Posted on: 5 August 2015Share
With many U.S. cities making major strides to improve access for walkers, joggers, and bikers, you may be starting to take advantage of these efforts in your own area. Bicycling to work or social gatherings can help you get a healthy level of exercise while also reducing your fuel costs and the wear and tear on your vehicle. However, even if you're a careful bicyclist, accidents can happen -- and if you are involved in a matchup with even a small vehicle, you're likely to be the one suffering the brunt of the impact. When should (or can) you file a personal injury lawsuit against someone who caused you physical injury while you were bicycling? What if you're injured after a fall from your bike due to a preventable hazard? Read on to learn more about the various avenues available to you after you've been injured.
What are your options if you're struck by a motorist while riding your bike?
If the driver who hit you was insured, it's likely that his or her auto insurance policy will help cover your medical expenses and the replacement of your bicycle and other equipment. Auto insurance won't help compensate you for lost wages, emotional suffering (for example, post-traumatic stress disorder triggered by your accident) or other incidentals related to your accident.
However, some drivers let their auto insurance policies lapse, while others may purchase only the minimum level of coverage mandated by your state, leaving them unable to fully cover the financial cost of your accident. In either situation, you could find yourself paying out of pocket for medical bills or facing collection notices after you've spent an extended period of time without a regular paycheck. If the person who struck you didn't have any insurance, you may want to check whether your own uninsured motorist coverage could help cover some of your bills. Your insurance company may even fight on your behalf to collect these funds from the person at fault (through a process called subrogation).
But in most cases, your best option to recover the money to which you're entitled is to file a personal injury lawsuit against the person who hit you. Not only will you be able to receive a judgment for your medical expenses and physical damage to your bicycle, you can also recover lost wages and other costs associated with the accident. If the other driver was engaging in reckless or negligent behavior that had the potential to cause even greater harm, you could also be awarded punitive damages designed to prevent the defendant from engaging in similar behavior in the future.
Can you file a personal injury lawsuit against your city, county, or state if you're injured due to uneven pavement or another hazard?
Some bicycling injuries don't involve another motorist, but instead a common hazard -- a pot hole, broken piece of sidewalk, or oil slick. While each bicyclist is responsible for monitoring road conditions and doing all within his or her power to avoid potential dangers, if you suffer an injury from an environmental cause that the governing jurisdiction knew or should have known was a problem (like a pot hole that has been reported but not repaired), you may be able to recover your costs and expenses from the government.
When you're filing a lawsuit against your city, county, or other jurisdiction, you'll need to follow some specific procedures. Most areas will require you to first submit a notice of claim through an administrative agency -- this puts the jurisdiction on notice that a lawsuit is coming. If you fail to abide by these procedures before filing your lawsuit, your case will be dismissed, and you may not always be permitted to refile. Proving negligence in these situations can be a difficult task, so you'll want to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney to ensure that your case is solid before proceeding.