Bicycle Accidents FAQ
Bicycles are a popular mode of transportation. Many cities have built bike lanes and trails to protect riders. However, bicyclists are at the mercy of inattentive drivers, and a collision with a truck or car often results in catastrophic injuries including traumatic brain injury, broken limbs, and spinal cord injuries.
Every year, there are about 500,000 bicycle accidents nationwide that are treated in emergency rooms, and around 700 fatalities.
The following are some commonly asked questions about bicycle accident injury claims.
Am I treated as a pedestrian in an accident with a motor vehicle?
Answer: If you were riding your bike on the road, you are generally treated as a motor vehicle. This means you are obligated to obey the same traffic laws as cars except where traffic signals specifically allow only bicycles to proceed, or where you are allowed to ride on sidewalks. If you do violate a traffic law like going through a red traffic signal and are injured, you could be found solely at fault for your injuries.
Do adults in Georgia have to wear bicycle helmets?
Answer: Only persons up to and including the age of 16 are required to wear a helmet. However, you substantially increase your risk of a head injury if you do not wear a helmet and get struck. Consider that in 95% of fatal bicycle accidents, the victim was not wearing a helmet.
A dog chased me on my bicycle and I lost control and broke my leg. Can I sue the dog’s owner for my injuries even if it didn’t bite me?
Answer: Most counties require that dogs be on a leash when out in public so the failure of the owner to restrain the dog might impose liability on the dog’s owner. Georgia has a “one-bite” law where an owner can escape liability unless he had prior knowledge that the dog was vicious or had a propensity for chasing bicycles. Your attorney would investigate to see if there is a county leash law violation and will also talk with neighbors to determine if this dog was known for chasing people.
The driver that caused my accident was uninsured. Am I out of luck as far as being compensated for my injuries?
Answer: No, you are not. You can look to the uninsured provision of your own auto insurance policy to pursue compensation so long as you purchased such coverage. If you did, then your claim is against your own policy. If you do not own a car but have a family member you live with who does, you can look to their policy if that person has uninsured coverage on their policy. You will need to file a police report regarding the accident and promptly notify your insurer about the accident or the insurer could deny your claim. You also must either prove that the car struck your bicycle or that the driver’s unsafe driving caused you to swerve or lose control of your bike. Proof of damage to your bike by a car can generally be observed, but you will need corroborating evidence if it was just the driver’s erratic or unsafe driving that caused you to crash or be ejected.
An uninsured claim is handled as if you were suing another party so you can expect your insurer to question liability, the nature and extent of your injuries, and the reasonableness of your medical care and treatment.
If I ride at night, am I required to have lights on my bike?
Answer: Under Georgia law, you must have a white light on the front of your bike that is visible for 300 feet to the front, and a reflector or red light on the rear that is visible for 300 feet.
A car door opened into me just as I was riding past the car. Do I have a claim against the car’s owner?
Answer: Yes, a motorist has a duty of care to other motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists when driving, which includes exiting a vehicle. This duty includes keeping a proper lookout for pedestrians and bike riders, especially if you were riding in a bike lane next to the parked vehicle.
What should I do if I am injured in a bicycle accident?
Answer: Do not move and wait for medical assistance. Call 911 or have someone call for you Even if you feel only slightly injured or dazed, do not refuse medical attention. In many cases, symptoms of a head injury do not manifest for hours or days later. If there were witnesses, ask them to talk to police or at least get their contact information. If the driver fled, try to recall details about the car, the driver, and any portion of the driver’s license.
See your personal or family physician as soon as possible. Do not talk to or give any statements to the other party’s insurer or an investigator. Promptly call and talk with a smart bicycle accident lawyer to discuss your case. Let your lawyer handle your communications with your own insurer if you have an uninsured or underinsured claim.
If I was hurt because of a road defect, can I sue the city or county?
Answer: You may have a claim against the city or municipality for not fixing a pot hole, a malfunctioning traffic light, an uncovered manhole, or a sign obscured by foliage or age. This is a nuanced area of the law and not all personal injury lawyers handle ante litem notice cases.
I did not use a hand signal to make a left turn and a car hit me. Did I have to signal the turn? Do I still have an injury claim?
Answer: Georgia law requires that you use hand signals when turning. For left turns, you must extend your left arm outwards. However, if you did not signal but you were well into your turn before you were struck, there may be liability on the part of the motorist who should have seen you. Liability may also depend on whether there was a stop sign for your and the driver’s direction of travel and someone failed to stop at all. You will want the testimony of neutral witnesses to support your version of events. If you were both at fault, you could still collect compensation from the driver but only if your own degree of fault was no more than 49%.
I was riding in the middle of a traffic lane when a car side-swiped me and caused me injuries. Will I be blamed for the accident?
Answer: In Georgia, you are permitted to use the entire lane if you are able to keep up with traffic or the roadway is too narrow or unsafe for you to ride to the right of traffic. Also, passing motorists must give bicycle riders at least 3-feet of space. Your lawyer will likely conduct a deeper investigation to determine how narrow the road is and if there were unsafe conditions like debris or numerous potholes or other surface hazards that made the road too risky for you to ride safely on the right side.