leaders in bicycle crashes year after year.
Nationally, Florida ranks first in bicycle fatalities at 5.7 per million. Each year, the state sees 110 cyclist deaths - a startling amount when compared to the national average of only 2.3 deaths per million. Of the counties reporting bicycle crash injuries and fatalities, Miami-Dade and Broward County take the number one and number two spots, respectively.
If you've been involved in a South Florida bicycle accident, it can be easy to blame yourself for the trauma you've endured. However, as a cyclist, you share the same rights to the road as motorists. Before you jump to conclusions, continue reading to learn who is at fault for a bicycle accident.
Protecting Your Rights in Bicycle Accidents
Compared to motorists, bicyclists are much more vulnerable users of the road. Surrounding vehicles are literally tons heavier, larger, and faster. In the midst of heavy traffic, and with many distracted drivers on the road, bicyclists are largely unprotected against the steel that surrounds them. Not to mention, many drivers have little regard for bicyclists and aren't operating their vehicles with a cyclist's safety in mind.
This is often because motorists are largely unaware of current Florida laws. Most are shocked to learn that while a bicyclist must use a bike lane if one exists, they are also legally allowed to ride "as close as practicable to the right hand curb or the edge of the roadway" in the presence of no bike lane (F.S. 316.2065).
Moreover, a cyclist is fully able to move off the right shoulder into the lanes of traffic if he or she is passing another rider, preparing to make a left turn, or has encountered a hazard in the road, such as a hole. Likewise, in no passing zones it is illegal for a driver to pass a bicyclist (F.S. 316.0875). These factors must be kept in mind when deciding who was at fault for a bicycle accident.
Who Was at Fault?
Nearly 7 percent of all bicycle accidents occur at intersections at the fault of a motorist. Often this is due to negligent behavior, including distracted driving, speeding, drunk driving, and tailgating. However, bicycle accidents can occur for a variety of reasons, including:
- Cyclist or motorist failed to stop
- Right turn across bicyclist’s lane
- Vehicle or cyclist passed on the right
- Driver or passenger opened a car door in the cyclist's path
- Motorist turned left on non-dedicated left-turn intersection
Of course, each bicycle accident is different. Therefore, after suffering a bicycle accident, it is wise to err on the side of caution and contact a bicycle accident attorney to ensure you are adequately compensated for any injuries you've sustained. When there is a dispute over fault, a bicycle accident attorney will help examine the facts of the case, such as if the driver of the car was driving negligently or recklessly as well as if the victim was operating their bicycle correctly.
Luckily, the state of Florida abides by a pure comparative fault system. This means that even if the cyclist was partially in the wrong, they can still seek a percentage of their damages from the defendant. There are also other methods of seeking compensation after a bicycle accident.
Benefits Regardless of Who Was at Fault
If you've sustained injuries in a bicycle accident, you do not have time to waste to seek medical attention. Often resulting in contusions, broken bones, road rash, internal organ injuries, and head trauma, a bike accident requires medical care to be a critical first step. Once you've had your injuries assessed, contact your auto insurance company.
You might be thinking, "If I wasn't in my car, what can my insurance company do for me?" Well, every Florida auto policy holder must carry at least $10,000 of Personal Injury Protection (PIP) benefits. And in the state of Florida, a bicycle is legally considered a vehicle. PIP benefits are enacted whether you were a driver, a passenger, or a pedestrian. In the case of a bicycle accident, these benefits can cover up to 80 percent of medical expenses and 60 percent of lost wages.
In the case that you are a bicycle rider without auto insurance, Florida law allows a cyclist to file a claim under the responsible driver's auto insurance policy. In such cases, a bicycle rider may be able to recover damages from the at-fault driver's property damage liability (PDL) benefits, bodily injury coverage, or alternate policy coverage. A knowledgeable bicycle accident attorney can help you with this process.
What's Your Next Step?
If you've been injured in a bicycle accident, don't risk your rights being stripped away. With rights to the road, come rights to compensation. Don't hesitate to contact the trusted bicycle accident attorneys at Weinstein Legal.
In a state where innocent cyclists are repeatedly struck, injured, and killed, Weinstein Legal is here to help ensure that you get a fair shot at justice. Contact us today to get started with your claim.