Many people choose cycling as a healthier and more environmentally friendly mode of transportation. However, when cyclists share the roadways with motor vehicles, they risk being injured in an accident. Cyclists are vulnerable to serious and life-threatening injuries because they lack the protection afforded to the occupants of a motor vehicle.
If you or a loved one were injured in a bicycle accident in Morgantown, West Virginia or the surrounding area, you may pursue compensation for your injuries. Contact the Morgantown bicycle accident lawyers at Wagoner Desai at (304) 470-2056 for a free case consultation.
Risks of Morgantown Bicycle Accidents
Although fatal bicycle accidents are relatively rare in West Virginia, they do occur. On average, there is at least one bicycle accident-related fatality per year across the state. Despite the low number of fatalities, bicycle accidents frequently cause injury, oftentimes serious injury, to bicyclists.
In addition to the protections provided to occupants by a vehicle’s metal frame, passengers are also afforded protection by safety equipment like seatbelts and airbags. A bicyclists’ best protection is provided by their helmet, and West Virginia law only requires riders who are 15 years old or younger to wear a helmet.
Due primarily to this lack of protection, bicyclists are at high risk of sustaining severe injuries in an accident involving a motor vehicle, including:
- Head injuries: For bicyclists who are not wearing a helmet, head injuries are common, including concussions, lacerations, and skull fractures.
- Brain damage: Severe head injuries may result in traumatic brain injuries (TBI), which commonly occur among riders who do not a helmet. Depending on the severity of a TBI, victims may experience a coma or permanent and extensive brain damage.
- Spinal injuries: During an accident, a bicyclist may be thrown from their bike causing their body to impact the roadway, leading to spinal cord damage. The spinal cord is the bundle of nerves that allows the brain to communicate with the body. Damage to the spinal cord can cause a range of symptoms, including changes in strength or sensation, difficulty performing bodily functions, numbness, and paralysis.
- Neck and back injuries: Victims who suffer neck or back injuries in a Morgantown bicycle accident may need extensive and ongoing physical therapy.
- Internal damage: If the body forcefully impacts the roadway or object, victims may suffer internal organ damage. Internal injuries may not exhibit immediate symptoms and, if left untreated, can have life-threatening consequences.
- Broken bones and fractures: Bicyclists commonly suffer from broken and fractured bones, which frequently require surgery and long-term rehabilitation.
- Road rash: Although many bicyclists wear helmets, most do not wear additional protective gear. When unprotected skin scrapes across the rough surface of the roadway, bicyclists may suffer road rash. Depending on the severity of the road rash, one may require skin grafting for recovery.
- Dental injury: If a bicyclist’s face impacts the ground, their teeth may chip or crack or their jaw or facial bones may be fractured or broken.
- Cuts and bruises: While not as serious as a TBI or spinal injury, cuts, and bruises from a Morgantown bicycle accident can limit mobility and cause pain and discomfort.
Whether your accident injuries are minor or severe, if another’s negligence caused the accident, you may seek compensation from the responsible party.
If another’s negligent actions contributed to causing an accident that resulted in injury, they are responsible for the injured victim’s losses.
Parties who may share responsibility for a Morgantown bicycle accident include:
- Negligent driver: If negligent driving behavior caused a car to strike a bicyclist, the driver is responsible for any accident-related damages. A driver’s violation of traffic laws at the time of the accident may constitute strong evidence of negligence—for example, failure to yield at a traffic sign or signal, speeding, driving under the influence, or distracted driving. Dooring—when drivers and passengers open their doors into the path of passing bicycles without looking, causing cyclists to slam into them—cause almost one-fifth of cycling accidents, according to one estimate. Dooring accidents can also constitute negligence.
- Biker or pedestrian: Other bicyclists or pedestrians are capable of causing a Morgantown bicycle accident. Bikers are required to abide by the same traffic laws that apply to motor vehicles. Any traffic violation by another bicyclist may be strong evidence of negligence, including riding against traffic or cycling at night without lights.
- Bike or vehicle manufacturer: A product manufacturer has an obligation to test the products they distribute to ensure they meet industry-wide safety standards. If a defect or malfunction contributed to causing a bike or vehicle to cause an accident, the manufacturer may be responsible.
If you have sustained an injury in an accident, it is important to contact law enforcement, who will respond to the scene and compile an accident report. The officers’ report will include photographs of the accident scene, witness contact information, and any citations issued for violations of traffic laws.
Gathering evidence to establish fault and identify responsible parties can often be a complicated process. The dedicated team at our firm regularly fights for the rights of injured victims to seek the compensation they need.
Calculating the Cost of Injuries
After identifying the parties that are responsible for your injuries, ask your lawyer to complete a full assessment of all accident-related costs and impacts. Our firm routinely works with clients to develop an individualized understanding of how their injuries have impacted their lives.
Injured victims may recover compensation for:
- Medical expenses: Damages may include medical expenses, which may be paid by the responsible party, directly, or their insurance provider. Medical expenses may include doctors’ bills, hospital bills, prescription medication, and long-term care.
- Loss of income: If you cannot work or cannot work in the same capacity as before the accident, you may be entitled to recover compensation for your lost wages or reduced salary. When injuries cause permanent limitations or disability, a damages award may include estimated lost future earnings.
- Property damage: Responsible parties should compensate accident victims for property damage, including bicycle repair or replacement.
- Emotional distress: An accident is a traumatic event and victims often suffer from emotional distress like anxiety, depression, or PTSD. We work with our clients to include losses associated with emotional distress in their claim for damages.
- Loss of enjoyment: When injuries prevent accident victims from participating in activities they enjoyed before the accident, they may collect compensation for those losses.
Punitive damages: Punitive damages punish responsible parties whose particularly egregious actions caused the accident. In West Virginia, a plaintiff can only recover punitive damages if the defendant acted with actual malice or with conscious, reckless, and outrageous indifference to the health, safety, and welfare of others. The state caps punitive damages awards at $500,000 or four times the amount of compensatory damages awarded to the plaintiff, whichever is greater.
You will want your Morgantown bike accident lawyer to prepare a comprehensive damages assessment to recover full compensation for your injuries and all injury-related losses.
Morgantown Bicycle Accident FAQ
If a car or truck hits you while on your bicycle, you have a higher risk of suffering catastrophic injuries because you have very little protection. Even with a helmet, leathers, kneepads, and elbow pads, you do not have any protection around your body and could suffer broken bones and more. Even minor accidents, such as where a vehicle might “tap” your bicycle, could cause you to sustain severe injuries.
Are Bicyclists Considered Pedestrians?
In Morgantown, West Virginia, a bicyclist is the same as a vehicle. The statutes dictate that bicyclists are subject to the same driving rules as vehicles, less for any special regulations. This means that you must obey all traffic control signals and ride with the flow of traffic.
If an Uninsured or Underinsured Driver Hits Me, Who Pays for My Injuries?
Your health and vehicle insurance companies can pay for your medical expenses as long as you have the appropriate coverage. In some cases, your vehicle insurance will cover additional damages. Your policy will outline what it covers in the case of uninsured/underinsured motorists.
You can also choose to sue the defendant directly. However, if the defendant does not have any money, it is not likely worth the legal hassle. But, you should always contact a bicycle accident attorney if more than one defendant may be liable for your injuries.
What Do I Do After a Bicycle Accident?
What you can do depends on the severity of your injuries. If you are able:
- Contact first responders.
- Take photos of the accident scene.
- Obtain the contact, driver’s license, and insurance information from all drivers involved in the accident. If the vehicle that hit you is a commercial vehicle, ask to see the driver’s commercial license and copy the information from the CDL.
- Obtain contact information from any witnesses, including passengers in the vehicle that hit you. You can also ask witnesses what they saw.
- Allow emergency medical technicians to check you over.
- Give the police your side of what happened for the police report.
After the police release you from the scene, seek medical attention as soon as possible. Even if you think your injuries are minor, they could be serious. Some injuries do not manifest for hours or even days.
Finally, obtain a copy of the police report and contact a Morgantown bicycle accident attorney as soon as possible.
Who Is Responsible for My Injuries?
Many people or entities could share in the responsibility for your injuries, depending on the circumstances. Your bicycle accident attorney will review your case and determine who should contribute to your damages.
Those that might have some liability include:
- The driver of the vehicle that hit you.
- The vehicle’s owner if they lent that vehicle to the driver that hit you.
- The vehicle manufacturer.
- Parts manufacturers.
- A company that owns the commercial vehicle.
- Truck mechanics if the company hires them as third parties.
- Truck inspectors.
- Truck owners if they are independents or lessors.
- Truck and trailer manufacturers.
- The municipality that maintains the roads (city, county, state).
- Another vehicle that might have caused a vehicle to hit you.
- The bicycle manufacturer if a bicycle malfunction caused the accident.
What if My Injuries Are Minor?
We recommend that you still seek medical treatment. Some injuries do not manifest for hours or even days. Head trauma, sore knees, injured backs, and other injuries could end up being more severe than you originally thought. Should these injuries get worse, you could end up missing work and paying more in medical expenses than you expected.
How Much Does it Cost to Retain a Bicycle Accident Lawyer?
When you retain a Morgantown bicycle accident lawyer, you do not pay any upfront attorney’s fees. Typically, your initial case evaluation is also free. If an attorney cannot take your case, they will let you know upfront. Generally, a personal injury attorney only charges attorneys’ fees if you win your case by settling or through a trial award.
What Behaviors Increase the Risk of Bicycle Injuries?
Some factors can contribute to more severe injuries, including:
- Riding without a helmet.
- Losing control of your bike, whether because you hit a pothole, the bicycle malfunctions, or you are horsing around.
- Riding while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- Riding too fast for conditions.
- Riding competitively.
- Inexperience riding a bicycle.
- Inexperience with the roads.
- The bicycle malfunctions.
- Riding your bike during the summer months.
- An inexperienced motorist or someone who is driving under the influence.
- Poor road maintenance.
- No bike path.
- Unmaintained bike paths.
You can prevent some bicycle accidents by ensuring that you are wearing the proper gear when riding, following traffic laws, and making sure you have plenty of experience riding before you start riding on highly trafficked roads.
How Long Do I Have to File a Bicycle Accident Lawsuit?
You must file a personal injury lawsuit within two years of the accident. However, it is recommended that you contact a Morgantown bicycle accident lawyer as soon as possible. Some insurance companies require you to file a claim in as little as 14 days.
How Much Compensation Could I Recover After a Bicycle Accident?
The amount you could recover depends on several factors, including the severity of your injuries. You could recover compensatory damages in the form of economic and non-economic damages. If you can prove that the defendant’s actions or inactions were grossly negligent or intentional, you might recover punitive damages.
Economic Damages can include:
- Past and future medical expenses, including surgeries, follow-up appointments, prescriptions, various types of therapy, and modifications to your home or vehicle, such as hand controls and wheelchair ramps.
- Replacement or repair of destroyed or damaged personal property.
- Lost wages and loss of earning capacity.
- Funeral, burial, and/or cremation expenses if you lost a loved one in a bicycle accident.
Non-Economic Damages can include:
- Pain and suffering, including emotional distress.
- Loss of quality of life.
- Loss of consortium.
- Loss of companionship.
- Loss of use of a body part or a bodily function.
- Inconvenience if you have to hire someone to do the chores you usually do, such as grocery shopping, lawn maintenance, house cleaning, and home repair and maintenance.
- Excessive scarring and disfigurement.
If you suffered injuries or lost a loved one in a bicycle accident, contact a Morgantown bicycle accident attorney for a free case evaluation.
Contact an Our Experienced Morgantown Bicycle Accident Attorneys Today
At Wagoner Desai, we put our clients first. We are passionate about helping injured victims recover the compensation they need.
Our team has experience securing compensation for injured victims in Morgantown, West Virginia.
If you or a loved one were injured in a Morgantown bicycle accident, contact our firm today to schedule a free consultation and case evaluation.
Wagoner Desai, PLLC
265 High Street, 3rd Floor
Citizens Bank Building
Morgantown, WV 26505
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