With more people taking cycling as a hobby or a fitness route, the risk of bicycle accidents increases. Bicycle accidents often result in serious to fatal injuries due to the minimal protection a cyclist has. Fortunately, the law allows victims to recover compensation for the damages they suffer due to the negligence of another party. The Orange County Personal Injury Attorney works with the victim to identify the at-fault party and pursue compensation from the negligent person or entity.
More than 400,000 people are injured from bicycle accidents in the US, with more than 300 deaths in California. Bicycle accidents in California have increased significantly with more people taking on cycling for fitness and as a transport alternative.
While anyone can be involved in a bicycle accident, the risk increases for males, the very young or senior adults, and for people in urban areas.
Regardless of the risk factors, bicycle accidents are devastating, especially if the bicycle impacts with a vehicle.
The common cause of bicycle accidents is the breach of duty by other road users towards the cyclist. Other causes include manufacturer negligence, drunk driving or cycling, poor roads, and poor weather conditions.
If you are injured in a bicycle accident, you have two years since the date of the accident to file a personal injury lawsuit. The lawsuit allows you to recover damages from the accident. In most cases, you will recover your medical bills, costs for repairing or replacing the bicycle, and pain and suffering damages.
The extent of your injuries and the loss you suffer due to the accident influence the settlement. In some cases, the court will reduce the final settlement based on the percentage contributory fault you had in the accident.
The theory behind compensatory damages is to restore the victim to their state before the accident. The money will not take away your injuries, but it will make life easier by helping you pay for present and future medical bills. Also, you are compensated for the emotional pain you go through after the accident.
These damages are also available for families of victims who die from bicycle accidents. If a loved one dies from a bicycle accident resulting from the negligence of another person, you will recover these damages through a wrongful death lawsuit.
As a rule, always consult with an attorney who is knowledgeable in personal injury lawsuits. The lawyer’s expertise is significant in ensuring that you settle for a fair settlement that covers your losses.
Both insurers and your attorney have different techniques that they apply to calculate the value of your case. This value plays a role in the beginning offer from the insurer (representing the at-fault party).
Here are the types of compensation available for bicycle accidents.
Special damages refer to monetary damages whose dollar value is known or can be calculated. After a bicycle accident, you will cover many out-of-pocket expenses for treatment, medication, and transportation.
If you can prove that the other party is liable for the accident, then you can recover these out-of-pocket expenses.
Calculating damages is a straightforward process that involves adding up the expenses incurred or losses made due to the accident.
Bicycle accidents might result in injuries that require medical care. Some of the injuries associated with these accidents include head, brain, and spinal injuries. These injuries require immediate medical attention.
Depending on their severity, you might have to spend extended periods on treatment. You might spend weeks or months in hospital, accumulating medical bills. You might also incur medical costs related to rehabilitation, therapy, and alternative treatment, including acupuncture.
In most cases, you will have to cover these medical costs on your own or using insurance before recovering the damages from the negligent party.
Other alternative means of paying for your medical bills include:
- Government health insurance programs such as Medi-Cal
- Medical liens
- Medical discounts
When you are injured in a bicycle accident, the probability of the at-fault party admitting fault is very slim. Most of the negligent parties will often attempt to reassign blame or make a low settlement offer. Therefore, you might have to sue for these damages through a lawsuit.
Before filing a lawsuit to recover your medical expenses, gather up several copies of:
- All your medical bills
- All the notes from your medical provider linking the treatment to the accident
- Copies of MRI and x-ray test results
- Medical records of up to five years before the injury
In addition, you could include information such as:
- The name, address and contact information of the people involved in the accident and the witnesses
- The reports from your insurance company
- The police accident report
- Photographs of any visible injuries or the accident
- Statements of co-workers, family, and friends on the impact the accident has had on you
- Details of pre-existing injuries that became worse after the accident
The court usually adds up all the medical expenses and those related to acquiring medical care (e.g., Transport to the hospital). Depending on the type of injuries and the recovery period, the court might award you damages for future medical care.
Future medical damages are essential for people who suffer an extensive injury that require long-term medical care. For example, brain and spinal injuries often require medical care for the rest of your life.
Factors that determine the value of future medical expenses include:
- Your future medical needs
- Your future treatment plan depending on the recovery you have made so far
- The estimated cost of the treatment plan
- the healing timeline (maximum medical improvement)
Determining the value of future medical bills is a bit difficult. However, experienced lawyers and economic experts can provide a rough outline of these costs.
A bicycle accident can lead to missed work and lost wages. Losing wages can have a significant effect on you and your family. However, you can sue the negligent party for the wages and benefits you lose due to the accident. In some cases, you can recover future lost wages if you are still recovering from the injury.
You can use different evidence to prove that you lost income due to the bicycle accident. These include:
- A lost wages letter from your employer
- Past pay stubs
- Tax returns
The methods above apply to employees. However, if you are self-employed, you can still recover lost income using:
- Your tax statements
- Billing statements in the months preceding the accident
- Billing statements from different seasons in preceding years
- The testimony of a forensic expert
The court also allows you to recover the benefits you lose due to the accident, including:
Determining the future lost wages (or lost earning potential), the court requires the testimony of experts. These experts include occupational therapists and doctors. They can evaluate your injuries and your work to determine the extent to which you can resume your former job.
You can be compensated for lost earning potential even if you are back at work. The court will determine your current earnings and subtract that from the previous income.
If your loved one dies from a bicycle accident, the lost wages and future earning potential will depend on:
- The age of the deceased
- The income he or she earned at the time of death
- The life expectancy
- The health of the deceased before the accident
- Career prospects and goals the deceased had
Bicycle Repair Costs
Bicycle damage often occurs in most bicycle accidents. You will need to repair or replace the bicycle depending on the extent of the damage.
Most people wrongly believe that you cannot recover for a damaged bicycle. However, the law allows compensation for property damage. You might represent yourself for property damage, especially if you suffered no injury from the accident.
However, if you are also pursuing a personal injury claim, then your attorney will pursue the recovery for the bike as part of the settlement.
You can recover property damage from the negligent party’s insurance. You should also get the estimates for repair and replacement of the bike.
Include any costs for improvements and additions you made to the bike. You can also account for other damages to property, such as clothing and protective gear.
Once you have the evidence of the damage, including photographs and a police report of the accident, contact the insurance company of the negligent party. You can offer your bike for an evaluation before you make any repairs to it.
Note that making repairs to the bike before the insurance company evaluates it can lead to a reduced settlement. The insurance company could claim that the damage and repair occurred before or is unrelated to the accident.
Do not make the mistake of cycling out of the scene of the accident. Instead, look for alternative transportation. If you have the receipt of purchase, attach it to show the original value of the bike.
General damages, on the other hand, are those subjective losses associated with a bicycle accident. They include emotional distress, pain, and suffering, physical impairment or disfigurement, and inconvenience.
The value of general damages differs depending on how well you can prove the pain, suffering, or distress the accident caused you. General damages are also harder to prove since they mostly cover abstract concepts like pain and suffering.
However, if your attorney can prove your pain, suffering, or loss, then the settlement is usually significant. Sometimes the attorney might request the help of experts. Such experts would include doctors, physical therapists, psychologists, and psychiatrists.
For instance, a doctor can explain the level of pain most patients experience from an injury and the recovery or readjustment period. Psychiatrists can help in evaluating mental health conditions that have developed because of the accident.
General damages in bicycle injury lawsuits include:
Loss of Consortium
Spouses and registered domestic partners can sue for loss of consortium damages after a bicycle accident. Loss of consortium compensates you for losing intimate relations or moral support from your partner. Some other losses covered by these damages include the loss of:
- Love, companionship, and affection
- Care, assistance and protection
- Sexual relations or their enjoyment
- The ability to have children
When suing for these damages, you must prove that:
- Your partner or spouse suffered an injury due to another person’s negligence
- You were legally married or registered as domestic partners at the time of injury
- You lost the consortium of your partner or spouse due to the negligence of another person
In the last element, you have to prove that your loss is a direct result of the accident or injury. If, for instance, your partner was an alcoholic who was rarely home, it might be hard to get a loss of consortium damages.
When calculating the value of lost consortium, the court will consider:
- The extent of the injuries
- How permanent the injuries are
- The life expectancy before the accident
Pain and Suffering
Pain and suffering are the common non-economic damages recoverable in bicycle accidents. These damages compensate you for the pain, suffering, anxiety, emotional distress, insomnia, humiliation, loss of body parts, and loss of enjoyment of life. You can also recover damages if you lose the ability to engage in pleasurable activities you previously enjoyed.
California does not place a cap on pain and suffering damages from a bicycle accident. Therefore, the amount you recover depends on how well you can prove pain and suffering.
Calculating pain and suffering damages is a subjective process that varies between cases. The court examines the available evidence then decides a reasonable amount to compensate you.
Note that pain and suffering damages are available for non-physical injuries. If you can prove mental anguish, anxiety, and other psychological conditions related to the accident, then the court will award you for the damages.
However, some factors increase the likelihood of a substantial settlement, including:
- You suffer permanent scarring and loss of body parts or functions
- Your injuries lead to high medical bills
- You have evidence of your injuries including lab tests and x-ray imaging
- The severity of your symptoms
- You spend a long time recovering
- You had a difficult recovery
As mentioned earlier, no standard formula exists for calculating the value of pain and suffering from an accident. However, additional factors outside the specific injury will influence the settlement. These include:
- The economic losses from the accident
- The strength of the evidence available
- The conduct of the defendant
- The strength of the case based on the assessment of the plaintiff’s and defendant’s sides
- The experience of the attorneys handling the case
- The amount the party is willing to spend to fight the case
Evidence of pain and suffering plays a significant role in the final settlement you get. Proving pain and suffering is highly subjective and complicated. However, you can still prove pain and suffering using:
- Medical evidence including lab test results, x-ray images
- Photographs of the accident scene, your physical injuries and damage to your bicycle
- Testimony from your friends, family, and co-workers
- Evidence from a doctor highlighting the pain and suffering victims of similar injuries go through
- Notes from your therapist or doctor
If you suffer mental health issues after the accident, visit a therapist to help you get through the process. He or she will also provide important testimony to the court about the pain and suffering you endured.
A Post-accident Journal could Help
You document details of and after an accident in a post-accident journal. Relying on your mind to remember the details, trauma, and emotions during the accident will affect your case negatively.
However, by maintaining a personal journal, you have a reference point in court. In this journal, you should document the pain and feelings regarding the injuries.
At the beginning of your journal, record the details of the accident as you remember them. Note down even the smallest details. You can record details such as the quality of the road, the weather, the accident, and the mental state of the driver or parties involved in the accident.
Make a note of every conversation you had at the scene with the other parties, the witnesses, and the police. You should also record conversations with the insurance agents.
After that, record your symptoms as you progress. Record the pain you feel, its intensity, and frequency. You should also document your doctor's appointments, medications, and the treatments you receive.
Use clear and specific language when describing your pain and injuries. Vague statements do not tell the intensity of the pain. You can use a scale to measure your pain, for example, a 1-5 scale.
You can also use the journal to explain the pain to your doctor, which facilitates the selection of better treatment options.
Since non-economic damages compensate you for losing the enjoyment of activities you previously enjoyed, not down how your injuries have affected the activities you previously enjoyed. Explain how the injuries limit or prevent you from engaging in these activities.
The key thing to remember when writing a post-accident journal is to include ALL the details. Additional details that are not in the journal will raise suspicion in the jury.
In some cases, the at-fault party displays gross negligence, prompting the judge to award punitive damages. These damages are designed to discourage other individuals and entities from engaging in similar actions that lead to losses or accidents.
Punitive damages are awarded in addition to special and general damages, increasing the settlement you get. Before awarding punitive damages, the court will determine whether:
- The defendant acted with malice or gross negligence
- How other judges have handles similar cases
The court awards punitive damages either during the proceedings for the personal injury lawsuit or as a separate trial. A separate trial occurs when you win the personal injury lawsuit, or the jury finds you guilty of malice.
Generally, the value of punitive damages depends on factors like:
- How negligent or malicious the defendant's actions were
- Whether there exists a reasonable relationship between the damages and the injury you suffered
- The amount that will punish the defendant and discourage similar conduct in others
While California does not place a cap on the value of punitive damages, it does prohibit excessive punishment of the defendant. Therefore, the court will assess the financial capability of the defendant before awarding these damages.
What Settlement to Accept
Special and general damages are the common damages found in bicycle accidents. They are available for every personal injury lawsuit in California. However, courts award punitive damages in the rare case that the negligent party acts with malice.
Now that you know how courts and insurance companies calculate damages, the next question is to determine the amount for which you should settle.
In cases where the insurance company makes an initial offer, you can accept or reject the offer. The decision depends on the extent of your injuries and the recovery period it will take. For example, if you were not injured but your bike suffered damage, an offer that covers the cost of a new bike would be acceptable.
However, if severe injuries, property damage, lost wages, and high medical bills complicate your case, then you have to take the decision seriously. You will need to hire an attorney to help you determine a favorable settlement.
The settlement you should accept is one that is reasonable and covers the losses and expenses from the accident.
The insurance company and your attorney will engage in offers and counteroffers in an attempt to resolve the case. If the parties cannot settle, then the case proceeds to trial. Here the jury will listen to the evidence from both sides and determines the most appropriate settlement.
Find a Bicycle Accident Attorney Near Me
You must understand the types of compensation available in bicycle accidents before pursuing a claim. Approaching the situation from an informed position allows you to make sober decisions that are influenced by facts and logic. You are also in a better position to provide the necessary evidence. However, you still need the help of an attorney, especially in handling the negotiations with the at-fault party. The Orange County Personal Injury Attorney represents victims of bicycle accidents in recovering the rightful compensation. Contact us at 714-876-1959 for a consultation.