It’s a Saturday morning. The air is warm, the skies are clear and you decide to strap on your helmet for a ride on your bicycle. You turn on North Flagler Drive so you can ride alongside the Atlantic Ocean and totally clear your mind from the week’s events.
Along your ride you decide to turn on 8th Street to find somewhere to kick back for some brunch. As you turn on 8th Street all of a sudden a car pulls out of a parking lot and you don’t have time to react.
You’re struck, sent flying into the pavement and your bicycle is destroyed. A peaceful, Saturday morning ride has now turned into a potentially life-altering event. What do you do now?
No one thinks they’ll need a bicycle accident attorney until they are the ones on the bad end of an accident. Guy DiMartino has 18 years of experience dealing with bicycle accident victims all over Florida and is here to help you through what will be difficult times.
Florida is a bicycle accident-prone state
In regards to bicycle accident statistics, the numbers are out for the state of Florida and they aren’t good. In 2015 Florida accounted for 16.5 percent of the country’s total bicycle deaths. For those of us who are mathematically challenged, one out of about every six people who died in a bicycle wreck that year lived in Florida.
Palm Beach County ranks in the top 10 most bicycle accident prone counties in Florida — a state where over 20,000 bicycle accidents occurred over a five-year span.
As jarring as this information can be for some West Palm Beach bicycle riders, this isn’t meant to scare anyone off the road. It should only help raise awareness for those who do ride their bikes in West Palm Beach to be extra careful as the state of Florida continues to try and curtail this issue.
West Palm Beach Bicycle Accident FAQs
Is there a Bicycle Helmet Law in Florida?
Yes! The state of Florida requires all bicycle riders under the age of 16 to wear a helmet that meets the standards of the Code of Federal Regulations. The CFR states the helmet must be “properly fitted and securely fastened” by a strap around the riders head.
The aforementioned standards laid out by the CFR were updated on January 1, 2016, so if you bought a helmet before that date it’s time to run to the store for a new one. If you’re riding in West Palm Beach and law enforcement suspects you’re under 16 not wearing a helmet, they can issue a citation.
If you’re a parent and your kid is caught by police not wearing a helmet, you too can receive a citation or even worse can be held negligent if they are injured while not wearing a helmet. Keep in mind if you’re a parent who’s pulling their kid in a buggy with a bicycle, they need to wear a helmet in that situation as well.
With all that being said, just wear a helmet — regardless of age or bicycle riding experience — so you can avoid citations and head injuries alike.
Do I need to yield to cars when I ride my bicycle in traffic?
Many West Palm Beach bicycle riders may be totally unaware Florida state law sees them the same way as cars on public roads. That’s right — when you ride a bicycle on public roads around West Palm Beach you are subject to all the same traffic laws as any other vehicle.
Bicycles have to stop at red lights and stop signs, ride with the flow of traffic and follow any other Florida traffic rules you would in your car. There no special rules for a bicycle on Florida roads. Sorry.
If I hit a car on my bicycle do I need auto insurance?
The PIP (Personal Injury Protection) Law is a no fault insurance law exclusive to Florida. Anyone driving or cycling on Florida’s roads is subject to file an insurance claim if they are in an accident.
It exists to protect at fault drivers from bicycle riders looking to file suit. The state of Florida will look for certain conditions when a bicycle rider is trying to claim damages outside a regular insurance claim.
If you live in West Palm Beach and don’t have car insurance, there are other options for you if you’ve been caught up in a bicycle accident.
Does homeowners insurance cover my bicycle accident?
West Palm Beach residents who opt to use their bicycle to commute may not have a Florida auto insurance policy. That’s perfectly fine if you understand what your alternatives are in case of a bicycle accident.
A Florida homeowners policy or renters policy has the built in ability to protect yourself in case a bicycle rider is injured on your property or if you injured another person on your bicycle. That same Florida homeowners/renters policy may cover the other party’s damages if the policy holder is considered “at fault”.
As far as your own injuries, those bills may be on you and your personal health insurance. A Florida homeowners policy normally covers liability only.
However, none of this applies professional racers who are being paid to ride in a race. A Florida homeowners policy won’t cover the liability of the other party in that particular accident situation.
Can you ride a bicycle on the sidewalk in West Palm Beach?
Bicycle riders should know they are indeed allowed to ride on the sidewalks in West Palm Beach so long as they follow the pedestrian rules of the sidewalks.
Like a chameleon, a bicycle rider shifts from a vehicle to a pedestrian when they move from public street to sidewalk. So if you were wondering where the special rules are for bicycles on sidewalks, we’re sorry to inform you none exist.
Bicycle riders are expected to been mindful of their surroundings when riding on sidewalks and to give audible signals for passersby. Any rules regarding helmets, lights and driving under the influence apply on the sidewalk as well.
Remember bicycle riders of West Palm Beach — pedestrians don’t have to look out for you, you have to look out for them.
West Palm Beach Bicycle Accident Scenarios
Car pulls out in front of bicycle
When a car or truck pulls out of a driveway, parking lot or intersection they often aren’t looking for a bicycle riders crossing their path. Normally this common accident scenario doesn’t result in serious injuries towards the bicycle rider because the car/truck isn’t moving fast.
Car door opens on bicycle path
Anyone exiting a vehicle in the state Florida is required by law to close their door in a reasonable amount of time after exiting their vehicle. So drivers, please look both ways before opening your door because the last thing you want is an injured bicycle rider on your hands.
Car “rear ends” a cyclist changing lanes
When drivers aren’t paying attention to bicycle riders signals, it can often result in the driver “rear-ending” the bicycle rider. Being rear-ended in a car is one thing, but being rear-ended in a bicycle can result in very serious injuries or even death.
Car makes a right turn into a cyclist
If you’re riding a bicycle along the right side of a car, be aware of the cars turn signal. Bicycle riders who don’t notice the right blinker may wind up with a vehicle turning directly into them.
Bicycle rider pulls out in a street
One of the most common and most serious injuries sustained by bicycle riders in West Palm Beach is when a rider pulls out in the street and doesn’t see a car coming their way. This is the most common way children are injured in bicycle accidents.
Common Bicycle Accident Injuries in West Palm Beach
A skin contusion can range in severity anywhere from a simple cut to traumatic road rash which can cover your body. These injuries aren’t lethal but can lead to major pain and suffering depending on the severity of the burn.
60 percent of all bicycle deaths result from injuries to the head and neck area. These injuries are often the most debilitating and severe among those suffered by bicycle riders in West Palm Beach. Keep in mind: a helmet can save your life in these circumstances.
This category of injuries ranges a broad spectrum of broken bones, torn ligaments and even lost teeth. More so than the first two categories, these injuries often rack up the most medical debt with surgery, physical therapy and lost wages while away from work.
How to file a bicycle accident claim in West Palm Beach
Follow your PIP guidelines — report the accident
Remember the PIP law we talked about earlier? It states anyone involved in an accident between two vehicles must file a claim with their insurance company. So if you’re following the law, then this first step if self-explanatory.
Gather your own facts
There’s going to be a lot of information to gather when you’re filing a claim. Among that, make sure that you:
- Take pictures of the accident
- Get contact information from witnesses
- Get a copy of the police report
- Get contact information from the other party
By gathering the most information possible, you will make your claim rock solid for when/if it’s presented in court.
Go see a doctor
There are two important reasons to go see a doctor if you’ve been in a bicycle accident. One, a doctor may be able to find any head injuries you don’t feel right away — potentially saving your life. Two, medical records are important in solidifying your claim in getting the compensation you deserve for your injuries.
File the claim
If you are involved in an accident in the state of Florida and don’t file an insurance claim, you run the risk of being penalized on top of any money you may owe during the claim process. Don’t let this happen to you.
Do NOT give a statement to the other insurance company
The opposing party’s insurance company may look to discredit your claim when they give you a call. Guy DiMartino strongly suggests the only people you talk to during the claim process is your bicycle accident attorney and your insurance company.
What damages can be awarded in a bicycle accident?
Damages awarded in any kind of personal injury claim breaks down into two categories: Economic and non-economic.
Awards that can be calculated down to the exact dollar amount fall into the economic damage category. Financial awards can be received for the following reasons in a personal injury case:
- Compensation for medical expenses
- Compensation for lost wages
- Any lost earning capacity
- Replacement funds for damaged personal property
- Bicycle repair costs
To make sure you’re getting full compensation, save any expense reports, medical bills and receipts you acquire during your claim process.
Where an experienced West Palm Beach bicycle accident attorney can be especially helpful is in collecting non-economic damages. These less concrete conditions for collection are very difficult to prove in court and can include the following:
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment in everyday life
- Emotional distress
- Loss of consortium
By the way, consortium is a fancy way of saying “physical ability to love your partner”. Also, keep in mind things like “pain and suffering” and “loss of enjoyment” are different kinds of non-economic damages.
Contact a West Palm Beach bicycle accident lawyer today
West Palm Beach is a fast-growing city and a great place to live. Bicycle riders who move here or currently live here are fortunate to have something like North Flagler Drive to enjoy gorgeous views of the ocean while they ride their bicycle down the shoreline.
If by chance you wind up in a bicycle accident, there is no need to feel helpless or alone when there’s an experienced bicycle accident attorney right here in West Palm Beach. Guy DiMartino has helped Florida bicycle riders for 18 years and knows how to deal with the insurance companies so you get the compensation you deserve.
Call 352-267-1968 for a free consultation today.