Virginia Bicycle Accident Attorney
According to the most recent report issued by the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles, 670 bicycle crashes occurred in the state in 2017, resulting in more than 600 injuries and 13 fatalities. Sadly, more than 1,000 bicyclists die nationwide each year, with almost 500,000 bicycle-related injuries. Cycling is a favorite activity for many adults and children, and many individuals bike as an alternate form of transportation. The alarming statistics regarding injuries and fatalities reveal that safety remains a concern. Virginia law enforces traffic regulations and general guidelines regarding cycling on public roadways, and these laws define the rights and duties of cyclists and those with whom they share the road. Even when cyclists follow traffic regulations and obey all traffic signs and signals, accidents still occur.
If you or your child has been involved in a bicycle accident in Virginia, you may be eligible to recover damages that are related to your injury if your accident was caused by another driver. However, cyclists in Virginia are held to the same standard as motor vehicle drivers on the road, making it difficult to determine fault in these often complex cases. An experienced personal injury attorney who has handled bike accident cases will advise you on the best path forward given your individual situation. Contact Emroch & Kilduff for additional information at (804) 358-1568 or by using our online contact form.
Bicycle Laws in Virginia
The Virginia Department of Transportation outlines the legal rights and duties of cyclists in Virginia:
- Cyclists on Virginia highways are bound by Virginia’s motor vehicle laws, which means that they have the same rights and duties as motor vehicle drivers, unless otherwise indicated.
- When bicyclists are on a sidewalk, a shared use path, or a crosswalk, they have the same rights and duties as a pedestrian.
- Cyclists must come to a complete stop at stop signs prior to entering crosswalks.
- Cyclists are not required to completely stop when crossing highways without stop signs or traffic signals, but they must yield to any oncoming traffic.
In addition to those mentioned above, cyclists must follow a host of other laws that pertain to riding and signaling. While many of the laws are the same that a motor vehicle driver must follow, there are some bike-specific laws, which are discussed below.
- Helmets are not required under state law for cyclists in Virginia, but some counties, cities, and towns require those younger than 14 to wear helmets when riding bicycles.
- Cyclists must have at least one hand on their handlebars at all times.
- Cyclists cannot carry more people than the bike will accommodate.
- Cyclists are not permitted to attach themselves or their bikes to other moving vehicles.
- Cyclists may not wear earphones in both ears while riding their bikes.
Bicycle Accidents Can Result in Serious Injuries
Bicycle accidents sometimes result in severe injuries due to a cyclist’s general lack of protection when a motor vehicle hits them. Some of the most common bicycle accident injuries include:
- Fractured or broken bones
- Scrapes, cuts, lacerations, and road rash if thrown from the bicycle
- Head traumas that might result in mild to severe traumatic brain injuries, especially when riders are not wearing helmets
- Neck injuries
- Back and spinal cord injuries that might include cracked vertebrae, herniated discs, or spinal cord damage resulting in partial or full paralysis
- Dislocated joints
What Should I Do After a Bicycle Accident?
If you are involved in a bicycle accident, an experienced bicycle accident attorney will guide you on the best course of action given your individual circumstances; however, here are some important first steps:
- Seek medical attention as soon as possible. If you were lucky enough to walk away from your bike accident rather than be immediately transported to a hospital, you should still go get checked out by a doctor as soon as possible. Some injuries may take hours or days for symptoms to appear, especially traumatic brain injuries, so it’s best to let a doctor examine you. Additionally, documentation of your injuries and proof that the accident led to your injury is paramount for an insurance company to pay out your claim or for a court to award you damages. Visiting a medical professional after your injury provides that documentation.
- Gather information at the scene of the accident. Whether you take photos or videos with your cell phone or write things down with pen and pencil, you should gather as much information at the scene of the accident as possible, if you are physically able to do so. This includes the names, addresses, and insurance information of other parties involved in the accident. It’s also in your best interest to record the make, model, and license plate number of all vehicles involved in the accident. If possible, take pictures of damage to your bicycle, damage to the car(s), and your injuries. It’s likely that much of this information will be in a police report, so if you cannot get it all at the scene of the accident, you or your attorney can obtain a copy of the report at a later date.
- Contact a reputable bike accident attorney. Traffic accidents cases can be complex, with multiple insurance carriers, vehicles, and bicycles possibly involved. A good attorney will be able to investigate the details of the accident to see who might be liable and to what extent, to determine your eligibility to recover damages from injuries related to your accident.
Recoverable Damages After a Bike Accident
Virginia gives residents the option to buy personal injury protection (PIP) coverage for auto accidents, which also extends to bicycles. If you have opted to buy PIP coverage, you will need to file a claim with your insurance carrier before initiating a legal suit. In either case, you may be eligible to recover the following damages if you sustain an injury in a bicycle accident in Virginia:
- Medical expenses including ambulance and emergency services, hospital stays, doctor visits, radiology, surgery, medication, and more
- Lost wages for time missed from work due to injury
- Future medical expenses if the bicycle accident resulted in a long-term disability or injury that requires repeat surgeries and a long recovery time
- Lost earning capacity in the event of a permanent disability that prevents injured individuals from returning to work or that forces a career change because they can no longer do their job as a result of their injury
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of consortium
- Surviving family members might be eligible for compensation from a wrongful death claim, in the event that the injured party dies after the bicycle accident.
Protecting Yourself When Insurance Companies Deny Claims
If you were involved in a bicycle accident and sustained an injury, you will have to deal with insurance carriers regardless of whether you decide to file a lawsuit. Insurance companies benefit from offering low initial settlement amounts, and they generally attempt to find any reason to deny a claim. Some common reasons for denial include:
- You filed the claim too late after the accident or made some other administrative error.
- Your injury was not caused by the accident.
- Your injury isn’t as severe as you claim.
Insurance companies will investigate accidents and determine their level of liability, and they usually start by offering low initial settlement amounts to avoid having to pay large amounts later. Additionally, the defense, including the affiliated insurance carrier, might try to shift blame to the victim to avoid paying damages. Insurance companies might claim that you weren’t following traffic laws or that you were distracted, and thus you caused the accident. Defendants might also claim that plaintiffs failed to properly signal or that they were operating their bike under the influence of drugs and alcohol.
The best way to protect yourself from these counterclaims and to maximize your chances of recovering damages is to hire a bicycle accident attorney who has experience litigating personal injury cases and will be able to predict the defense’s moves.
Contact an Experienced Virginia Bicycle Accident Attorney Today
Even when cyclists abide by the rules of the road and wear helmets, they can still sustain life-changing injuries if they are struck by a motor vehicle. The low limits of PIP insurance can leave victims with unpaid medical bills that continue to accumulate while they miss work due to their injury. Hiring a skilled bicycle accident attorney gives you the time and peace of mind to focus on making a full recovery while your lawyer handles the details of your case.
If you or your child has been injured in a bicycle accident, call the experienced bike accident attorneys at Emroch & Kilduff at (804) 358-1568, or contact us online, to schedule a free consultation and to discuss the details of your case. We usually handle personal injury cases on contingency, which means our firm will collect attorney fees from any settlement or verdict that we secure for you.