Nearly 130,000 cyclists sustain injuries in crashes each year in the United States, resulting in health care expenses, lost wages, and more. Unlike car accidents, where drivers are protected by their vehicles, cyclists have little protection in the event of a crash. If you happen to hit a cyclist with your car – or you are a cyclist who suffered injuries in an accident – call the Maryland personal injury attorneys at Bowers Law for help.
Hitting a cyclist with your car can be a scary situation. While cyclists must adhere to the laws while on a roadway with other traffic, all too often, you fail to see them in time or something else occurs that puts a bicycle in your vehicle’s pathway. If this happens to you, here is what you need to do.
Immediately check the bicyclist for injuries. Notice if they are lying on the ground, potentially experiencing broken bones or spinal injuries and requiring medical attention. If so, do not move them.
Call for emergency services and wait for the first responders to arrive. Under no circumstance should you leave the scene of an accident before emergency personnel shows up, whether the biker seems uninjured or not. If you do, you can be liable for a hit and run and be less able to defend yourself.
At no time following the accident should you admit fault. There may be circumstances surrounding the crash that you are unaware of or eyewitnesses that saw something before impact, such as the negligence of the cyclist. Any statement of fault can be used against you by insurance companies. By admitting fault, you also become at risk for a lawsuit by the other party.
Maryland is an at-fault (or tort) state, meaning that drivers or, in this case, cyclists, are able to sue you for compensation if you are responsible for the accident. An admission at the scene of the accident can jeopardize your accident case and put you in financial difficulty.
Instead, seek the legal advice of an experienced bicycle accident lawyer as soon as possible following the accident to determine your next steps. During your initial free case evaluation, be sure to tell the attorney if you admitted to fault, apologized to the cyclist, or said anything that may be construed to be an admission of fault.
Once a law enforcement officer arrives, you will need to give the details of your account of the accident, including what you were doing before, during, and after the crash. Make sure the officer files a police report, as this will be a key piece of evidence to prove or disprove car insurance claims, both for you and the cyclist. It will also be crucial should the bike rider seek legal action against you following the car accident. Again, do not admit fault while at the scene of the accident to anyone, including the police officer.
You will also need to exchange contact information, your driver’s license and tag numbers, and insurance details (e.g., name of insurer, insurance policy number, etc.) with the cyclist while still at the scene unless they are too injured and need immediate transport to a medical facility. Start a file with this information and provide it to your bicycle accident attorney when you meet.
Drivers are expected to exercise due care around bicyclists, including maintaining a safe distance. At the same time, cyclists must follow all rules and traffic laws surrounding riding on roads with motorized vehicles or in a designated bike lane. Since Maryland is an at-fault state, it is essential to understand how fault is determined in an accident with a bicyclist here and how insurance coverage will factor into the outcome.
Determining fault starts with an accident investigation by the insurance companies of both parties involved, you and the cyclist. The results of these investigations will lead each insurance company to make an at-fault determination which they will apply to any insurance claim.
However, the insurance companies can often disagree, and this can lead to the filing of a lawsuit. If and when this happens, you will benefit from the assistance of a personal injury attorney to compile evidence to prove fault and represent you in court. It will then be up to the court to determine who is at fault.
Some of the most common situations where drivers may be found at fault include the following.
A left-cross crash involves drivers making a left-hand turn at an intersection and typically occurs when the motor vehicle and bicycle approach in opposite directions. The at-fault driver of the vehicle may not look for or see the cyclist or misjudge how much time they have to make the turn in front of the bicycle.
A right-hook crash can result when a cyclist rides up on the right side of a motor vehicle, entering the blind spot and preventing the motorist from seeing them before proceeding with a right-hand turn. Even though the cyclist entered the blind spot of the vehicle, the driver is often liable for a crash when turning right. To avoid this, drivers need to practice caution in areas where cyclists ride, and this should include slowing down, using turn signals, and double-checking blind spots before turning.
When a cyclist has the right of way, such as when a car has a stop sign, liability for a crash will usually fall on the driver if that right of way is not granted. One scenario where this might not apply is when the cyclist is riding against traffic, an illegal act in the state of Maryland.
Establishing liability following an accident with a bicyclist is crucial. Maryland is a pure contributory negligence state, so if the cyclist is even 1% at fault, they could be barred from receiving any compensation relating to the crash. Proving such fault and negligence will be key to insurance company claims and potential lawsuits.
To improve your chances of proving that the bicyclist is at least 1% at fault for the accident, however, you will want to work with a Maryland personal injury lawyer. This attorney can provide valuable legal advice, compile evidence, and build a strong case on your behalf.
All cyclists must follow certain rules of the road when riding, and if they fail to do so, accidents can result. Cyclists could be found partially liable in the following situations.
Cyclists who slow but fail to fully stop at a stop sign or red light can share in the blame for a crash with a motor vehicle. This failure to follow the rules of the road is referred to as an Idaho Stop and is illegal in Maryland.
Fault can fall on cyclists if they run a stop sign and a crash occurs with a vehicle that clearly had the right of way. As long as no other factors contribute to the bicycle accident, such as the car speeding, the cyclist is more likely to be determined fully at fault for the accident.
Cyclists all too often ride against traffic, creating a safety hazard for both themselves and any vehicles approaching in the opposite direction. Riding against traffic is illegal, thus, in crashes, the cyclist will share in the liability.
When an accident is not your fault, proving the other party was negligent in any way can quickly become complicated. Avoid admitting any fault at the scene of the car accident and instead discuss the details of the crash with an attorney experienced in personal injury law.
Unlike motor vehicles, bicycles provide riders with very little protection should an accident occur, often leading to serious injuries. Some of the most common injuries, from minor to severe, that riders can experience in a bike accident include:
Some of the most common body areas affected by a bike accident include the head, neck, clavicle, back, and extremities.
Following an accident, a cyclist can potentially recover the following damages in Maryland.
If the accident resulted in a fatality, family members might be able to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit as well.
Following any type of accident in Maryland, time is of the essence, and an injured cyclist will need to act swiftly or at least be aware of legal deadlines. Essentially, cyclists have three years following their accident-related personal injury to sue for damages per the Maryland statute of limitations. Failing to do so within this timeframe means they forfeit their legal rights to do so.
However, there are some circumstances where there are notice deadlines that are earlier than the three year statute of limitations, and if proper notice is not given you may not be eligible for recovery. Contact our office immediately to determine if this type of notice is required and for assistance in navigating these complex situations.
Involvement in an accident, whether you are at fault or not, can wreak havoc on your life and your finances. Determining who is liable, what damages to seek, and what your legal rights are needs to take precedence so you can get back to your everyday life as soon as possible. In other words, you need to know what legal options are available to you.
If you have been in an accident, contact the personal injury lawyers at Bowers Law to schedule a free legal consultation. Our law firm will work diligently to prove your case, talk with the insurance provider, and help you get compensation for your injuries if needed. Call us or send a text to 667-220-6500, or use our convenient online contact form today.
Maryland Attorney Jobeth Bowers is the founder of Bowers Law and a graduate of the University of Baltimore School of Law