As a bicyclist in Texas, you have rights that protect you from careless drivers. If you've been hurt in a bike accident, this article covers what you should know about fault, insurance and your next steps moving forward.
How Common are Bicycle Injuries in Texas?
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 900 bicyclists were killed in 2013 in the United States alone. Moreover, a staggering 494,000 people were required to go to an emergency room as a result of bicycle-related injuries in the same year. Equally important, according to the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), Texas alone had 51 bicyclists killed in 2015, showing a two percent increase from 2014. This goes to show just how prevalent bicycle accidents can be both at the federal and national levels.
Since bike accidents are so common, learn how to protect yourself with the right kind of insurance.
Common Injuries Associated with Bike-on-Car Accidents
Typical injuries following a bicycle accident include:
- Fractured or broken bones
- Torn ligaments
- Blunt force trauma
- Spinal injuries
- Road rash
- Traumatic brain injury
Even relatively minor bicycle crashes can result in the rider being sidelines for many weeks, meaning they cannot do the things they would normally do. They cannot go to work, and they cannot ride their bike.
The impact of a motor vehicle against a pedal bike or a rider thrown against the hard surface of the road will inevitably cause some broken bones. Some of the most common include fractures to the arms, legs and ribs, although skull fractures are also somewhat frequent. Broken bones caused by bicycle wrecks will often have long-lasting effects on the victim, such as chronic pain and possible permanent disability.
Blunt Force Trauma
Non-penetrative injuries can do serious damage to a dismounted cyclist. They can result in substantial bruising and ruptured internal organs (most noticeably the spleen, liver, intestines and lungs). Damage to the internal organs is often irreparable, so blunt force trauma can also have permanent and even life-threatening consequences.
Concussion or Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
Traumatic brain injuries come in many forms, from mild to severe. They can involve a simple concussion or prolonged coma. In all cases, the victim will suffer some degree of cognitive, physical, behavioral and emotional impairment. In the worst cases, TBI victims can be left permanently paralyzed and in need of constant, round-the-clock care for the rest of their lives.
What To Do After a Bicycle Wreck in Texas
If you've been in a wreck on your bike, particularly if you've wrecked with a car or truck, your first priority is to seek the medical attention you need. Not only will this help you heal faster, but if you were hurt in an accident and plan on making a claim against (suing) the other driver, going to the doctor will help you win your claim.
I explain this idea more in my article about why accident victims must be good patients.
After you've seen your doctor and started treatment, the next order of business is to determine who's at fault for the wreck. This is the most important question you'll answer, because whoever caused the wreck is also responsible for paying for the damages and injuries the wreck caused. (And really, that person's insurance is responsible for paying. That's why you always make a claim using the at-fault party's insurance).
How to Determine Fault in a Car-on-Bicycle Wreck
In Texas, we have a modified comparative fault rule, meaning that fault can be split up between the two parties. In other words, you and the driver can both be at fault. However, if you were hurt in a bicycle accident with a car and you were partially at-fault, you can still recover compensation from their insurance company. The only stipulation is that the driver has to be more responsible for the accident - literally, they have to have caused 50 percent or more of the wreck.
Who decides "how much" each person is to blame? The insurance companies. However, the accident victim (you) can use evidence from the wreck to convince the insurance company that the other driver caused the wreck. That's why documenting your accident is so important. I've written
Common Causes of Bicycle Accidents and Who's At-Fault
After an accident, it's not always clear who's at-fault. Here, we cover a few common causes of bicycle accidents and who is typically responsible:
A Car Pulls Out from a Side Street
The single most common type of bike accident occurs when cars pull out of a side street or parking lot and hit an oncoming bicyclist. Studies show that drivers tend to look into the middle of the road for oncoming traffic, but rarely do they check bike lanes or the sides of streets.
In this kind of accident, the driver is at-fault; bicyclists have the right of way and cars must yield to them.
A Driver Opens Their Car Door Into a Bicyclist
Even if a driver checks their side view mirror before opening their car door, they might still not see a bicyclist. When a driver opens their car door and hits a bicyclist (or causes a bicyclist to hit the door), it's the driver's fault. The law states that no driver should open a vehicle door on the side of moving traffic until it's reasonably safe to do so.
A Car Hits a Bicyclist Riding Against Traffic
As a driver pulls out of a side street to make a right hand turn, they often look to their left (toward oncoming traffic) to check for when it's clear. If a bicyclist is coming from the opposite direction, the driver could pull out into them and hit them.
In this instance, it could be shared fault, the driver's fault or the bicyclist's fault. Bicyclists who are riding on a main road with traffic are expected to follow the rules of the road (including riding with the flow of traffic), so riding against traffic would break this rule. However, if the bicyclist was on a sidewalk, those laws no longer apply.
A Car Turns In Front of a Cyclist
Cars turning right in front of bicyclists are another major cause of bike accidents. In many cases, drivers look for oncoming traffic before they turn right but it never occurs to them to check their mirrors to see if bicyclists are coming along the side. If a car turns into a biker and hits them, it's the driver's fault.
A Car Hits a Bicyclist Traveling in the Same Direction
Texas doesn't have a statewide law governing the safe distance for a car to leave between them and a cyclist. When a car's passing a bicycle, it's up to their judgment how far is "far enough." However, certain cities like Austin and El Paso have passed their own three-foot gap laws, meaning a car must leave at least three feet between them and a cyclist when passing them on the road.
Potholes and Bad Sidewalks Lead to Accidents: Suing the City
The Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex is not known to be pedestrian-friendly. Despite recent efforts by cities such as Fort Worth and Arlington to initiate projects intended to improve walking areas, most cities in North Texas heavily favor the automobile at the expense of the pedestrian. In fact, DFW ranks as the 10th most dangerous metro area in the nation in terms of pedestrian safety, according to Transportation for America.
Common accidents caused by poorly designed sidewalks include instances where there are no crosswalks available or where obstacles (such as fire hydrants or poles) in the middle of the sidewalk force pedestrians to walk in the street. This is particularly a problem for parents pushing strollers, joggers, elderly pedestrians and the disabled. It forces them off the sidewalk and into a position where they are much more likely to be hit by a distracted driver.
The Anderson Law Firm is familiar with assessing the conditions of sidewalks, crosswalks and other roadway features that may be poorly designed or constructed. If you believe you were hurt due to faulty roads or sidewalks, contact us today.
Who's To Blame in a Fatal Bike Accident?
Unfortunately, fatal biking accidents can and do happen, and the relatives of that bicyclist are often ill-informed about their legal rights to pursue a wrongful death claim. Did you know that if your loved one was killed after being hit by a car on their bike that you can recover financial damages (to pay for any medical expenses resulting from the wreck), their funeral costs, lost income and earning capacity, and your own pain and suffering?
Though we usually see car drivers to be at-fault for fatal bike accidents, sometimes a defective bike or poorly designed roadway is to blame.
In a defective device case involving bicycle fatalities, the claims are usually centered around either the bike itself or the helmet. A frequent cause of defective bicycle accidents is a malfunctioning quick release mechanism, typically involving the front wheel of the bike which may suddenly come loose without warning due to either over-tightening or under-tightening. A claim against a bicycle helmet manufacturer would be based on the evidence that the helmet failed to protect against serious head and brain injuries like it was supposed to.
In a case where the roadway design was responsible for the fatal accident, a transportation engineer will examine the scene where the crash occurred to determine whether the roadway meets the standard engineering requirements. Common dangerous conditions include limited sight distance and construction zone hazards.
When Is the Bicyclist At-Fault?
If you've been in a bicycle accident and specifically, if you've been in a bicycle accident with a car or truck, you're likely wondering who broke the law, who's at-fault and most importantly, who's going to pay for all the damages and injuries caused as a result?
At my firm, I typically see the driver being found at-fault for a car-vs.-bike accident. However, this isn't always the case. Here are a few laws that pertain to cyclists. If you were breaking one of them during your accident, you could be found at-fault.
- Cyclists should only ride on roads, streets and paths without "no biking" signs.
- On shared sidewalks, the bicycle rider is responsible for giving proper warning when approaching others.
- When cycling on a roadway, bicycles must keep as far to the right of the road as possible.
- If a cyclist must turn left on a roadway, they should align themselves appropriately as with any other vehicle.
- Bicycles on roads comply with all traffic signals, warning signs and other laws - just like cars must.
- All bikes must be in good working condition (proper brakes, handlebars, etc.)
- If you ride ,at night you must fit your bike with a white head lamp on the front and a reflector on the rear.
- If there is only one permanent seat/saddle fitted to the bike, then only one person may ride it.
- Pulling or dragging people on roller skates, sled, cart, etc. is not permitted.
- It is illegal to attempt to transport a load which requires you to have less than one hand on the bicycle's handlebars.
Bicyclists must also use correct hand signals to signal their intention to maneuver to other road users:
- Stopping - extend left arm downwards
- Turning left - extend left arm out horizontally
- Turning right - extend right arm out horizontally (or extend left arm upwards)
So, for instance, if you made a sudden left hand turn and didn't signal, and a car hit you as a result, you could be found at-fault for the wreck for failing to signal.
The Legal Rights of Texas Cyclists
Since bikes aren't motorized, many Texas motorists seem to forget that bicyclists have just as much right to be on the road as any other vehicle. Of course, it also means cyclists have to abide by all the same rules as other drivers. This includes staying off sidewalks, stopping at red lights and stop signs and yielding to pedestrians.
If you've been hit by a driver, it's likely the driver will try to pin the blame on you. They might accuse you of riding in the middle of the road or riding with two cyclists abreast, saying it's your fault you were in the way. However, if you understand the law and your rights as a bicyclist, you'll see that neither of these arguments are valid.
It's important to know your rights when making a claim against a negligent driver. They hit you and they need to be held responsible. Here are a few more Texas cyclist rights you should keep in mind:
- Cyclists may ride in the road in the same direction as traffic, though they should stay as far right as possible.
- Cars must yield to a bicycle when they have the right-of-way, just as they would to another car.
- Cyclists should ride near the curb, but Texas law allows cyclists to take up the entire lane when it's safer to do so.
- Cyclists can ride two abreast as long as they don't slow down traffic.
- Cyclists can take up the entire lane when the lane is too narrow for a car to pass the rider at a safe distance (or a road that's less than 14 feet across and doesn't have a bicycle lane).
At this point, many people choose to consult with a board certified personal injury attorney. An attorney can help you determine what laws the car was breaking when they hit you and how much money you deserve in compensation for your damages and injuries. Furthermore, a lawyer who takes on your case will collect evidence to prove the other driver was negligent.
Your Right to Legal Compensation
According to Texas law, if you've been injured due to someone else’s negligence, you have the right to make a claim for compensation.
Although Texas cities are designed for the automobile, that in no way undermines the legal rights of pedestrians and bicyclists. Under Texas law, motorists have an obligation to use caution when driving and ensure the safety of all fellow road users – including those walking, cycling or in a wheelchair or motorized scooter.
Since many bicycle-auto accident cases are the fault of the motorist, you should waste no time in making a claim against the driver (and their insurance). Under Texas law, damages recoverable by seriously injured accident victims include all past (already incurred) and future (probable) medical expenses, lost income (wages, salary, commission), and other accident-related expenses. It is also possible to recover compensation for intangible damages such as loss of unpaid services, and the very real physical pain, mental anguish, scarring and disfigurement, and loss of enjoyment of life that you have suffered.
What Insurance Is Available to Cyclists?
In many accident cases, you can file against multiple insurance policies rather than just one. The most obvious is the at-fault driver's liability insurance, which should cover your bodily injuries and damage to your bike. You can also file against your own underinsured or uninsured motorist policy if you happen to have it.
For example, if you were in a bike wreck and you're left with $50,000 in medical bills, but the negligent driver only carries the state minimum of $30,000, then you are still going to have to pay $20,000 out of pocket. However, if you're carrying underinsured motorist coverage, you can file a claim against that coverage to cover the remaining balance.
What If the Driver Who Hit You Drove Away (Hit and Run)?
Luckily, you aren't out of luck if you've been injured as a pedestrian by someone who drove away or who doesn't have enough insurance to cover your damages. In these situations, you can use your own insurance to cover the cost of your medical expenses and more. The type of insurance you'll need to have is called Personal Injury Protection (PIP). PIP is a form of additional add-on insurance you can buy to protect yourself and your family members in the event of an auto accident. Since PIP is considered no-fault insurance, it can be used even if you caused the accident (as a driver, pedestrian or otherwise).
To Find Out If You Have PIP, You'll Need to Do Your Research
You can look at your insurance policy to see if you're covered by PIP. Under Texas insurance law, the "named insured" and their family members are covered under PIP as pedestrians. If the injured pedestrian isn't either the policy holder or a family member, they aren't covered.
A a Fort Worth attorney, I know that insurance policies aren't always easy to understand. It might not be clear what insurance you have and if it's going to cover your damages and injuries, particularly in the case of pedestrian injury.
In these cases, it's best to consult with your personal injury lawyer. They'll be able to tell you exactly what insurance you're carrying and your right to coverage.
Does PIP Cover Anything Else?
Aside from protecting you if you're hit by a car as a pedestrian, PIP covers a whole range of scenarios. Most involve auto accidents in some form or another, though you don't always have to be the driver or a pedestrian to use your PIP. For instance, contact with a car of any kind - like falling from a tree and hitting your car - will afford you PIP (if you've paid the premium and no rejection can be produced).
Texas Law Doesn't Always Protect Cyclists
Unfortunately, when a cyclist is hit by a car and it's the driver's fault, there aren't any statewide laws in Texas to protect the cyclist. They're considered a vehicle and are given no special treatment. However, it's clear that bicycles and cars aren't the same. Shouldn't drivers take extra care around exposed cyclists? And shouldn't they face harsh penalties for carelessness, especially if their actions cause harm to the cyclist?
If you've been hit on your bike by a car, you deserve compensation. Consider hiring an attorney (who won't charge anything unless they win your case) to take on your claim and help you recover the money you need to pay for your damaged bike and medical bills.
What Can Cyclists Do to Protect Themselves?
Wear a helmet! Cyclists have very little protection in the event of a collision, so protecting your head with a good helmet is an absolute must. The head holds the brain - one of the most important organs of the body - which is why safeguarding it with a sturdy helmet should be a primary task. It’s also important that you follow all the rules of the road, just as though you were driving a motor vehicle. Additionally, take care whenever you’re passing a row of parked cars – you don’t want to accidentally crash into a car door which suddenly opens.
Additional Safety Measures
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), being seen by motorists is very important for a bicyclist’s safety. This can be accomplished by making sure that drivers see you by making eye contact with them. Also, crossing the road should be done stepping off the bicycle and stopping before crossing. By doing so, drivers have time to notice a bicyclist, and bicyclists can be sure that a driver has made visual contact with them. By both the bicyclist and driver noticing each other, an accident can be avoided.
The Most Dangerous Time of Day
There is more traffic on the roads between the hours of 5:00 and 9:00 pm, as people head home from work and go out and about in the evening, which means there is greater potential for an accident to occur. It also starts to get dark during these hours, which means visibility becomes even worse.
Bicyclists who choose to drive within these late hours should be sure to have reflective gear on their bicycle, which can let motorists know that they are on the road. Also, attaching a light to the front of their bicycle can be a benefit when riding during the evening. Due to new technology innovations, bicyclists are able to purchase LED lights that shine brighter than conventional lights and last longer.
Is It Illegal to Bike Without a Helmet in Texas?
There are no statewide laws requiring helmets while riding a bicycle in Texas. However, there are a number of cities in Texas that have enacted their own local laws regarding helmet use.
As a Fort Worth personal injury lawyer, I encourage all bicyclists to wear a helmet while riding. It's better to minimize the risk of injury - even traumatic brain injury - than to go without.
Cities that Require Helmets
In 1996, the city of Dallas became the first Texas municipality to require cyclists of all ages to wear a helmet while riding. The following cities have also introduced local regulations regarding the mandatory use of helmets by cyclists (the ages the law applies to is in parenthesis):
- Arlington (under 18)
- Austin (under 18)
- Bedford (under 16)
- Benbrook (under 17)
- Coppell (under 15)
- Fort Worth (under 18)
- Houston (under 18)
- Southlake (under 15)
Other Safety Equipment Required by Law
Although blanket helmet use is not mandated by Texas law, Sec. 551.104 of the Texas Transportation Code does require that all pushbikes are equipped with functional brakes capable of stopping on dry, level, clean pavement.
If a bicycle is indented to be operated at night, it must also be equipped with a white light on the front of the bike that is visible from a distance of at least 500 feet, and a red light on the rear of the bike that is visible from a distance of 500 feet. (A red reflector may be substituted on the rear of the bike in place of a red light. The reflector must be visible from all distances from 50 to 300 feet.)
Do You Need an Attorney to Take Over Your Case?
If you or a member of your family has been injured in a Texas bicycle accident, please call the Dallas-Fort Worth personal injury and wrongful death lawyers at the Anderson Law Firm for a free, no obligation consultation on your case.
I often tell injury victims that it is vital to protect your legal rights by hiring an experienced bicycle and pedestrian injury lawyer. The last thing you want to do is make a mistake that will compromise your legal rights or ruin your claim. The best way to protect yourself is by hiring an experienced injury attorney to pursue your claim on your behalf.
Contact the board certified Dallas personal injury trial lawyers at the Anderson Law Firm today to take advantage of your completely free, no obligation consultation.
As a Dallas-Fort Worth personal injury attorney, I know that when a cyclist is involved in a traffic collision with a motor vehicle, there is an opportunity for catastrophic bodily injuries to occur to the bicyclist. Bicycle accidents are never expected, which is why dealing with them can be a painful and confusing task. To help you avoid such a crash, I have prepared several answers to some of the most frequently asked questions regarding safe cycling, including safety tips and what to do in the event of an injury.