Would you believe that bicycle accidents account for 2% of all traffic deaths and 2% of all people injured in car accidents? Nearly 700 bicycle riders were killed in accidents in 2002 alone. Furthermore, an additional 48,000 were injured in the same year. In the past 80 years, nearly 47,000 bicycle riders have died in accidents. Those numbers are astonishing.
The majority of these accidents occur because a driver is distracted or drives carelessly when passing a cyclist. It doesn’t take an engineer to know that, most of the time, the cyclist takes the lion’s share of the damage. To make matters worse, it is usually difficult to determine the cause of the majority of bicycle accidents as the cyclist is in no condition to give a statement.
These accidents can cause severe and permanent injuries. To add insult to the injury, many such victims suffer financial loses, which can impact their families’ lives as well. The law imposes a duty to pay damages to the injured cyclist by the negligent party. These damages include: lost wages, medical expenses, pain and suffering, and others. If a cyclist is killed, the family may recover damages from the driver for their loss as well. This money will never bring a loved one back but it can, at least, ease the financial strain the survivors may subsequently endure.
Any investigation conducted by the driver’s insurer will be focused on limiting the injured cyclist’s financial recovery. The insurance companies have zero incentive to actually pay you for what you’ve lost. Saving money is the adjuster’s job and they’re usually well-trained in that role.
If the accident is severe and liability is clear, they usually offer settlement checks quickly and pressure you to sign a full release. This is a trap! You should never take the first offer. You should always talk with someone who has experience handling these adjusters. Remember, you do have time. The state of Georgia allows for a civil lawsuit to be filed up to two years after the accident. Settling too early can leave you holding the bag when you discover the full extent of your injuries.
To make matters worse, if your health insurance company covers your medical bills they will most likely place a lien on any settlement you receive. Worse yet, certain insurance plans have liens that become effective “by operation of law”. This means, it’s automatic. The health insurer need not file 1 piece of paper in order to “own” a cut of your settlement. Should the insurance company’s payments for your treatment be greater than your settlement check, you could end up handing over your ENTIRE check to the insurance company you pay premiums to every month. Just like with other medical liens, a skilled attorney can reduce the amount recoverable by your insurance company from any settlement.
Finally, should the negligent party’s insurance coverage be exhausted by your medical bills, you may still have 1 or more policies with Uninsured Motorist coverage which can “add-on” to his policy. This is true even if you weren’t behind the wheel of your car. Signing a general release or accepting less-than the policy limits of the offending party can eliminate your right to recover under these additional policies.
All accidents are complicated affairs and you should never assume you know enough to handle it all yourself. It’s okay to ask for help. It is best to contact a personal injury attorney who is experienced in bike accidents and understands insurance law. Put their knowledge and experience to work for you.
If you, or someone you know, have been hurt in a bicycle accident, you should consult with an experienced and knowledgeable attorney regarding your treatment and any possible settlements. Please visit my website www.carnellfirm.com or call me at 770-729-4809.