No Recovery, You Owe Us Nothing
Bicycling is a favorite form of exercise and family fun for all ages. About a third of bicyclists say that they ride for recreation and another 28% ride for exercise or health reasons. For many Americans, however, bicycles are an everyday mode of transportation to and from work or school. The Pedestrian & Bicycle Information Center estimates that there are about nine million bike trips every day in the United States.
Unfortunately, bicycling can cause devastating – even fatal – injuries to riders, car occupants, and pedestrians. This should not be a surprise: In many parts of the country, bicycles must compete with automobiles and large trucks, often in congested traffic on roads where there are no designated bike paths.
Here are some additional 2014 facts from the NHTSA to consider when you or family members head out for a bike ride:
In 2014, 139 bicyclists were killed in Florida, giving Florida the dubious distinction of second deadliest state for cyclists, behind California. Florida law requires children under 16 years old to wear a properly fitting bicycle helmet that meets national standards.
In our more than 40 years’ experience as a Florida personal injury law firm, our attorneys have successfully represented numerous victims and families that have been involved in bicycle-related accidents.
In one recent case, a Florida man was riding his bicycle on the shoulder of a northbound road when the driver of an SUV abruptly turned into a driveway in front of his path. The man’s sudden collision with the much larger vehicle left him bruised and battered, with injuries to his neck that required removal of an intervertebral disk and fusion surgery.
Although he was able to return to work, the bicycle crash victim continued to have neck pain and stiffness. He retained personal injury attorney Brian Denney to represent him against the SUV’s driver and the vehicle owner. Following mediation just prior to trial, the claim was settled for $750,000 due to the cyclist for the damages he suffered.
Here at Searcy Denney, we understand that a “winning” case is not always a win in the holistic sense. Whether you — the injured plaintiff — are satisfied is rather dependent on the circumstances. If you succeed in proving that the defendant is liable for your bicycle-related injuries, but the court awards you minimal damages (due to perceived issues with your damages claim), then you may reasonably view that end-result as something of a disappointment.
We are therefore quite adamant about securing maximum compensation for our clients. It is not enough for us to simply “win” a case. In doing so, we pursue litigation with a comprehensive and aggressive approach intended to obtain the highest possible damages on your behalf. Unlike many competing personal injury firms, we are willing and able to pursue a case all the way through to trial — as such, the opposing counsel must take early settlement negotiations seriously lest they allow us to proceed with trial litigation. Our reputation as relentless advocates, therefore, gives us substantial leverage during these early settlement negotiations.
If you or a loved one sustained injuries in a bike crash, contact a skilled Florida bicycle accident lawyer at Searcy Denney for assistance in obtaining the compensation you rightfully deserve.
Here are just a few steps that you can take to make sure you and your family members ride safely:
Over the years, advances in bike safety technology have helped protect cyclists from fatal injuries. For example, recently a Swedish firm developed an airbag for bicyclists. When sensors detect an unusual movement that indicates a potential crash, in one-tenth of a second the airbag deploys out of a collar worn around the neck.
In Florida — whether you are in a bicycle accident or any other accident — courts apply the doctrine of pure comparative fault (otherwise known as pure comparative negligence) when determining liability. Fortunately for plaintiffs, the doctrine of pure comparative fault is quite plaintiff-friendly, as it allows those who suffer harm in accidents (caused by others) to recover damages even when they are partially responsible for their own injuries. This can have significant consequences for a lawsuit.
Confused? Let’s clarify with a quick example.
Suppose that you are injured in a bicycle accident in which the defendant-driver collided with you. Further investigation reveals that you were speeding down the road at the time of the accident, and that your choice to maintain such high speeds may have contributed to the occurrence of the accident. You and the defendant present your respective arguments (and evidence), and the court determines that the defendant-driver is 80 percent responsible for your injuries, and that you are 20 percent responsible for your own injuries. Thus, if your damages claim is $100,000 in total, you would “lose” a percentage equivalent to your own fault contribution — your adjusted recovery would be $80,000.
Florida’s pure comparative fault implementation allows injured plaintiffs to recover damages even if they were mostly responsible for their own injuries. If the court finds that you are 90 percent responsible — for example, if you failed to wear a helmet and the defendant collides with you and causes brain injuries — then you would still be entitled to recover whatever percentage others are liable for (here, 10 percent). In fact, you could even recover damages if you were 99 percent responsible for your own injuries.
In Florida — and in other jurisdictions — injured plaintiffs may be able to use a legal shortcut known as “negligence per se” to avoid having to prove that the defendant acted negligently in causing them to sustain harm. It’s important to understand that establishing negligence is not always a straightforward matter. You’ll have to show that the defendant owed you a duty of care, that they violated the duty of care, and that in doing so they caused you to suffer the injuries at-issue.
Negligence per se, however, allows you to skip the process of having to prove that the defendant acted negligently. Instead, the negligence of the defendant will be assumed. In order to take advantage of negligence per se, Florida law requires that the potentially liable defendant have violated a non-traffic penal statute.
So, for example, if you are traveling on your bike and are subsequently injured by a speeding car, then you would not be able to use the negligence per se shortcut. On the other hand, if you are traveling on your bike and are injured by a drunk driver, then that driver violated a penal statute and you could therefore automatically establish liability (so long as you can show that the defendant’s acts caused your injuries).
There are a number of regulations to keep in mind as you begin the process of litigation for your bicycle accident claims. An experienced Florida bicycle accident attorney can evaluate your case in the context of these regulations and will consider other legal ramifications.
As a bicycle claim plaintiff, your failure to adhere to these regulations could lead the court to attribute significant fault to your own actions, thus reducing your potential damage recovery (under pure comparative fault).
Let’s take a look at a few important ones.
In Florida, bike riders and their passengers under the age of 16 must wear helmets that are fastened safely and securely and meet various federal regulatory requirements. Bike riders age 16 and older do not have to wear helmets, though their failure to wear a helmet may substantially undermine their injury claim.
For example, if you are 20 years old, not wearing a helmet, and suffer a skull fracture due to a car collision while on your bike, a court is much less likely to award you significant damages given that the injury could have been prevented with the use of a helmet.
In Florida, bicycles — just like motorcycles — are prohibited from lane splitting (i.e., riding between lanes, on or around the lane dividers). Though lane splitting has been legalized in California, and many bikers believe that it is a safe practice, in Florida, if you split the lanes, the court is almost certain to find at least some fault on your behalf. This could have significant ramifications for your total damage recovery.
In some cases, the defendant may have injured you while you were lane splitting by failing to note your presence. Perhaps they merged into the next lane, cutting off your path suddenly. In such circumstances, you could still recover damages if you can show that the defendant should have noticed that you were coming and avoided the collision.
If you or someone you love has been hurt in a bicycle accident, you will want a law firm with the experience and resources to pursue recovery for the devastating physical, emotional and financial losses. At Searcy Denney, when we are contracted to represent you, we assign an entire team to fight for you: one that includes not only an experienced personal injury attorney, but paralegals, investigators, expert witnesses and support staff.