People who ride bikes have likely experienced – or know someone who has experienced – a crash of some kind. Some incidents, such as slipping off the edge of a road or losing control on a soft shoulder and ending up in the ditch, may leave you with a bruised ego, road rash, and minor discomfort. Other bicycle accidents and collisions can be far more serious, especially if they are hit by a car or other motor vehicle.
Cyclists are hit by cars more often than you might believe. Usually, the accidents are the result of the inattention of the vehicles’ drivers. They may not come to a complete stop at an intersection because they don’t notice the bicycle crossing in front of them; they may make a turn or pull into a lane without looking; or they may be focused on something other than the road, and sideswipe a cyclist in passing. The injuries sustained by bicyclists in these kinds of accidents can be severe and life-changing, requiring a long recovery process and racking up thousands of dollars in medical bills and lost income.
Most states, including Florida, consider bicycles to be “vehicles”; they require bicyclists to ride on the street instead of sidewalks, and to follow traffic laws such as coming to complete stops at stop signs and red lights, signaling stops and turns, and yielding when another vehicle has right-of-way. Cyclists also often ride at high speeds, meaning that they cannot avoid a collision as easily as a pedestrian if a vehicle is coming toward them or stops suddenly in front of them. Unfortunately, not all drivers on the road treat bicycles as vehicles, thinking of them more as pedestrians if they pay any attention to them at all.
Tragically, Florida actually has the highest number of catastrophic injuries and deaths resulting from motorized vehicle-bicycle collisions of all the states of the nation. Even the most law-abiding cyclist may be involved in a serious accident. When a bicycle accident involves a car or truck, this can be deadly. The speeds at which motorized vehicles travel, added to the huge difference in size and weight between bikes and cars, make this kind of accident one-sided; it is far more likely to end in severe injury for the cyclist than for the vehicle driver.
Because bicycles provide no protection – no airbags, seat belts, or metal frame to prevent or reduce trauma – bicycle riders who are involved in accidents with cars or trucks are likely to suffer devastating injury. These injuries may include spinal cord injuries, broken bones, loss of limbs, paralysis, or disfigurement. Even though most cyclists are careful to wear bike helmets, all too often they also suffer traumatic brain injuries.
In Florida, cyclists who suffer serious injuries in bike-car crashes can usually file claims to obtain compensation. Under Florida’s Personal Injury Protection law, you can actually seek compensation from your own car insurance policy for some expenses, and from the at-fault vehicle driver’s policy for others. If you have no car (and thus no car insurance), the law allows you to seek compensation from the at-fault driver’s insurance, including property damage, bodily injury, and medical expenses.