Thousands of people are injured in bicycle accidents in Florida each year, hundreds of them life-threatening. Bicycle riders are at special risk on the road because bikes are so much smaller and slower moving than cars and trucks, and because a bicyclist has no protective cage around them like passengers in an automobile do.
In one recent report, Florida was named the third most dangerous state for bicyclists. The state also had the highest number of bicycle fatalities in the country.
If you’re one of the many bicyclists who have been injured on Jacksonville roads, or you have lost a loved one to a bicycle accident, finding the right bicycle accident attorney can be your first step toward fair compensation and the foundation you need to rebuild.
How a Bicycle Accident Lawyer Can Help
An experienced Florida bicycle accident attorney can help you in many ways, including:
- Advising you of your rights and the types of damages you may be entitled to
- Discovering the amount of insurance coverage available and whether the responsible party has other assets you may be able to collect against
- Investigating your accident to assemble evidence that the driver was at fault
- Working with expert witnesses to establish the extent of your injuries and the amount of economic damages
- Interviewing witnesses to the accident and looking for other evidence, such as video footage
- Requesting information from the responsible party and deposing the driver and other witnesses to gather information and lock down their stories
- Interacting with the insurance company on your behalf
- Negotiating for a fair settlement
- Preparing your case for trial and, if necessary, trying your case before a Florida jury.
Insurance companies are in the business of making money, not helping you recover. Engaging with them directly can put your claim at risk. And, there are many technical aspects of the legal process that are unfamiliar to most people. An experienced bicycle accident lawyer can manage those elements for you while you focus on recovering from your bicycle accident.
Steps to Take after a Bicycle Accident
Get Appropriate Medical Care
Your first step after a bicycle accident or any injury should be to seek appropriate medical attention. Depending on the circumstances of your accident, that may mean being checked out by emergency personnel at the scene and following up with your own doctor, or being transported by ambulance from the accident scene to the hospital.
Many people are resistant to getting medical attention right away, but you should always err on the side of caution. Failing to identify and treat injuries promptly can make them worse or delay your recovery. In some cases, the aggravation of untreated injuries can do permanent damage. If that happens, the responsible party will likely argue that you are partly responsible for your own injuries and so the amount of damages you are awarded should be reduced.
Get the Driver’s Automobile Insurance Information
In Florida, a driver involved in an accident causing injury is required to provide you with identifying information, including their motor vehicle insurance information. You’ll need this information if you want to pursue compensation such as payment of your medical expenses.
Gather Evidence if You are Able
If you’re seriously injured, you may not be able to take any action at the scene. But, if you are able to do so safely, you can collect evidence at the scene that may help you establish your claim. Some common examples include taking photos or video of the scene and getting contact information from any witnesses. If you’re up to it, it’s also useful to take note of any businesses that have security cameras nearby, or street or traffic cams, as these may provide evidence of how the accident occurred.
Write Down Your Recollections
If you’ve been hit by a car while biking, you may think you’ll never forget the experience. But, that’s not true for most people. Events will get fuzzy over time, and it may be months or even a year or more before you’re called upon to tell your story in court or in a deposition in advance of trial. Writing down what you remember as soon as possible after the injury will help keep your recollections clear.
Liability in Bicycle Accident Cases
Liability in bicycle accident cases is typically based on negligence. Anyone who has a duty of care, breaches that duty, and causes injury is generally responsible for compensating the injured person. In the bicycle accident context, the most simple example would be a driver distracted by texting who hits a bicyclist because they are looking at their phone instead of the road. A driver has a responsibility to follow safety laws and generally operate the vehicle in a way that is safe for others on the road and their property. If the driver fails in that responsibility and causes injury, they are typically liable for damages.
Most fatal bicycle accidents are at least partly attributed to driver error. That means that the driver who hit the bicyclist is usually at least partly liable. But, there may be other responsible parties as well. Some examples include:
- Another driver who behaved negligently and distracted the driver who hit the bicyclist or forced them to take evasive action
- The party responsible for maintenance of the road or property, if debris or defects contributed to the accident
- The manufacturer of the bicycle or vehicle (or a part of either) if the part was defective and the defect caused or contributed to the accident
If you miss a possible responsible party, it could reduce the amount of compensation you receive. Your bicycle injury attorney can help you identify the parties who may be wholly or partly responsible for your injuries.
In some cases, the bicyclist may also share responsibility.
Comparative Negligence and Bicycle Accidents
As of March 24, 2023, Florida follows a modified comparative negligence model. Under this model, an injury victim who is partly responsible for their own injuries can recover compensation from other responsible parties. But, they are only entitled to compensation if they were not more than 50% responsible. If the injured person is more than half to blame, they can’t recover any damages.
If the injured person is not more than 50% responsible, they are eligible to recover damages. However, those damages will be reduced by the percentage of the injured person’s fault. For example, imagine that a bicyclist suffered $200,000 in damages and the jury found that the driver was 90% responsible and the bicyclist 10% responsible. The bicyclist could only recover $180,000–90% of their damages. They would be responsible for absorbing the other 10% themself, since they were 10% at fault.
A Special Note for Injuries that Occurred On or Before March 23, 2023
Before the new law took effect in March of 2023, Florida allowed an injured person to receive damages even if they were more than half responsible, though the damages were reduced in proportion to their degree of fault. Injuries that occurred before the effective date of the statute are still governed by the old law. So, for example, a bicyclist injured in February of 2023 who was 60% responsible for their own injuries could potentially still recover 40% of their damages, though an injury victim whose cases are decided under the new law could not.
Establishing Damages in a Bicycle Accident Case
The damages available in a bicycle accident case, or any other type of injury case, will vary depending on the specifics of the case. It’s the injured person’s responsibility to prove that they suffered the damages as a result of the accident, and to establish the value of their losses.
Some of the most common types of damages awarded in a bicycle accident case include:
- Compensation for medical expenses
- Projected value of future or ongoing medical expenses due to the accident
- Compensation for lost income
- Projected value of any loss of future earning capacity
- Compensation for the cost of rehabilitation and therapy services made necessary by the accident
- Compensation for intangibles like loss of quality of life or pain and suffering
- Compensation for property damage, such as destruction of the bicycle
- Compensation for other costs associated with the injury, such as medical equipment or adaptations to your home or vehicle
Your bicycle accident attorney can give you additional information based on the specifics of your case and how similar cases have been treated locally in the recent past. However, no attorney can guarantee you a certain amount of compensation, or guarantee a minimum. You should be very wary of any injury lawyer who makes that type of promise.
Choosing the Right Bicycle Accident Lawyer for Your Case
Finding the right lawyer after a bicycle accident can seem hopelessly complicated. You may get recommendations from friends or family who has used a great lawyer, but for a completely different type of case. A web search will turn up endless options, all telling you why they’re the best choice for you, and those sites start to all look alike.
Here are some key things to consider when looking for a Jacksonville bicycle accident lawyer:
Choose an Attorney Who Has Extensive Experience with Injury Cases
A Jacksonville injury attorney who focuses on injury-related cases, such as bicycle accidents, will have deep knowledge of the local civil court system, the insurance companies that are routinely involved in local motor vehicle accident cases, how local juries view injury cases, and more. A general practice lawyer who occasionally takes on a personal injury case may not have the depth of experience necessary to provide the best representation.
Look for an Attorney Familiar with Bicycle Accident Cases
While the underlying elements in an injury case are the same, certain issues and types of evidence are common to particular types of injury cases. If you’re pursuing a bicycle accident claim, it’s best to work with an attorney who has specific experience with Florida bicycle accident cases
Look for a Lawyer with Trial Experience
Many lawyers focus on settlements because they are quicker and lower effort. While settlement is the right answer in many–even most–cases, you’ll want an injury attorney who is willing and able to fight for you in court if that’s the best option for you.
Choose an Attorney You are Comfortable Talking With
You will need to share personal information with your attorney as your case progresses, and you will be reliant on your bicycle accident lawyer for information and guidance. Make sure the attorney explains things in a manner you can understand, and that you will be able to communicate openly with them.
Making the Most of Your Free Consultation with a Bicycle Accident Lawyer
During your free consultation, you’ll want to ask the attorney questions relating to the factors above. For example:
- Do you handle just injury cases, or other types of cases?
- How many cases like mine have you handled in the past?
- How many cases have you taken to trial?
- How do you decide whether to settle a case or go to trial?
You’ll also want to ask questions about the logistics of your case. For example, you’ll want to find out whether the attorney you are speaking with will be the one to handle your case, and who will be your point of contact at the firm. Make sure you know who will answer your questions, what the best way to interact with the law firm is, and when you can expect a response if you call or email.
Of course, the consultation isn’t just a way of finding the right attorney. You’re also there to get the attorney’s view of your case. Ask the attorney about the strengths and weaknesses of your case, what the typical timeline for resolving a case like yours is, and what will be needed from you to keep the case moving forward.
While you’re asking these and other questions, pay attention to how the attorney responds to you. Make sure they’re listening to your concerns and taking the time to make sure your question has been answered thoroughly.
Talk to a Bicycle Accident Attorney Right Away
The first step is to schedule a free consultation. To learn how the attorneys at Harrell & Harrell can put their experience to work for you, call 904-251-1111 or fill out the contact form on this site.