How to Avoid Bike Accidents & What to Do in Case of an Accident
Riding a bike is a fun, active way to get in shape or get to work. As summer time nears in Georgia, drivers and cyclists will begin sharing the road more frequently. That’s why we’ve put together this guide to help drivers and cyclists avoid accidents, and answer the question: What should a cyclist do after a bike accident? Bicycling can be a dangerous mode of transportation, particularly in urban areas. In 2018, over 75% of cyclist fatalities occurred in urban centers like Atlanta.
Nearly one thousand cyclist fatalities occur each year in the United States. In 2018, there were 857 cyclist deaths which accounted for more than 2% of all traffic fatalities that year. In 2015, over 1000 cyclist fatalities occurred, along with almost 467,000 bicycle-related injuries. Fatal bike accidents are a tragedy, and injuries can be severe and life-altering.
Drivers and cyclists have the responsibility to follow safety rules and laws that can help reduce the number of accidents and fatalities that occur on our roads every year.
Your Rights and Responsibilities as a Cyclist
Cyclists have the right to share the road with motor vehicles. Riding on the road requires following the same laws as motor vehicles, such as stopping at traffic lights and stop signs and riding on the right-hand side of the road. Drivers and cyclists should be aware of certain laws pertaining to cyclists in Georgia. The Three Foot Law mandates that drivers keep a safe distance when passing a cyclist on the road. A safe distance means a minimum of 3 feet must be kept between the driver’s mirror and the cyclist. The Three Foot Law often requires the driver to drive slightly over the center dividing-line of the road when it is safe to do so. In the case of poor visibility or oncoming traffic, a driver should wait until it is safe to pass the cyclist.
Although drivers tend to think otherwise, it is perfectly legal for two bicyclists to ride next to each other. When passing, a driver still has to give the cyclist nearest to the road 3 feet of space. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has published some official hand signals that cyclists can use to let drivers know if they are stopping or turning. As the NHTSA notes, drivers of motorized vehicles use blinkers or backup lights to communicate. A driver of a bicycle should do the same with hand signals. Here are eight bicycle use laws to keep in mind when riding Georgia roads:
- Ride in the same direction as traffic
- Ride as close to the right side of the road as possible
- Wear a helmet
- Over the age of 12, do not ride on the sidewalk
- Ensure your bike has working brakes installed
- Install lights and reflectors. Bikes must have a white light on the front and a red reflector or light on the back
- Do not ride side-by-side with more than one other cyclist
- Do not hold any item that prevents proper hand positioning while riding
If and when a bike accident occurs, the plaintiff would most likely sue for negligence. Because of the way negligence lawsuits work in Georgia, it is in the cyclist’s best interest to follow the law and safety rules. This way, he or she will be most likely to receive damages and compensation after an accident.
What is Negligence?
In one word, negligence is fault. Negligence claims are filed by an injured party whose injuries could have been avoided had the defendant acted differently. Specifically, negligence indicates a failure to act in a way that could have prevented an accident. When it comes to negligence cases, Georgia is a modified comparative fault state. This means that the state will award damages to plaintiffs found to be less than 50% at fault. Here are some mistakes cyclists can make that will increase the likelihood that they will be found at fault for an accident: Not signalling before a turn or indicate stopping or slowing (see NHTSA’s hand signals) Being under the influence of drugs or alcohol Not exercising caution in hazardous weather conditions or in dangerous road conditions If you are unsure whether you should file a claim, contact Lamar Law Office for a free consultation.
What to Do After a Bike Accident
Bike accidents can cause serious injuries, but all accidents are disorienting. You should know what to do in the case of a bike accident ahead of time. First and foremost, do not admit fault at the scene. Secondly, do not assume you are not injured. Adrenaline from the accident can mask even serious injuries until hours later. Lastly, speak with a bike accident attorney before contacting the insurance companies. Otherwise, what you say could be used against you. Legal encyclopedia Nolo lays out seven steps that you can take after a bike accident to help prove your claim later on:
Wait for the police
Do not leave the scene until the police arrive, and be sure to get your side of the story into the police report.
Collect contact information
Remember to get these five pieces of information. (1) Driver’s name, (2) address, (3) phone number, (4) driver’s license number and license plate number, and (5) insurance information. If any witnesses are present, get their names and contact information as well. If you are injured, you should ask a bystander to do this for you.
Write down what happened
At the scene, make a mental note of what happened. As soon as you can, write the sequence of events down in a notebook or type them on a computer.
Document your injuries
Seek medical attention for even minor injuries. Medical records can help your case later, should you decide to file a lawsuit. Take photos of your injuries and document your symptoms for days and weeks after the accident.
Preserve the evidence
Don’t repair your damaged bike and equipment or wash your clothing. Don’t send any equipment to anyone other than your attorney.
Contact a personal injury attorney as soon as possible after the accident
A personal injury attorney who specializes in bicycle accidents can help you get the compensation you deserve for your injuries. Compensation can include medical expenses, loss of future earnings, cost of repair or replacement of damaged property, and more. Tragically, bicycle accidents sometimes result in death. Family members of bicycle accident victims who died as a result of their injuries may also be able to recover damages through a wrongful death claim. Recoverable damages can include loss of future earnings, funeral and burial expenses, and loss of companionship. Injured parties should contact an attorney as soon as possible after the accident, but at least within two years due to Georgia’s statute of limitations. Are you suffering an injury or death due to a bike accident? Atlanta personal injury attorney Anita Lamar has years of experience fighting on behalf of people like you. More than legal service, we care. Contact Lamar Law Office for a free consultation.