Fifty years ago, bicycles were mostly ridden by children, teenagers, and occasionally by adults for relaxation and recreation. They were rarely seen on city streets at all. Obviously, the world of bicycling has changed. Bicycles are no longer used primarily for recreation and fitness, but are an adult means of transportation, inexpensive local commutation, avoiding city traffic jams, and minimizing pollution. With more bicycles in use in New Jersey and throughout the country, bicycle accidents have become increasingly common. The personal injury attorneys at Nagel Rice LLP have won a great many cases for bicyclists who have been seriously injured on the road.
Because bicycles offer almost no physical protection in collisions with larger, heavier vehicles, the risk of a cyclist being injured is far greater than the risk of a driver being seriously hurt in this type of accident. If you have suffered a severe injury in a collision with a negligent driver while riding your bicycle, , you may be entitled to compensation to cover your medical expenses and other costs that result from the harm you have suffered.
For this reason, if you have been hurt in a bicycle accident, as soon as you as you have received the urgent medical care you require, you need the services of the knowledgeable and supportive personal injury attorneys at Nagel Rice. If you reside in New Jersey, you are fortunate to have us close to home; we have offices in Roseland and in New York City. Not only is our law firm comprised of highly capable personal injury attorneys, but we have a fine track record of winning hundreds of millions of dollars for our clients. You should be aware that we work on a contingency basis in personal injury cases, so you will not have to pay us anything until we win your case.
Causes of Bicycle Accidents
Bicycle accidents can happen anywhere, but they have become more common as cyclists have taken to riding on congested city streets where they are surrounded by much larger, faster, heavier vehicles, most of which are in a hurry. Not surprisingly, almost half of the bicycle accidents that involve collisions with other vehicles occur at intersections.
Many motorists, as we are all increasingly aware, are distracted while they drive — by phone conversations, text messages, loud music or eating, or may be impaired by drugs or alcohol. In addition, due to the fact that bicycles are so much smaller and usually traveling more slowly, motorists may be totally unaware of their presence on the road.
Drivers of larger vehicles commonly cause bicycle accidents by:
- Failing to check their mirrors and blind spots to see if a cyclist is nearby
- Failing to yield to a cyclist
- Not leaving a cyclist a full lane to travel in
- Opening a car door in front of a cyclist
- Trying to pass a cyclist without enough room
- Turning directly into a cyclist’s path
Even many so-called “solitary” accidents, in which the cyclist loses control of the bike and crashes into a tree or railing, are often the result of the fact that the cyclist is trying to avoid a careless or inattentive driver.
Precautions Bicyclists Should Take
Because of the inherent dangers of bicycling in traffic, it is important for cyclists to take the following necessary measures, many of which are required by New Jersey law, to protect themselves from harm:
- Wear helmets — though helmets are only required for New Jersey residents 17 years of age and younger, it is prudent for cyclists (and towed passengers) of all ages to wear helmets
- Make sure your bicycle has headlights and either tail lights or reflectors
- Equip your bicycle with a horn as well as lights
- Ride in the same direction as the traffic
- Obey all traffic signals — do not attempt to cut in front of traffic, maneuver between lanes, or go the wrong way on one-way streets
- Wear bright, reflective clothing, especially at night or in foul weather
- Remain sober and alert
If you ride a bicycle, it is in your best interest to take all of the above precautions. Remember, you are up against much weightier, faster vehicles, and you are the one unprotected by a metal cage, so you are much more likely to sustain serious, or even fatal, injuries if you get into an accident.
Bicycle Accident Injuries
The type and severity of bicycle injuries depend on many factors, including the force of the collision (the speed of the vehicles), the direction of the impact, and, often, whether the cyclist was wearing a helmet. Cyclists, in addition to not being surrounded by the metal cage of a car or truck, do not have airbags to cushion the blow. This is why at Nagel Rice, we are, tragically, all too familiar with the fractures, road burns, amputations, internal bleeding, and damage to organs that cyclists may suffer. Perhaps most terrible are the traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) or spinal cord injuries since these can result in nerve damage, cognitive impairment, and paralysis.
We have also had to deal with too many wrongful death lawsuits resulting from the tragedy of
of bicycle fatalities.
What kinds of damages can a cyclist expect to recoup after a bicycle accident injury?
If your injuries were, at least in good measure, the fault of another person, you are entitled to seek reimbursement for:
- Medical, hospital and rehabilitative costs
- Lost wages
- Loss of future earnings
- Physical pain
- Emotional suffering
- Permanent disability
Monies awarded to you for the above as known as compensatory damages.
If the driver responsible for your injuries was engaging in illegal behavior at the time of the accident, such as driving while texting or while impaired by alcohol or drugs, you may also be awarded punitive damages. Punitive damages are awarded as a means of punishing the defendant for egregious behavior and as a deterrent to others who might be tempted to engage in similar reckless misconduct.
Different states assign blame for traffic accidents in different ways. This makes it imperative that you deal with a personal injury attorney who has in-depth and up-to-date knowledge of the laws of the state in which the accident occurs. At Nagel Rice LLP we have cutting-edge awareness of the personal injury laws of both New Jersey and New York and have offices in both locations.
“Modified” Comparative Fault in New Jersey
According to New Jersey’s Comparative Negligence Act, the court is tasked with evaluating the relative degree of fault of the parties involved in the accident. If the injured party, in this case the bicyclist, is found to be 20 percent responsible for the accident, whatever damages are awarded to him or her will be lessened by 20 percent. The reason New Jersey’s law is known as “modified” comparative fault is that under New Jersey law an injured plaintiff may not recover anything at all if that individual is found to be more than 50 percent responsible for the accident. This is another reason it is crucial to have a savvy personal injury attorney to convince the court that the motorist you are suing was more at fault for the collision than you were.
“Pure” Comparative Negligence in New York
The law in New York State varies from that of New Jersey. Although in both, the court may determine that the accident was, at least partly, the fault of both parties, the plaintiff can recover a portion of damages even if his or her own negligence was greater than that of the defendant. This means that if you are seriously injured in a bicycle accident in which you were more than 50 percent at fault, you may still receive a percentage of damages.
Third Party Liability
A certain number of bicycle accidents may not be the fault of anyone’s careless driving or riding, but rather may be the result of defective road construction, an unrepaired pothole, an unmarked obstacle on the road, or a defect in the manufacture of the bicycle itself. In such situations, our attorneys are fully prepared to file a lawsuit on your behalf against the city, county or the manufacturer of the defective product that bears responsibility for your injuries.
Contact A New Jersey Bicycle Accident Attorney
If you have had the misfortune of being seriously injured in a bicycle accident, it is essential that you contact a competent personal injury attorney as promptly as possible. Once you consult with one of the experienced attorneys at Nagel Rice, you will have the peace of mind that comes from having a powerful legal representative who will ensure that you get every dollar of compensation you’re entitled to. Whether through intricate negotiations or vigorous litigation, you can count on us to handle your case with the laser-focused attention it deserves and to provide you and your family with support and compassion. You can get in touch with us by phone or by filling out a contact form on our website.