|If you've been injured in a bicycle accident, you should consult an experienced personal injury attorney.|
More and more people are bicycling on the roads and streets in Maine. As a result, from time to time there are accidents involving bicycles and other vehicles on the roads, which often result in catastrophic personal injury. Brain trauma is not uncommon, even if the cyclist is wearing a helmet — other injuries might include broken bones, knee or spinal injuries, and cuts and lacerations.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2010 in the U.S., almost 800 bicyclists were killed and there were an estimated 515,000 emergency department visits due to bicycle-related injuries.
What rules of the road should bicyclists follow?
Bicyclists are expected to observe the rules of the road which include:
- Stopping at stop signs and red lights
- Proceeding the correct way on one-way streets
- Using turn signals
- Traveling with traffic and not against
How are other vehicles expected to approach bicyclists?
Operators of vehicles are required to:
- Respect the fact that bicycles are allowed to ride in the travel lane
- Give at least three feet of clearance when passing a bicyclist
What are some causes of bicycle vs. motor vehicle accidents?
Even though these laws are in place, it’s a common problem that motorists will claim they didn’t see a bicyclist, although the cyclist was there to be seen. Drivers aren’t used to seeing people on bicycles and, despite their bright clothing and lights, their existence isn’t registered by the motorist. The driver may also be distracted or inattentive and thus not see the bicyclist.
If, for whatever reason, a motorist fails to see a cyclist who is there to be seen, the motorist can be held negligent. These collisions can often be very serious as the bike rider essentially has no protection when hit by or running into a vehicle.
Riders under the age of 16 are required to wear a helmet. Helmets are not mandated for individuals over 16 but obviously provide a level of safety and protection although significant brain trauma may still result from a collision.
Some cyclists prefer to ride on sidewalks, which is legal under Maine law in most areas of the state. If a bicyclist is on a sidewalk, he or she needs to use extreme caution and watch for vehicles coming out of driveways and side streets. Also, extreme caution is required so as not to collide with pedestrians.
If the cyclist's injuries are incurred as a result of a collision with a vehicle, the bicyclist can bring a claim against the driver upon showing that the he or she was negligent. The motorist, however, can raise the defense of comparative negligence.
Under comparative negligence, the motorist is claiming that the cyclist was negligent and his or her negligence was equal to or great than that of the motorist — if the bicyclist is equally or more at fault, then the bicyclist can't recover damages.
What should you do if you are involved in a bicycle accident?
If you or a family member is involved in a bicycle accident with an automobile it is important that
- You immediately report the incident
- Assure that an accurate accident report is filed
- Obtain prompt medical treatment for your injuries
- Contact an attorney with experience in bicycle law
At Lipman & Katz, our attorneys have successfully handled bicycle accident cases involving claims of negligence.