When a car and a bicycle collide, the consequences can be vastly different for each party involved. Bicyclists often suffer severe injuries, while the car’s occupants may escape with little to no harm.
Unlike cars, bicycles lack protective features like seatbelts and airbags, leaving riders vulnerable to broken bones, head injuries, lacerations, back and neck injuries, internal injuries, and more.
Understanding and following local laws regarding bicycles can help reduce the risk of an accident, but a reckless driver can still leave a bicyclist with severe injuries.
When you’ve suffered a bicycle accident, you may struggle to piece together what happened, especially if you had a head injury or were simply in shock. At the same time, you could be dealing with severe injuries and the accompanying medical bills.
We’ve had clients tell us that the actions of a single careless driver left them in a precarious financial position, unable to work for weeks or months, and inundated with medical expenses. Unfortunately, the driver or their insurance company may not be concerned with helping the injured bicyclist get back on their feet.
How Can a Bicycle Accident Attorney Help Recover Your Damages?
Unlike an insurance company adjuster, whose ultimate goal is to save money for the insurance company, your bicycle accident lawyer’s goal is to help you recover your damages as fully as possible.
First, we’ll calculate all your damages so we know exactly what kind of settlement you deserve. In many cases, our clients have more damages than they realize, and an insurance company is likely to take advantage of that fact by making a lowball offer that doesn’t cover everything.
We’ll talk more about insurance company offers and how to handle them later in this article.
Next, we’ll investigate the accident and work to build a strong case showing the driver was at fault. This is essential for two reasons:
- The driver and/or insurance company may claim that you are all or partially at fault for the accident.
- In some states, the insurance company can argue you deserve a smaller settlement even if you were only partly at fault. In other states, you could be unable to collect any damages at all if you’re found to be even slightly at fault.
Won’t the Insurance Company Cover a Bicycle Accident?
In many situations, insurance policies should cover bicycle accidents. Generally, we look to the at-fault driver’s car insurance to cover the bicyclist’s damages, but there are several ways the insurance company may try to evade responsibility for paying your claim:
The Insurance Company Claims You Were at Fault
It’s almost always beneficial for the insurance company to at least try to blame you for the accident. Here are some common ways this strategy plays out in the insurance company’s favor:
- In some cases, the bicyclist simply accepts that they were at fault and assumes financial responsibility for their injuries. The insurance company never hears from them again.
- You may be thinking that you’re not one of those people. It’s true that many bicyclists will decide to fight the insurance company, but unfortunately, some of them do it by immediately calling the insurance company. This usually helps the insurance company’s adjuster, who most likely records all their calls. The adjuster may act like they want to help and ask you questions about the accident, but this is a tactic used to get you talking. They want you to say something they can twist to fit the narrative that you were at fault, and then they’ll use it as further evidence that you were to blame.
- If your case goes to court, the insurance company may have other advantages. In many states, they can avoid paying you anything if they make a strong case that you are more at fault than the car driver. If that doesn’t work out, they may be able to deduct whatever percentage of fault you did have from your damages. In other states, the insurance company pays nothing if the injured party is even 1 percent at fault.
- However, the insurance company really doesn’t want to go to court, and in fact, most of our cases are resolved out of court. The insurance adjuster may hope that a court case will seem too daunting or stressful to the bicyclist, and they will let the matter drop. If not, the adjuster will come to the table and negotiate, but at this point, the bicyclist might be so exhausted and desperate that they accept a lower offer than they deserve.
Now, you should have an idea of why the insurance company is so eager to blame the bicyclist, even for accidents where it seems evident that the car driver was responsible. The good news is that there’s a solution for all the problems listed above: Contact a bicycle accident attorney as soon as possible.
Your lawyer knows all the insurance company’s tricks and how to combat them. They will understand local laws and work to build a solid case showing the car driver was to blame.
At the same time, they can calculate your damages and explain how any potential offer does or doesn’t cover them. Finally, your bicycle lawyer will negotiate with the insurance company to ensure all your needs are met.
The Insurance Company Makes You a (Seemingly) Great Offer
You may be wondering why this is a tactic to help the insurance company avoid paying your claim. Well, sometimes, the insurance adjuster recognizes that denying the claim due to fault is not a good plan.
For instance, if there is insurmountable evidence that the car driver was responsible and the bicyclist has extensive damages, the adjuster may choose a safer strategy: A lowball offer.
This is similar to the last point in the previous section, except in this case, the adjuster makes an offer before trying to blame the bicyclist. The goal here is to come across as interested in helping the injured party so they will accept the offer without asking too many questions.
Once the bicyclist accepts, the insurance company has effectively relieved itself of any further responsibility related to the accident. If you discover you have more damages a few months later, you won’t be able to recover them from the insurer.
You might be questioning why someone would accept an offer that doesn’t cover all their damages. The answer is that it’s actually very difficult for the average person to calculate their own damages.
Many people believe the initial offer from the insurance company is a good one because they don’t know all the damages they have or what they’re worth. Your attorney will accurately calculate the following:
- Medical bills. One common misconception is that all you have to do is add up your current bills. If you need more treatment in the future, or your health insurance company informs you that you’ve reached the limit for a specific type of treatment, what will you do? Your lawyer is aware of these issues and will hold off on settling until they’re confident all your treatments are complete. They will also ask about related, out-of-pocket costs like travel expenses or mobility aids that should be included. Should you require long-term care or treatment, your attorney can estimate your future costs and include these as well.
- Lost income. Some clients don’t realize that they can seek repayment for lost income if they can’t work after their accident. This includes paid time off, which is used up because of your injuries.
- Lost earning potential. If your injuries are permanent and result in an inability to return to work or to do the same job at the same pace, you could have lost earning capacity because of the accident.
- Permanent disability. Regardless of your ability to continue working, you can seek compensation for any permanent disability or disfigurement.
- Pain and suffering. Unfortunately, bicycle accidents often result in severe injuries that can lead to intense and sometimes chronic physical pain. Meanwhile, the trauma can also lead to emotional or mental distress. People often overlook pain and suffering because they don’t receive a bill for it, yet it’s as valid as economic damages.
- Damage. You should be compensated for repair or replacement costs for your bike, as well as any other personal items that were damaged, such as a phone or tablet.
- Wrongful death. If you lost a family member to a bicycle accident, you might be able to file a wrongful death suit to recover damages, including funeral or burial expenses, final medical bills related to the accident, loss of financial support, loss of companionship, consortium, and more.
If you’ve received an offer from an insurance company following your bicycle accident, we urge you to have it reviewed by a lawyer before you accept. Then, you can go ahead and sign if it’s a reasonable offer, but if it isn’t, we can assist you in negotiating a more equitable settlement.
What If An Uninsured or Underinsured Driver Hit You?
This is not an ideal situation, but you shouldn’t assume you’re out of options until you talk to an attorney. If the driver is uninsured and you have uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage on your own car, you may be able to use it for your bicycle accident injuries – even if your car was not involved in the accident.
Sometimes, the driver is insured, but their policy limit is lower than the amount of damages you have. For example, many states only require $20,000-30,000 in bodily injury liability car insurance.
If the driver has this minimum coverage, and you suffer severe injuries requiring time in intensive care, your medical bills could easily be six figures or more (even with good health insurance). This is what we call an underinsured driver.
Again, some uninsured/underinsured motorist policies may provide additional coverage in these circumstances, so we will always look at your own insurance coverage. If that isn’t an option or doesn’t cover all your damages, you can pursue a lawsuit against the driver personally.
The drawback is that if the driver doesn’t have sufficient assets we can seize, it may not be worth the effort of going through a lawsuit.
In a few cases, we may be able to file a claim against a third party who contributed to the collision – for example, if the driver was drunk, we may have grounds for a claim against a bar that overserved them prior to the accident. However, this is highly dependent upon local dram shop laws and is not always an option.
What if You Are the Victim of a Hit and Run?
If the police are unable to locate the driver, we may have our investigative team look into the accident. In some situations, we can find new evidence that allows the police to make an arrest after all.
If not, we’ll check your car insurance policy, which may also cover hit-and-run accidents on your bicycle.
How Can You Get Help From a Bicycle Accident Law Firm?
Recovering from a bicycle accident is often a difficult and painful process. We know it can be all-consuming, and you may be busy juggling doctor’s appointments, physical therapy, and your regular commitments.
However, we encourage you to seek legal assistance as soon as possible so we will have the best chance of helping you.
Please contact The Fakhouri Firm Accident and Injury Lawyers at (312) 999-9990 for a free consultation about your bicycle accident. We’ll review your case, answer your questions, and explain the options for pursuing compensation.
There is no obligation, and your consultation is completely confidential. If we do take your case, you won’t owe us anything until we win or settle it.
Founder and lead attorney Robert S. Fakhouri graduated from the Chicago-Kent College of Law and quickly became one of the youngest members admitted to the Illinois Bar. He then worked as a legal clerk and litigation associate before establishing The Fakhouri Firm.
Mr. Fakhouri is dedicated to helping injured people secure the resources they need to move on with their lives, and he has recovered millions in damages for his clients. When he isn’t negotiating with insurance companies or fighting for clients in court, you can find him explaining legal issues to his many followers on social media.