Atlanta Bicycle Accident Lawyer
Bicycle accidents can cause some of the most serious injuries, resulting in over 19,000 serious injuries in the state of Georgia during 2015, according to the Georgia Governor’s Office of Highway Safety. Sadly, many bicyclists are also fatally injured in the state – over 1,400 Atlanta and Georgia residents die each year in bicycle accidents.
When these accidents are due to the reckless or negligent behavior of another person, such as a car or bus driver, Atlanta law provides an opportunity for those victims to seek compensation for their injuries. An Atlanta bicycle accident lawyer can answer any questions you have about your injuries and the law surrounding bicycle accidents. Speak with an experienced Atlanta bicycle accident lawyer that could pursue a positive outcome for you.
When Are Bicycle Accidents Caused by Negligence?
In simplest terms, a person who injures a bicyclist because they were behaving in a negligent manner may be responsible for the damages caused by the bicycle accident. Negligence is a legal term that means the driver’s behavior was below the standard of how a reasonably prudent person would have acted in similar circumstances. Most commonly, bicyclists suffer injuries from car, bus, or truck drivers. There are several common scenarios that lead to these accidents. A skilled cycling accident attorney in Atlanta could examine the facts of a person’s case to determine whether a driver’s negligence caused the accident.
Impairment or Intoxication by Drugs or Alcohol
Even prescription drugs can impair a driver to the point that they are negligent when driving. Under Section 40-6-391 of the Georgia Code, a driver is impaired if a drug makes them less safe to drive. That does not necessarily mean their blood alcohol content exceeded the state maximum (.08 for drivers over 21). If the driver was less safe because of drug or alcohol influence, the driver may be driving under the influence.
Failure to Follow the Traffic Laws
Under Section 40-6-291 of the Georgia Code, bicyclists are, for the most part, treated as vehicles under the laws applicable to Atlanta. This means that a driver must keep a safe distance behind the bicyclists and may not pass a bicyclist in the same lane. When the driver of a car, bus, or truck violates causes a bicycle accident by violating these laws then they may be negligent, and therefore, liable for the damages caused by their careless and illegal behavior.
In Georgia, a driver is distracted when their full attention is not focused on the road. Common distractions include talking on the cell phone while driving, texting while driving, inputting an address into a navigation system, or even changing the radio if it requires the driver to move their eyes off the road.
Even if the behavior that distracted the driver is not illegal under Atlanta laws, it can still fall below the standard of a reasonably prudent person and when it does, the driver could be liable for the damages caused in a bicycle accident.
Potential Bicycling Dangers
Bicycles afford their riders the same protections as pedestrians, even when their riding behavior is more aligned with that of a motor vehicle. In many respects, the roads on which bicyclists ride are similar to the sidewalks and streets pedestrians walk on. Just as those sidewalks are designated for pedestrians, some areas of Atlanta have dedicated bike lanes.
However, like pedestrians, bicyclists are incredibly susceptible to injury from being struck by a negligent motor vehicle driver. It is important for riders to understand the potential dangers of bicycling in Atlanta in order to avoid accidents and the need to pursue a civil case.
Understanding and Managing Risk
Bicyclists can sometimes mitigate the increased risks of injury by knowing the bicycle they are riding. A great place to start is looking at the manufacturer’s recommendations for their bicycle and getting familiar with its various features, as well as with its general maneuverability. Before going on a longer trip, it may be a good idea to take a test ride to become familiar with how the bike maneuvers, how it rides on roadways compared to bicycle paths, how the steering mechanisms work, and how good the brakes are.
When riding a bicycle at night, it is especially important for riders to have the right equipment. For example, if a person is operating a bicycle between sunset and sunrise, they should have a light on their bike visible from at least 300 feet away, which could significantly decrease the risk of a fatal or incapacitating injury. We recommend riders also read literature and standards that pertain to riding bicycles before setting out on a trip.
The Impact of Weather Conditions
Wet weather conditions—such as rain, sleet, ice, or snow—often make riding a bike significantly less safe. These severe conditions impact safety because they affect maneuverability, particularly a rider’s propensity to slide or fall in ways they likely would not have to worry about in dry conditions.
A cyclist can protect themselves in severe weather conditions by making sure they have the proper gear, are not riding their bicycle too fast or unsafely, and are abiding by the rules of the road. Specifically, they should be riding in the same direction as nearby traffic and obeying the motor vehicle laws applicable to the Atlanta area.
If an accident happens in poor weather conditions, it could have a significant impact on liability in an ensuing civil case. Depending on the situation, the defendant’s defense strategy may be to argue that the plaintiff never should have operated their bicycle under the conditions present during their accident, since those conditions were more likely to cause an injurious accident. If a suit is filed, it is important that we establish the conditions within which the accident occurred.
What Are the Dangers of Riding Next to Automobiles?
Automobile drivers often are ignorant of bicyclists using their hands as turn signals but riders have few other options of indicating where they are going. Car drivers should know to look out for cyclists using their hands as turn signals. Bicyclists may need to cross or change lanes, especially if they are turning left, and those making right-hand turns should be allowed to make the turn without being passed immediately.
Using bicycles is both environmentally friendly and can help reduce the traffic problem in Atlanta. However, the attitude of drivers is mixed. It can be frustrating when bicyclists do not follow traffic laws, which could potentially lead to road rage or some other form of reckless driving. It is important for drivers to keep a safe distance from the rider, usually at least three feet.
Another potential danger of bicycling in Atlanta is riding on the sidewalk. Although individuals bike on the sidewalk all the time, it is against the law because it makes it hard for drivers to see them, which can lead to collisions if a cyclist suddenly turns into the road. Despite the fact that it angers many motorists, bicyclists must ride in traffic if no specialized bike lane is available.
What Information Should Bicyclists Have on Them at All Times?
Bicyclists should carry ID as well as any medical information card. A bike rider who is injured in an accident can use the medical emergency SOS feature on their smartphone. This feature allows first responders to access the rider’s phone without the passcode for the purpose of obtaining significant medical information as well as an emergency contact regardless of whether they are unconscious or unable to recall their information.
Benefits of a Camera Attachment
The benefit of having a camera attached to one’s bicycle and/or helmet is that if they are injured in a crash, they would have a record of what happened. That can be very significant evidence in a personal injury case. If there are no witnesses, a camera can show exactly what happened, which is beneficial both to the lawyer in evaluating the case and ultimately in assessing the claim and at trial.
Comparative Negligence in Atlanta Bicycle Accident Cases
In any traffic incident, there may be people who do not accept full responsibility for the crash they caused and may instead blame the injured claimant filing suit. If a civil court agrees with the defendant’s argument for shared liability, the plaintiff may have their compensation reduced significantly or be barred from recovering any damages at all.
In some instances, a bicycle accident may be due to the negligent behavior of multiple drivers, or even the bicyclist themselves. Under Section 51-12-33 of the Georgia Code, Georgia’s modified comparative negligence law applies in these circumstances.
In this situation, the jury will assign a percentage of fault for the bicycle accident to each negligent party. If the bicyclist is 50 percent or more at fault for the accident, they will not be able to recover any of their damages from the other negligent parties.
When it comes to refuting allegations of comparative negligence in Atlanta bicycle accident cases, there is no substitute for an experienced lawyer. Seasoned legal counsel could help you understand how comparative negligence may impact your recovery and work to contest any allegations of fault made against you.
How Does State Law Address Comparative Fault?
Atlanta is a modified comparative negligence jurisdiction, meaning that Georgia law allows plaintiffs to recover damages even if they bear some degree of fault for the accident that harmed them. However, claimants who bear 50 percent or more of the total fault in their case may not recover any damages in Atlanta, which is what makes Georgia a modified comparative negligence state.
Comparative negligence is important for determining who is liable in a bicycle accident, because attorneys look at the conduct of all parties involved and effectively assign liability among them. The question of who is responsible and the degree to which they are at fault is always at the heart of any civil injury case.
If comparative negligence is a factor in an Atlanta bicycle accident case, liability is often calculated by a jury in a trial. They do this by looking at the facts of the case, as well as the evidence that those facts are based on, to determine who is liable and what percentage of liability that person bears.
The Impact of Wearing a Helmet
Official Code of Georgia §40-60-296 requires anyone under the age of 16 to wear a helmet while riding a bike on public roadways. More specifically, no person under the age of 16 years old is allowed to operate or be a passenger on a bicycle without wearing protective head gear. That includes bicycle paths, bicycle lanes, and sidewalks in Atlanta.
State law establishes no such restrictions on adult cyclists. Furthermore, violation of Georgia’s helmet laws cannot constitute negligence per se, contributory negligence per se, or be considered evidence of negligence or liability, according to the aforementioned statutes.
The best practice for all bicycle riders is to always wear a fully functional helmet that is approved by the American National Standards Institute, to protect themselves from any catastrophic or fatal injury to the head. Additionally, if an adult allows someone under the age of 16 to ride a bicycle without a helmet in Atlanta, there may be some criminal implications for their failure to ensure that child complies with state law.
The Inherent Dangers of Bicycle Riding
The low visibility and audibility are what make bicycles potentially dangerous to the rider. Visually, it is often hard for motor vehicle operators to see a bicycle at night, especially if it does not have the proper reflective material installed, or if the bike rider is not wearing any reflective gear. Further, it is often difficult for drivers to detect bicycles because they make very little noise, especially compared to similarly-sized vehicles like motorcycles.
In the state of Georgia, bicyclists are allowed to operate on roads. Any time there is a person riding a bicycle on the road with motor vehicles nearby, especially if those vehicles are not keeping the same pace as the bike, there is potential for a dangerous accident. This applies to both daytime and nighttime hours.
What Preventative Measures Can a Bicycle Rider Take?
Bicycle riders in Atlanta can take several precautions to prevent collisions with other vehicles on the road. For instance, they should make sure that their bikes have lights or reflectors. Lights are required at night, but reflectors can be helpful during the day as well.
Bicyclists can also wear reflective vests to improve their visibility to other drivers, as they should not assume that because they make eye contact with a driver that the driver sees them. Bicycle riders have to be incredibly vigilant to avoid collisions.
It is important to be careful when crossing intersections because drivers may not be looking for bicycles even though they should be. Riding in bike lanes and avoiding sidewalks is also a good way to increase visibility while operating a bicycle on Atlanta’s roads.
Common Types of Bike Accidents
Perhaps the most common type of bicycle accident in Atlanta is when a person operating a bicycle is struck by a motor vehicle. There are several types of cases that may come out of this. Usually, bike crash cases are based purely on the negligence of the person operating the motor vehicle that struck and injured the cyclist filing suit.
Many other cases that may come out of a bicycle incident are considered product liability matters. For example, if someone’s helmet, chain, or wheels are defective, there may be grounds for a product liability case if that equipment was the direct cause of someone’s injury.
Common Injuries Resulting from Bicycle Wrecks
Some common injuries that result from bicycle accidents include concussions, broken bones, and paraplegia. Since bicyclists do not have the protection that someone operating a car would be afforded, the injuries they suffer in a wreck are often very severe, and in some cases fatal.
The typical injuries that result from motorcycle accidents differ from bicycle accidents because the protective gear requirements for motorcycle riders under Georgia state law are different than those applicable to bicyclists. For instance, if a person in Atlanta is over the age of 16, state statutes do not require them to wear a helmet when operating a bicycle.
However, if they are operating a motorcycle, there are different face shield and helmet requirements required by statute. As a result, there are more protections afforded to motorcyclists from injuries like road rash, burns, scrapes, and falls compared to bicyclists because they are not required by law to wear all the protective gear that someone operating a motorcycle is.
What to Do After a Bicycle Accident in Atlanta
Knowing what to do after a bicycle accident is not something that comes naturally to everyone in Atlanta. The immediate aftermath of a serious wreck can be stressful and chaotic, and a victim cannot necessarily trust that every party they interact with afterwards will have their best interests at heart.
Unrepresented bike accident victims may not realize that an insurance company’s interests do not align with their own, and they may not get the full compensation they need for the degree of injuries they suffered. With that in mind, it is important to seek help from a bike crash attorney who knows how to handle those legal aspects of the case, including how to try the case in court, if necessary.
The first thing someone should do after a serious bicycle accident in Atlanta is call 911 and request assistance from a police officer. If there are injuries, they also need to ensure that EMS is called and that those injuries are taken care of immediately. After that, it is important for someone involved in a bicycle crash to notify the insurance company of the accident so that a claim can be set up and evaluated.
The evidence at the scene of a bike wreck should be preserved immediately following the incident, especially the bike itself, any components that came detached from the bike, and any equipment the biker was wearing while they were riding. This includes protective clothing, guards on elbows and knees, and any helmet that was worn when operating the bicycle.
The other crucial part of evidence collection is contacting any witnesses who saw the incident. If the incident happened near a commercial business, such as a gas station or restaurant, there may be video surveillance to obtain as well. If so, it is critical that this is preserved.
How a Lawyer Could Help after a Bicycle Accident in Atlanta
A person involved in an Atlanta bicycle accident should contact an attorney as soon as possible. A skilled lawyer would know how to work the case, preserve important evidence, and make sure that the injured party does not experience any prejudicial treatment from insurance companies, medical providers, or law enforcement authorities.
No matter the circumstances, an accident victim should not try to handle an ensuing bicycle accident case themselves. They may know neither the laws of riding a bicycle nor all the issues that pertain to negligence, liability, or medical cause of their injuries. Having a legal expert’s help in handling those aspects of the case—including the tasks of fact-finding, interviewing witnesses, and responding to officers—is a compelling reason to hire an Atlanta lawyer rather than pursue a civil case alone.
If you are dealing with injuries after being involved in a serious bike crash, talking to an attorney may be crucial to securing your right to compensation. However, depending on the severity of your injuries and subsequent financial and personal losses, failing to consult with legal counsel may turn out to be an expensive and life-altering mistake.
There are a variety of ways a lawyer could help after a bicycle accident in Atlanta, from gathering evidence to ensuring compliance with important legal deadlines. An initial consultation could help you understand more about how an attorney could help put you on the right path toward recovering compensation from responsible parties.
Identifying and Demonstrating Negligence
One of the most important ways a lawyer could help somebody involved in a biking crash in Atlanta is by helping them determine whether they have a viable negligence case against the at-fault party or parties. If someone is seriously injured in a bicycle accident, qualified legal counsel could play an important role in measuring the scope and severity of their injuries, identifying who might be liable for causing them, and determining exactly how that person or entity acted or failed to act in a way that directly resulted in the plaintiff’s harm.
It is important to connect with a lawyer as soon as possible after a biking accident occurs in Atlanta to make that assessment. Time is of the essence when it comes to ensuring that necessary evidence and equipment is preserved, as well as understanding what insurance may be available to help address an accident victim’s injuries and damages.
Unique Aspects of Bicycle Accidents
An attorney might deal with a biking accident case in Atlanta differently than they would other cases, mostly with respect to statutory guidelines for bicycle operation compared to other vehicles. For example, there is a significant amount of overlap in state law regarding regulations for bicycles and motorcycles—the same motor vehicle laws and rules of the road apply equally, and they are both considered vehicles.
An experienced trial lawyer could assist with fact-finding, interviewing witnesses and responding officers, providing an evaluation of injuries, gathering information about necessary medical treatment, learning what treatment may be required in the future, and calculating any wage loss that someone may have suffered after an Atlanta bike crash. In these ways, lawyers who have experience with litigating bicycle accident cases could help an injured cyclist get maximum coverage for their injuries.
Many cyclists operate their bikes primarily on sidewalks, which often have cracked or uneven pavement that can lead to bicycle crashes. Since sidewalks are specifically designed for pedestrians, they are not safe for bicyclists traveling at higher speeds over driveways, ruts in the roads, or areas with varying grades of sidewalks. Sidewalk riding also makes bike riders vulnerable to cars pulling out of parking lots and driveways, the drivers of which may not see an oncoming bicyclist until it is too late to avoid hitting them.
The safest place for bicycle riding is typically on the street, where cyclists must adhere to the flow of traffic and follow the same rules as motorists. However, motor vehicle operators often fail to pay attention specifically to bicyclists and pedestrians around them.
Especially at intersections or while making a turn, a driver’s visibility may be limited, thereby inhibiting their reaction time to any unexpected hazards. Additionally, according to some studies, cyclists that travel against the flow of traffic are almost four times more likely to be involved in an incident than those traveling with traffic.
What Differentiates Biking Collisions from Pedestrian Accidents?
Biking collisions happen more frequently than pedestrian accidents, in large part because bicycles can be operated on roadways and highways which may be crowded by other motorists, especially if there are not designated bike lanes. Comparatively, pedestrians often enjoy dedicated walkable spaces like sidewalks and crosswalks that they typically do not share with cars.
Because of these designated areas, a typical pedestrian is also not susceptible to roadway hazards like potholes, ruts, and debris. From an overarching design and engineering standpoint, bicyclists simply face different hazards than pedestrians, which usually leads to more accidents for the former compared to the latter.
Managing Insurance Claims
While state law does not specifically require cyclists to get accident insurance, there are minimum liability limit requirements for vehicle insurance coverage in Georgia that may also apply to bicycle wrecks. Bicycles may also be covered under some homeowner’s insurance and rental insurance policies.
If a bicycle serves as a person’s primary method of transportation in Atlanta and they have gotten insurance, they could face an increase in premiums if they are found at fault for an accident. That is one of many reasons why it is important to have an Atlanta lawyer evaluate a case in the context of what insurance coverages apply in the aftermath of a bike crash.
Talk to an Atlanta Bicycle Accident Attorney
Because bicycles do not provide a structure of protection, bicycle accidents can cause serious, and even fatal, accidents. Even in the best-case scenario, a person may have medical bills they must pay. However, if your accident was the result of another’s negligence, you may be able to recover compensation.
If you suffered an injury in a bicycle accident, then an Atlanta bicycle accident lawyer may be able to help you recover for your damages. Contact an experienced biking accident attorney today to discuss your injuries and rights to compensation.