Bicycle Injury: Frequently Asked Questions
Does insurance cover me if I was hit by a car while I was riding my bicycle?
The short answer is yes. If you were out riding your bicycle and the driver of a car wrongfully hit you, then that driver is responsible and should compensate you for your injuries. That driver’s car insurance should pay you for your damages. “Damages” includes both the physical damage to your bicycle and the injuries to your body. Insurance policies cover both property damage and bodily injury.
What do I do if the driver who hit me didn’t stop?
If you were hit by a car and the driver of that car didn’t stop, you still have a case. You can still recover for your damages from your insurance company through your own auto insurance called “uninsured motorist insurance coverage.” Uninsured motorist coverage covers you if you suffer an injury but the other driver either doesn’t have enough insurance to cover the full cost of your injury, or the other driver left before you gathered his information and you can’t find him or her.
Many people aren’t sure what uninsured motorist insurance is. In Georgia, every driver has to have at least $25,000 of liability insurance coverage, which is different. Uninsured motorist insurance (commonly called “UM”) is optional. However, many people have UM insurance and don’t even know they have it. UM insurance is provided through your insurance company. UM insurance is also oftentimes provided through the insurance company of a person who lives with you and is related to you. You can figure out the amount of UM insurance you have by looking at your insurance policy’s “declarations page.”
If the driver of the car that hit me was texting or driving drunk, are punitive damages available?
If the driver of the car was texting or engaging in some other illegal activity like driving under the influence of alcohol, then in addition to the compensation you’d receive for your injuries, the jury may impose punitive damages. Punitive damages go above the compensation necessary to compensate the bicyclist for his or her injuries. The purpose of punitive damages is to send a message to the driver and to the community that engaging in illegal activities will not be tolerated. Punitive damages punish the driver and serve as a deterrent to that driver and other drivers.
Are bicycles allowed on sidewalks?
Generally speaking, no. Bicycle riders are entitled to the same rights and are afforded the same protections that regular car drivers have. For example, bicycle riders are allowed to, and in fact should, ride on the roads. Often motor vehicle drivers become frustrated when they pull up behind a group of cyclists, but the law says that bicycle riders cannot ride on sidewalks. O.C.G.A. § 40-6-144.
What are some other bicycle-related laws that cyclists should know?
Bicycle riders must follow the same rules that other motorists must follow. O.C.G.A. § 40-6-290. That means, for example, that a bicycle rider must stop at a stop sign and stop at a red traffic light. Cyclists should stay on the right side of the roadway except in certain situations like when turning left or if the lane is too narrow to share safely with a car. O.C.G.A. § 40-6-294.
If you have a baby and want to take your baby out with you for a ride, make sure you know this next rule. O.C.G.A. § 40-6-292(c) says that you cannot transport a child under the age of one on a bicycle unless the child is in a bicycle trailer or infant sling, the child is seated in the trailer or carried in the sling according to the trailer’s or sling’s manufacturer’s instructions. Further, the trailer must be properly connected to the bicycle according to the trailer’s manufacturer’s instructions, or the sling must be properly worn by the cyclist according to the sling’s manufacturer’s instructions.
If you enjoy riding at nighttime, make sure your bicycle has the right safety lights. Your bicycle must have a light on the front that emits a white light visible from at least 300 feet as well as a light on the back that emits a red light visible from at least 300 feet to the rear. However, there is an exception to this rule: if a bicycle has a red reflector on the rear that is approved by the Department of Public Safety, then you are not required to have a rear light. O.C.G.A. § 40-6-296(a).
There are other laws that govern bicyclists. A good lawyer will know which laws apply and when to apply them.
How much space must a car driver give a bicycle rider?
The driver of a car must keep a “safe distance” between his car and your bicycle. “Safe distance” means at least three feet. O.C.G.A. § 40-6-56. The law also says “when feasible, the operator of a motor vehicle, when overtaking and passing a bicycle that is proceeding in the same direction on the roadway, shall leave a safe distance between such vehicle and the bicycle and shall maintain such clearance until safely past the overtaken bicycle.”
Keeping a safe distance is important. One obvious reason for motor vehicle drivers to keep a safe distance between their vehicles and bicycles ahead of them is that drivers should make sure they have enough time to react and stop if traffic comes to a stop.
Do I need to speak to the insurance company after a bicycle accident?
You’re not required to. You do not have to speak with the other driver’s insurance company, and you certainly don’t need to give a recorded statement. There is no law that says you must speak with an adjuster of an insurance company.
As far as whether you should speak with your insurance company after a bicycle accident, the answer is less absolute. Many insurance policies have clauses that say if you don’t notify your own insurance company relatively quickly after an accident, then your insurance company won’t have to compensate you. If you are uncertain whether you’re going to hire a lawyer, you may want to consider calling your insurance company and notifying them of the accident but be careful when you do. If you do decide to hire lawyer early on, then let your lawyer handle calling your insurance company.
How much time do I have to file a claim after a bicycle accident?
Generally, the statute of limitations in Georgia for personal injury cases is two years from the date of the accident. This period of time, however, can sometimes be shorter or longer. If you were hurt because the road was in bad shape, say for example there was a pothole, then you may have a case against Georgia’s Department of Transportation. In cases where you may have a claim against the city, county or state, the deadline for you to bring your claim may be shorter than two years and you may need to send an ante litem notice. The time deadline could be as short as a year or six months.
Sometimes depending on what happened to cause the crash, the time you have to bring your case could be longer. For instance, if a criminal prosecution was brought or could have been brought against the at-fault driver, the statute of limitations may be paused for the duration of that prosecution, up to six years. O.C.G.A. § 9-3-99.
As a general rule, while you can wait to consult with a lawyer, it’s a good idea to consult with a lawyer early on because in addition to notifying the insurance companies on your behalf, and determining whether an ante litem notice may be necessary, a lawyer will more likely be able to gather evidence while the evidence is still more readily available.
How much does it cost to hire a bicycle accident lawyer?
It costs no money up front to work with a lawyer. The fee you pay a bicycle accident lawyer is a percentage of your winnings. Your lawyer will only get paid once he or she wins your case either through a settlement or a verdict. This sort of fee arrangement is called a contingency fee arrangement. Typically, a lawyer gets paid one-third to 45% of the total amount of money that is won.