Florida Cycling Accidents by the Numbers
Bicycle Crash Injuries in Florida
Bicycle Crash Injuries in South Florida
Bicycle Crash Fatalities in Florida
Perfect Weather, Imperfect Safety Record
With sunny skies and hundreds of miles of trails winding through lush scenery, it’s almost like Florida was made for bicyclists. In addition to the recreational riders, Florida’s relatively flat landscape also makes bicycling attractive to urban commuters as a day-to-day form of transportation.
Unfortunately, as the number of riders has increased so has the number and percentage of bicycle crashes and fatalities. In fact, Florida is one of the most dangerous states for cyclists, outpacing the national average for cyclist fatalities by nearly 60%. For example, according to 2018 data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Florida accounted for 161, or roughly 19%, of the nation’s 857 bicycle crash fatalities.
Moreover, as with pedestrian accidents, because a 4,000-pound vehicle dwarfs even the largest cyclist, any injury to the biker is likely to be a serious one, requiring immediate medical attention and possibly hospitalization. 2010 CDC data estimates that the average hospitalization for bicycle crash-related injuries costs $52,806. Additionally, victims were projected to have $135,000 in work losses.
With over 6,000 bicycle crash injuries happening in Florida every year (nearly 30% of which occur in the Palm Beach, Broward, and Miami-Dade area!), it’s critical that cyclists know their rights, protect themselves when they’re riding, and contact a lawyer to evaluate the case if they are in a bicycle accident.
Florida Bicycle Laws: Share the Road!
Just like cars and trucks, Florida has statutes specifically regulating bicycles and their use. According to Florida Statutes §316.2065, your bicycle is legally defined as a vehicle, and as such you must follow all the traffic laws, signs, and controls on public roads. Above all, remember: Cyclists have the same privileges, rights, and responsibilities as other drivers.
Other key rules for bicyclists include:
- Do not ride a bicycle under the influence of alcohol or drugs (yes, you can get a DUI on a bike!).
- Do not text while biking. Not only is it unsafe, Florida’s new texting and driving law may extend to bicyclists.
- Do not wear headphones or ear buds. They will reduce your ability to hear the surrounding traffic.
- Always use directional hand signals to show other drivers that you are about to turn.
- If you are not traveling at the speed of other traffic, you must use the bike lane, and if no bike lane is available, you must stay on the right-most side of the road.
- You may use the full lane when making a left turn, passing, avoiding hazards, or when a lane is too narrow for you and a car to share it safely.
- You may not ride more than two cyclists side-by-side; you must ride single file if you and the other riders are impeding traffic.
- If you are riding on a sidewalk or crosswalk, you have all the rights and duties of a pedestrian. However, you must yield the right-of-way to pedestrians.
- At night you must have a white light visible from 500 feet on the front of your bicycle and a red reflector and a red light visible from 600 feet on the rear. Flashing lights are allowed.
- All bicyclists and passengers under the age of 16 are required to wear helmets. Of course, helmets are always encouraged as a minimum safety measure.
Furthermore, bike riders are afforded certain perks to promote their safety. For example, drivers must give bicyclists a minimum of three feet of clearance when driving alongside or passing them. Drivers are also required to:
- Yield to any bicyclist in the bike lane when turning and to make a turn behind the cyclist.
- Avoid using high-beam headlights when a bicyclist is approaching.
- Check for bicyclists who may be approaching from behind before opening a car door.
Florida cyclists should be sure that they know these rules of the road and that they follow them. Not only will you be safer for doing so, but should you unfortunately be in a bicycle accident, if you’ve obeyed the rules, your bicycle accident lawyer will be able to argue that you are not liable for the accident.
Misconceptions about Cycling Accidents
Despite these laws, cyclists face daily discrimination from drivers in Florida which puts their safety at risk. Whether it’s the aggressive driver who’s zigging and zagging, the distracted driver who’s trying to send off a text message, the speeder who needs to beat the yellow light, or the angry driver who’s explicitly ranting that bikers belong on the sidewalk, one thing unites all of them: a disdain for bicyclists.
One reason for this widely held disregard may be the common misbelief that cyclists do not obey traffic laws and that most bicycle crashes in Florida are caused by the negligence of the riders. However, the data show the exact opposite: that driver negligence and inattention cause most bicycle crashes. Here are some other facts about bicycles accidents that provide a clearer picture of when, where, why, and how accidents happen (Source: NHTSA 2018 Traffic Safety Facts).
As is probably expected, the majority (79%) of bicycle accident fatalities occur in denser urban areas. However, two-way streets, three-lane roads, and narrow shoulders were much more dangerous than intersections. Only 29% of bicycle accident fatalities occurred at intersections, while 71% of fatalities happened at locations that were not intersections.
One might assume that many more bike accident fatalities would occur at night than during the day. Yet the rates are roughly the same: 50% of cycling accident fatalities happened during the dark and 46% happened during daylight hours.
The average age of bicyclists killed in crashes has risen from 41 in 2009 to 47 in 2018, with the largest number of fatalities coming from the 55–59 age group. Men make up a disproportionate number (86%) of those killed and injured in bicycle accidents across all age groups. The population-based fatality rate was 7 times higher for males than for females, and the injury rate was 5 times higher.
Light trucks (including SUVs, pickups, and vans) were the most common vehicles involved in fatal bicycle crashes (45%). Passenger cars also accounted for a high number of fatal accidents (37%). Both light trucks and passenger cars overwhelmingly struck the bicyclists with the front of the vehicle.
Most Common Bicycle Accident Injuries
As with pedestrian accidents or commercial truck accidents, because there is a fundamental mismatch between the two individuals involved in a bicycle crash, the outcome is going to be detrimental to the biker.
Skin Abrasions, Scrapes, and Cuts
The best a cyclist can hope for is scrapes and cuts from the bicycle accident. These injuries might be caused by the impact with the vehicle itself or, more likely, by contact with the pavement or road after the initial impact. Deep abrasions and lacerations may need skin grafts or other treatments to heal properly.
Bone Fractures and Joint Dislocations
Depending on the speed of the bicycle crash, the initial impact could be enough to crack or fracture bones in a bike rider’s legs, hip, or pelvis. Shoulders and other joints could dislocate upon impact with the ground. Compound fractures can require surgery and take months to heal.
Internal Organ Damage
Even if there isn’t clear outward trauma, your internal organs may have suffered severe damage during the bicycle accident, and you may have internal bleeding. These injuries can be life-threatening if not addressed immediately. It’s critical to get a full medical exam after a bicycle crash to assess these injuries.
Concussions and Traumatic Brain Injuries
54% of bicyclists killed in 2017 were not wearing helmets. Not wearing a helmet increases a rider’s risk of dying in a bicycle crash. But those who survive are also much more likely to suffer brain trauma, which is very serious and can cause long-term damage such as chronic headaches, depression, behavioral changes, and seizures.
All of these injuries can be serious, require long hospitalizations, and cost tens of thousands of dollars to treat. If you’ve been the victim of a bicycle accident here in South Florida, you should seek the help of an experienced bicycle accident lawyer who can evaluate your case and explain your legal options. Going it alone can jeopardize your case and reduce the amount of damages you can recover.
Recovering Damages from a Bicycle Accident
Remember, bicycles are considered vehicles by Florida law. This means that if you are hurt in an accident due to the negligence of another driver, you have the right to sue the at-fault driver for economic (“special”) and non-economic (“general”) damages. Punitive damages could also be on the table in extreme cases, but you should talk to a lawyer to discuss that option.
Economic or Special Damages
Economic damages are your compensation for the out-of-pocket expenses related to the injuries you sustained in the bicycle accident. They may include:
Emergency room visits, hospitalizations, surgeries, physical therapy, prescription medications, and assistive devices (e.g. wheelchairs) can all be necessary to help you recover from a serious bicycle accident. As long as you have seen a doctor within the required 14-day window, the medical expenses you incur (and are likely to incur in the future) as a result of a bike crash are recoverable damages—including mileage to and from appointments!
There are 80.4 million hourly workers in the U.S. Simply being in a bicycle accident and receiving medical treatment can result in fewer working hours and lost wages. Certain injuries can prevent these employees from returning to work while they are recovering. In this case, future lost wages may also be recoverable.
Any personal property damaged or destroyed in the bike accident, including your bicycle and personal items (e.g. cell phone, laptop), can be claimed and recovered.
If you or someone you love has died in a bicycle crash, the funeral expenses may be covered. However, you would be bringing a wrongful death lawsuit rather than a personal injury lawsuit.
Non-Economic or General Damages
Non-economic damages are a fuzzy category that are hard to quantify. They often include future harms or injuries that lack specific dollar values. You and your lawyer will assign values to these items by their impact on your quality of life.
Loss of Capacity of Earn
Some bicycle accident injuries may result in a long-term absence from work or even a permanent inability to work or to return to a current job. This is known as a loss of “capacity to earn,” and bicycle accident victims can be compensated for this loss of future earnings.
Loss of Consortium
Consortium is Latin for “partnership” or “close connection.” These damages are recoverable when an injured cyclist can no longer provide the same love, affection, companionship, parenting, care, or sexual relationship due to their injuries. Spouses and close family members of bicycle accident victims can be compensated for the loss of consortium.
Pain and Suffering
Florida law allows bike accident victims to recover damages for “pain, suffering, mental anguish, and inconvenience,” but only if the victim has been permanently injured. Florida also follows the “impact rule,” which means that even though severe bicycle accidents can be emotionally traumatizing, emotional damages (generally) can’t be recovered unless emotional distress is proven to be a direct result of physical injuries.
Barriers to Recovering Damages
Florida law also throws up two specific roadblocks for bicycle accident victims which will require a skilled bicycle accident lawyer to overcome.
First, Florida’s no-fault PIP insurance statute is still in effect for bicycle accidents. So, if you have a separate car insurance policy with the mandatory $10,000 Personal Injury Protection (PIP) and Property Damage Liability (PDL) minimums, you are still required to go to your insurance policy first. Victims that do not own cars or car insurance policies can still be covered under the at-fault driver’s policy.
Second, Florida is a “comparative fault” state, meaning that both parties in an accident essentially share fault. A determination is then made of how much fault each party bears in causing the accident compared to the other party.
In your bicycle accident case, the defense will try to shift as much liability onto you as possible—e.g. by claiming you weren’t obeying traffic laws, you were distracted, etc.—and for every ounce of liability they put onto you, the other driver is an ounce of liability lighter.
Pro Tip: Although we hear this line all the time, Florida law specific states that the failure to wear a bicycle helmet cannot be considered evidence of negligence or contributory negligence (Florida Statutes §316.2065(18)). We still recommend that everyone wear a helmet when riding a bike, even if, legally speaking, it isn’t negligent!
Because the fault assignments directly determine the amount of damages you can recover, it’s absolutely critical that you contact a qualified bicycle accident lawyer as soon as possible to discuss your case and develop a plan of action.
Why You Should Hire a Bicycle Accident Lawyer
If you are here, chances are that you or someone you know has been injured in a bicycle accident. We are truly sorry that you are going through this, and we sincerely hope that you recover from your injuries and that you can return to your normal life as soon as possible.
We also want to help you make smart decisions about your case so you can choose the right bicycle injury lawyer and get on the path to full recovery—both physically and financially. The effects of a bicycle accident can be devastating, and without a dedicated personal injury lawyer on their side, victims often don’t recover the full amount of damages to which they are entitled. When thinking about hiring a lawyer for your bicycle accident, keep a few points in mind:
Insurance companies see it as their job to avoid paying you
They have teams of highly trained adjusters and lawyers—and very deep pockets—all focused on keeping your claim as small as possible. You need someone in your corner, who also has experience and training, to take on the insurance company.
The insurance company’s bag of tricks is ineffective on a legal expert
By hiring a personal injury attorney, you force the insurance company to deal with an experienced legal professional who won’t be coerced or fooled into taking a low-ball offer. You will significantly increase your chances of recovering just compensation and of achieving a favorable resolution to your case.
Your peace of mind is critical for recovery
You or someone you love has been injured and worrying about filing deadlines and insurance claims is only going to make your physical recovery take longer. Having a personal injury attorney represent you means that you aren’t filing motions, taking statements, or conducting depositions. You can focus on recovering from your injuries.
If you have suffered an injury in a bicycle accident here in South Florida, you need to seek out an experienced Florida accident and injury attorney who will guide you through the claims process. The insurance company will have attorneys and insurance adjusters on their side to protect their interests—so should you.
The personal injury lawyers here at Personal Injury & Accident Law Center would love to speak to you about your case and tell you how we can help you get on the path to recovery. Call us today at (561)372-3800 to schedule a free case evaluation or fill out the confidential form below and a team member will contact you soon.
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