If you’re among the roughly 25 million residents and visitors who ride bikes in Florida each year, if you love riding your bike, find it a great way to exercise, or if you depend on your bike to get around you’re in the wrong place. Although Florida’s weather is conducive to year-round cycling, which should make it a cyclist haven, last year, in 2014, Florida led the nation in the number of bicycle fatalities, with 120 deaths. Six bicycle riders died in 574 crashes in Pinellas County in 2014; in Hillsborough, 8 deaths occurred in 532 crashes that year. On top of that, countless other cyclists suffered serious injuries that caused them to incur medical bills, time off of work, pain, and suffering. Fortunately, with the right lawyer, you may be able to recover money for your injuries in civil legal action with the assistance of a good personal injury lawyer.
If you or a family member has been in a Florida bicycle accident, you’ve come to the right place for comprehensive information about making a legal claim for a Florida bicycle accident injury or wrongful death, so keep reading!
Few of Florida’s roads were designed with safe cycling in mind. Even those roads with bike lines leave a great deal to be desires in terms of bicycle safety, because many drivers disregard the lanes and infringe on them when it suits them. And bike lanes often end abruptly, forcing cyclists into regular traffic lanes with a minimum of warning. While Florida’s infrastructure could certainly stand improving, the responsibility for preventing bike accidents ultimately lies with the cyclists themselves, who must obey the same traffic laws as cars, and with the drivers, who have a responsibility for the safety of others with whom they share the road. It goes without saying that drivers must be alert to their surroundings and aware of others on the road—other drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists, and drive accordingly. For example, Florida law requires that when passing a bicycle, the driver of a car or truck must come no closer to the bike than three feet.
Drivers need to get over the mistaken belief that roads are for them alone. Bicycles have as much right to be using the roads as cars, trucks, and motorcycles. This may not be to the liking of impatient drivers who are annoyed at having to slow down to accommodate bikes in their lane, but the legal right to use the road is a shared one, and when it comes to cars and bikes, mutual respect is required.
When a crash involving a bike and a car occurs, it is the cyclist, lacking the protective shell and airbag system of a car, who suffers the most. Car v. bicycle accidents are often fatal. And in too many of the non-fatal accidents, the injuries are catastrophic, robbing the victim who survives of any kind of quality of life, either temporarily or permanently.
These are some of the types of injuries that cyclists often suffer when hit by a motorized vehicle:
If you or a member of your family suffered serious injuries in a Florida bicycle accident that was caused by a driver of a car or truck, or by any other party, as a result of their poor driving or other negligent act or omission, the law allows you to make a claim to recover money as compensation for your damages—damages to both your financial situation and to your overall quality of life. You will want to talk to a Florida personal injury attorney to learn about your rights and legal options following a serious bicycle accident.
If you’ve been injured in West Central Florida, including Tampa, St. Pete, or any other city in Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties, a top choice in a bicycle accident attorney is Stephen Maltezos. Steve has offices in both Tampa and St. Petersburg for your convenience, and if your injuries are so severe that you can’t make it to one of his offices, Steve will come to you, whether at the hospital or in your home.
Florida is a no-fault state in which all drivers are required to no-fault insurance law carry a type of insurance called personal injury protection (PIP). PIP pays for injuries in an accident caused by the insured car without the necessity of proving fault. If you own a car and are injured while riding your bicycle, you can get your initial medical bills and part of your lost earnings paid by filing a claim with your own no-fault insurance carrier. If you don’t own a car and do not have your own no-fault coverage, if you live in a household and a family member in the home owns a car that is covered, their insurance may apply. If you do not have access to any no-fault coverage, the PIP insurance of the car that hit you will generally cover part of the costs of your bike accident injuries.
Florida’s no-fault insurance pays a part of your medical expenses and lost earnings, but only up to $10,000. When you’ve been seriously injured, this won’t go very far and will seldom cover all of your treatment costs and lost earnings. And it does not compensate you at all for your pain, suffering, and disability—the things that really mess up your life!
If you haven’t yet applied for PIP insurance coverage, talk to your lawyer about how to get it. (Of course, you will want to hire a lawyer without delay!) You need to begin medical treatment immediately after your accident, so it is important that you apply for PIP benefits right away. Florida has instituted some pretty tough laws on qualifying for this coverage, so make sure you do exactly as your lawyer says. For example, you must visit a medical doctor or certified nurse practitioner within 72 hours of the accident, or you could lose your right to benefits. And you need to know that a chiropractor does not count. You can only have chiropractic paid for if it specifically recommended by your medical physician, so if you think seeing a chiropractor will help, ask your medical doctor for a referral.
Be sure to let your doctor know that you’ve been in a bicycle accident. Point out any and all injuries, even if they don’t seem serious. Sometimes injuries that seem minor at first turn out to be very serious and painful within hours, days, or weeks.
Be very thorough when describing your injuries, but also be very honest. Pretending to have injuries you don’t have can backfire and cause you to lose credibility in settlement negotiations or a jury trial. Follow your doctor’s instructions meticulously. Fill all prescriptions and keep all appointments. Don’t engage in any activities your doctor has told you to avoid. If your doctor says not lift anything weighing over 10 pounds, don’t carry a 50 pound bag of dog food in from the car. Assume you will be under surveillance by the insurance company. They will likely monitor your activities around your home, at work (if you are working), at recreational activities, and on your Facebook page.
The $10,000 limit on no-fault benefits will probably not be anywhere near enough to cover the treatment you’ll need for a very serious injury. For financial damages beyond this amount and for pain, suffering, and other damages to your quality of life, you will need to make a claim against the insurer of the car that caused your accident.
Your lawyer will handle all negotiations with the insurer. If a fair settlement offer is made, you may never have to go to court. If the insurance company balks or lowballs, a trial may be necessary. There are some personal injury lawyers out there who never see the inside of a courtroom. Make sure that the lawyer you chose is not afraid or reluctant to try a case to a jury. Even though many cases are settled out of court, it is essential that you have a lawyer who is skilled at trial work and willing and able to present a well-prepared and well-argued case to a jury—a lawyer like Stephen Maltezos with a record of winning at trial.
When you’ve exhausted the no-fault benefits, you may use your private or public insurance (Medicaid or Medicare) to pay for treatment; or the doctor may treat you without charging you for now but place a lien on your settlement. Talk to your lawyer about your best option. It is usually to your advantage to use your insurance, even though you will need to reimburse the insurer from your recovery, because insurance companies negotiate lower rates with physicians and you will be left with more money than if you have to pay off a lien at the doctor’s full charges.
Typically, the defendant’s insurance company will try to place the blame for your injury on you in order to avoid paying your claim. As a cyclist, you are bound by the same laws that apply to drivers of motor vehicles, so if you violated a traffic law, it could affect your recovery. But even if you were partially at fault, you may be able to recover money. Florida is a comparative negligence state. That means that if you contributed to the accident, you can still win compensation, but the amount you receive could be reduced by the percentage of your fault.
The adjuster for the driver’s insurance company will undoubtedly call or visit you, attempting to persuade you to negotiate a settlement without a lawyer, provide a recorded statement, and sign medical authorizations or other paperwork. Never make this mistake! Avoid the insurance adjuster or you could compromise your case. Refer the adjuster to your lawyer and only provide information or paperwork if your lawyer instructs you to do so. Remember, the adjuster works for the insurance company; the company’s interests are the adjuster’s interests, and the company is interested in saving money by paying you as little as possible—or nothing at all. Studies have shown that with good legal representation, accident victims typically walk away with substantially more money than those who attempt to negotiate a settlement directly with the insurer.
With the help of your attorney, you will need to prove that the driver was the one who caused your accident through negligence, and that you suffered actual damages as a result. You will also need to prove your damages. Financial damages are proven by producing bills, receipts, and employment records. Proving your non-economic or quality-of-life damages is a bit trickier. These are the damages that negatively impact your enjoyment of life: pain, suffering, inability to do the things you enjoy, mental anguish, damage to personal relationships, etc. These are different for different people and largely depend on your life before you were injured. What were the things that were important to you then that you can no longer do because of your injury? How has the overall quality of your life changed for the worse?
A fair settlement or verdict will include both kinds of damages, and your lawyer will fight to see that you are adequately compensated for all of your losses.
Don’t accept your suffering because of someone else’s aggressive, impatient, or distracted driving without a fight. Demand justice as the law allows. Call the offices of attorney Stephen Maltezos to arrange for a free consultation to learn if you are eligible to recover money for your injuries. Steve is hardworking, aggressive, and highly skilled in the courtroom, and will provide you with the quality legal advocacy that will give you the best chance at a fair recovery of money to compensate you for all that you’ve lost. Legal time restrictions apply, so protect your rights by calling Maltezos Law today.