Virginia is known for being a bike-friendly state, but accidents do still happen. According to recent data from the Virginia Highway Safety Office, there are approximately 638 bicycle accidents per year.
Being hit by a car or truck when you’re on a bike with limited protection (a helmet is no match for the armor a vehicle provides) can result in catastrophic injuries. You’re probably wondering, then, if you can sue the driver of the car to recover financially. The short answer is yes, though you’ll often want to contact their insurance company first.
In this article, we’ll walk you through your options.
Start with the Driver’s Insurance Company
Going straight to court can be costly and potentially unnecessary. The first course of action is to recover from the driver’s insurance company. Your attorney can handle all the negotiations and submit all relevant information. Working with an attorney can be extremely helpful because while you’re focusing on healing and recovery, an attorney who’s experienced in dealing with insurance companies and negotiations will do all the heavy lifting.
In a settlement with the driver’s insurance, you will likely be eligible to receive compensation for the following:
– Medical bills (including ongoing treatment)
– Lost wages
– Replacement or repair of your bicycle
– Pain and suffering that occurred as a result of your accident
Though the bicyclist is inevitably at a disadvantage when colliding with a vehicle, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the driver was 100% at fault.
In many accidents, the parties may share the blame. For example, if a bicyclist does not reasonably observe a traffic law or makes a reckless maneuver, the rider may be deemed partially at fault. Because Virginia follows a standard of contributory negligence, if any fault is attributed to the bicyclist, it can completely bar their recovery.
This is where the experience of an attorney can be beneficial. While an insurance company may be quick to point out any potential error made by the bicyclist as negligence, an attorney can find reasons why the biker was not negligent.
For example, a bicyclist that leaves the bike lane and is struck by a car would appear negligent for violating a statute. However, let’s say that the bicyclist entered the street to avoid an immediate hazard. Here, the bicyclist had a tough choice between an immediate and potentially life-threatening collision or entering mainstream traffic and hoping that the other drivers on the road were paying attention.
Given the tough decision that the bicyclist finds themself in, one would have to weigh the reasonableness of entering traffic versus the action of facing a surefire collision. This fact-based analysis is what an attorney will argue with the insurance company or in court to make your case.
According to researchers, bicyclists who do break the law are usually motivated by saving lives, whereas motorists tend to cut legal corners out of pure convenience. If a bicyclist did violate a traffic law, the key would be determining the motivation and the available alternatives.
Contact Our Personal Injury Attorneys for Help
At Geoff McDonald and Associates, we offer a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney and plan your next steps. There can be a lot to consider, and many factors could complicate these cases, especially if the driver ran or was not insured. Contact us today to discuss your case.