Bicycle Accident Attorneys in Columbia, SC
Each year, nearly 1,000 people are killed in bicycle accidents in the U.S. and close to half a million are treated in emergency rooms due to bicycle-related injuries. While just 1% of road travel in this country is by bicycle, the chances of a cyclist being involved in a crash are much greater than that of a motor vehicle occupant.
If you have been injured or a loved one killed in a bicycle crash, the experienced bicycle accident lawyers at Peake & Fowler will fight to protect your rights and win you just compensation for injuries.
Bicycle Accident Liability
In some areas, there are bike paths and bicycle-specific areas on the roadway to keep cars and cyclists separated and bicyclists safe. Unfortunately, these aren’t available everywhere, and these bike paths must invariably cross a street or busy area. Accidents can and do occur when bicyclists are exposed to busy traffic and sometimes even in quiet residential neighborhoods.
In South Carolina, a bicycle is considered a vehicle, so must follow the same laws as a car. Therefore, if an accident occurs between a bicycle and a motor vehicle, the negligence will come down to who was at fault in the accident.
That being said, most courts will hold motor vehicle drivers to a higher standard of care simply because a bicyclist has more exposure. Courts also hold drivers to a higher standard of care in cases where children are involved, such as driving with more care around parks, schools, and residential neighborhoods.
Common Types of Bicycle Accidents
According to Bicycling magazine, bicycle accidents are most likely to happen from one of these scenarios:
- A motorist strikes a bicycle from behind.
- A driver fails to see a bicyclist and makes a left turn in front of the bike. This scenario accounts for nearly half of all bike accidents
- A traveling bicyclist is struck by an opening car door.
- A car pulls out of a parking lot or driveway directly into the path of a moving bicycle.
- A motorist passes a bicycle on the left and makes a right-hand turn into the bike’s path.
Many of these accidents are easily preventable with some extra vigilance and a healthy dose of common sense. When we’re busy or distracted, both cyclists and motorists can make mistakes that contribute to serious bicycle crashes.
Cyclist Negligence in Bicycle Accidents
Just because a cyclist is involved in an accident, that doesn’t mean that they didn’t contribute to its cause. In fact, cyclist negligence can be the sole cause of an accident in some cases. Examples of actions that might cause an accident include:
- Riding the wrong way on a one-way street
- turning in front of a moving vehicle
- running a red light or stop sign
If your negligence caused or contributed to the accident, this could affect your ability to recover damages for injuries. This is called comparative negligence. In South Carolina, you can still prevail in a case as long as your portion of the fault was less than the other parties. For example, if you were found to be 40% at fault in the bicycle accident, you might win your case, but your award for damages would be reduced by 40%.
Driver Negligence Cases
Drivers often make the mistake of overlooking bicycles on the road because they are smaller than other cars. If the driver does see the bike, they may not realize how fast the cyclist is traveling or assume that they have the right-of-way, which often isn’t the case. Negligence by a driver can take many forms. Some of the cases that we’ve seen include:
- Distracted driving
- Failure to stop
- Drifting into a bike lane
- Reckless driving
In a lawsuit that alleges a driver was negligent, plaintiffs must prove that the driver violated the basic duty of care owed to others on the roadway.
Roadway Defect Cases
Often, a bicycle crashes, and there is no motor vehicle in sight. A cyclist can sustain serious injury from accidents caused by road defects such as drop-offs, lack of a barrier, and no warning signs. In some cases, these are the fault of a municipality or a construction company. A reputable personal injury attorney can help you figure out who needs to be contacted in these sometimes time-sensitive matters.
Injuries Sustained in Bicycle Accidents
Unfortunately, basic physics dictates that when a bicycle and a car are involved in an accident, the cyclist will often receive the brunt of the injuries. Bicycle accident injuries can be severe and may include:
- Broken bones
- Head injury or traumatic brain injury
- spinal cord injuries
- Internal organ damage
What to do After a Bicycle Accident
If you’re involved in a bicycle crash, don’t try to handle things on your own. Bicycle accidents can be serious and, even if you don’t feel injured at first, you might find otherwise once the adrenaline and the shock of the impact wears off. We recommend that you follow these steps to protect your rights:
- Call the police immediately and ask for an accident report to be filed. You might feel like calling the police is overkill if you just have bumps and bruises, but you must report the accident. You have no idea how many injuries you have or how serious you might be, and if you skip calling the police now, you’ll have little chance of tracking down the driver later. Wait for the police to arrive. When they do, ensure that they write down your side of what happened in the accident report.
- Don’t leave the scene of the accident unless you need to be transported to the emergency room. It’s crucial to get checked out by a doctor as soon as possible after an accident. This shows that your injuries occurred as a result of the accident. If you wait a week, realize that you’re still in pain, and then go to the doctor, you may be out of luck. At that point, it is very easy for the other party’s insurance company to say that your injuries occurred after the accident.
- Get names and contact details of the driver and all witnesses. Before you leave the scene of the accident, make sure you have the driver’s contact and insurance information. If any witnesses stopped to provide assistance, get their contact information as well. This may be helpful to your attorney if you pursue a personal injury claim.
- Take photos of the scene with your cell phone
- Avoid making any statements about fault
- Avoid speaking to any insurance adjusters before you have consulted with an attorney
When a bicycle crash occurs, there will be a rush to assign fault by both the driver and their insurance company. Regardless of what you believe, avoid admitting fault or making statements to anyone before you have consulted with a knowledgeable attorney. An insurance company’s job is to minimize its liability exposure, and your attorney’s job is to protect your rights.
Contact Our Knowledgeable and Experienced Bicycle Accident Attorneys
Bicycle accidents can involve serious injuries and enormous liabilities. If you have been injured in a bicycle accident or a loved one killed, the award of damages will come down to whether or not the driver negligently caused or contributed to the accident. These cases can be complex and confusing. Let the bicycle accident attorneys at Peake & Fowler help you navigate the bicyclist vs. motorist laws in South Carolina, where our job is to support you and fight on your behalf. Contact our personal injury attorneys at 803-788-4370 to schedule a free consultation.
Peake & Fowler Law Firm, P.A., is located in Columbia, SC and serves clients in and around Newberry, Lexington, Sumter, Allendale, Orangeburg, St. Matthews, Bishopville, Florence, Blythewood, State Park, Eastover, Columbia, Elgin, Irmo, Hopkins, Ridgeway, Lugoff, Ballentine, West Columbia, Kershaw, Camden, Dusty Bend, and Richland County, Lexington County, Calhoun County, Orangeburg County, Sumter County, Kershaw County, Newberry County, Fairfield County, Lee County, Clarendon County and Florence County.