What You Should Know About Car-Bicycle Accidents
January 28, 2021 | Personal Injury
Although vehicle traffic dropped dramatically in 2020, largely because of spring lockdowns and the ensuing rise of WFH (work from home) options, the number of bicycle fatalities increased dramatically.
Bicycle traffic increased in most parts of the country, as people tried to avoid overcrowded New York subways and busses.
And, as the statistics bear out, many drivers simply do not keep a sharp lookout for bicyclists.
Ironically, the prevalence of bicycle helmets might have something to do with the increase as well.
Subconsciously, when some motorists see helmeted bicycle riders, the motorists take more risks, because they assume the riders are better protected.
Yet although helmets often protect people from injuries related to accidental falls, they do little good in a high-speed collision.
Since riders are largely unprotected in these crashes, they normally sustain serious or fatal injuries.
As a result, a New York personal injury attorney can normally obtain substantial compensation for these victims.
This compensation usually includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.
Generally, these incidents are not “accidents.” Negligence, or a lack of care, is usually an issue. Ordinary negligence and negligence per se are the most common legal theories.
Most drivers have a duty of reasonable care. They must obey the rules of the road, drive defensively, and avoid accidents when possible.
Yet as far as many drivers are concerned, bicyclists do not deserve an equal share of the road, even though bicycles are also vehicles in New York.
Furthermore, it’s very difficult for some drivers to see some bicyclists.
That’s especially true in New York. Many New Yorkers drive large pickup trucks and SUVs which are difficult for other drivers to see around.
If drivers breach their duty of reasonable care and cause a crash, they could be legally responsible for damages. Common evidence in these cases is outlined below.
If drivers violate safety laws, such as making an illegal turn or lane change, legal responsibility is easier to establish, because of the negligence per se rule.
Under this doctrine, tortfeasors negligent drivers) who violate safety laws and cause wrecks could be legally responsible for damages as a matter of law.
As mentioned, victim/plaintiffs have the burden of proof in both ordinary negligence and negligence per se claims.
They must establish a lack of care by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not).
Frequently, the police accident report is a key bit of evidence in negligence claims. But in bicycle crashes, these reports are often incomplete or inaccurate. Physical evidence is sometimes an issue.
For example, most bicycles are so mangled in these wrecks that it’s impossible to determine things like impact angle. As a result, emergency responders, who are not accident reconstruction professionals, often fail to properly analyze these wrecks.
Furthermore, if the victim was seriously injured or killed, the police report’s narrative section obviously only contains one side of the story.
When attorneys need additional evidence, they often examine a vehicle’s Event Data Recorder.
Much like a commercial airplane’s black box flight recorder, an EDR measures and records vehicle information like:
- Steering angle,
- Brake application,
- Vehicle speed, and
- Engine RPM.
Electronic evidence is almost unassailable in court.
Eyewitnesses could be biased or mistaken. But computers, assuming they are working correctly, are almost never wrong.
Attorneys must act quickly to preserve this critical evidence.
Most insurance companies almost immediately destroy wrecked vehicles.
If that happens, the EDR is gone forever. So, lawyers normally send spoliation letters to insurance companies. These letters instantly create a legal duty to preserve any potential evidence in the case, including the vehicle itself.
Insurance Company Defenses
Many reliable defenses, like lack of evidence, are normally not an issue, if attorneys diligently collect evidence. Comparative fault is a different story.
This legal doctrine shifts blame for the accident from the tortfeasor to the victim.
For example, the insurance company might admit that the driver failed to yield the right-of-way but claim the victim’s erratic riding substantially caused the crash.
In these situations, jurors must divide fault on a percentage basis.
Since New York is a pure comparative fault state, even if the victim is 99 percent responsible for the wreck, the tortfeasor is still liable for a proportional measure of damages.
Bicycle wrecks often cause serious injuries. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in New York, contact Napoli Shkolnik PLLC.
We do not charge upfront legal fees and we do not collect fee unless we win your case.
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