Bicycle accidents are serious business. There are no seat belts, no head rests, and no soft landings. The reality is that impact, gravity, and hard surfaces will do more than just spoil your ride.
Bicycle injuries can be disabling, catastrophic, and even deadly.
Don’t let a bad situation get worse. Learn about Washington bicycle accident law. Get informed and make smart decisions about how to handle your case.
Legally What Makes for a Winning Bicycle Accident Case?
- Good Facts (liability and fault)
- Injuries of some significance (damages)
- Responsible defendant (with insurance or money)
- Timely Action. You must settle or file a lawsuit before the Statute of Limitation (SOL) runs.
Good Facts - Who is how much at fault.
Good facts are very important in bicycle accident cases. Good facts help win cases.
A negligent automobile driver, a hazardous road condition, inadequate signage, doors flung open, and the car or truck driver’s defective equipment can make for good facts.
These facts influence liability and in effect determine who is at fault.
What are the facts of your case? Are they good? Can they be proven? Will they be disputed?
Facts are established by witnesses, police reports, the vehicle driver, and by you the rider.
The facts become evidence when in the courtroom. Evidence can be direct (other driver admits fault) or circumstantial (other driver was on his cell phone at the time therefore was probably inattentive).
Work hard to gather important facts. Look everywhere. Get reports. Interview witness. Revisit the scene of the accident. Keep in mind that memories fade witnesses disappear, and the police don't come unless called. Prove your case. Get help if you need it.
Injuries of Significance - Must be Documented in the Medical Records
Serious injuries are bad for the bike rider; but they are good for the case.
Said another way, the worse you are hurt, the more your case is worth.
Also very important to your case is the proof of how badly you are hurt. You may not want to hear this but its better you hear it now than later learn it the hard way. In a court of law, you are not an expert as to how badly you are hurt. That’s right, you are only a witness. The doctor is the expert. Medical bills, chart notes and the doctor's opinion will determine how significant your injuries are to the insurance adjuster the judge, and the jury.
Want a fair money recovery? Get plenty of appropriate medical care from the medical doctor(s) and therapists. If you hurt, tell your doctor and everyone who treats you and be sure he/she gets it in the medical records.
Responsible Defendants have Insurance
- In a bicycle only accident, the circumstances decide who the defendant may be. For example the municipality who should have maintained the dangerous roadway could be the defendant.
- In a multi-vehicle accident the defendant is the other person, the at fault driver who injured you.
- Either way, a responsible defendant is a person who has adequate insurance and/or enough money to compensate you for your losses.
- Insurance is both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because it can provide the money to reimburse you for your losses. A curse because insurance adjusters are trained and skilled at paying less then you deserve. Be careful in your dealings with insurance companies. The pride themselves every time they can get you to settle cheap.
Here’s an example of a phone conversation with an insurance adjuster:
“Hello, it’s me, the injured person.”
“Hi, it’s your friendly insurance adjuster calling. How are you?”
“I’m fine, how are you?”
“Glad to hear that you’re fine. Thank you for telling me that. I guess we can close your file now. Thanks for taking my call. Good Bye.”
Insurance adjusters work hard, but not for you. They have performed this and other tricks hundreds of times. They may be calling you soon. Be careful and choose your words wisely.
Timely Action which tolls the Statute of Limitations (SOL)
- Injured persons have a right to make a claim for their losses. This claim has a time deadline, called the statute of limitations (SOL). Said another way, you need to properly and timely make your claim or the SOL will run and you will lose your right to make a claim.
- The statute of limitations for a liability claim in Seattle is usually 3 years. You can comply with this SOL requirement by settling your claim or filing a lawsuit within 3 years of the accident. The SOL for certain administrative filings could be much shorter. Don’t waste time; take appropriate action. Get advice if you need it.
- The statute of limitations for a claim against your own UIM company is often 6 years. Read your policy for precise information on your SOL. You toll this SOL by making a claim with your insurance company.
- Know which type of claim you have and take appropriate action to toll the statue of limitations.
Insurance to Cover Bicycle Accident Injuries
There are many types of insurance. We will discuss 5 types.
At fault drivers are required to have liability insurance to cover them for the damage caused by their negligence. In Washington State a motor vehicle driver must carry liability insurance of at least $25,000 per person / $50,000 per accident. Smart drivers will carry more, but some drivers have no insurance. Liability insurance can pay for the injured rider's medical bills, lost wages, damaged bicycle, pain, suffering, and other losses.
If the at fault driver has no insurance (uninsured) or not enough insurance (under insured), then your own UIM policy steps in and pays you for damages not already compensated. This is the UIM insurance on your vehicle. Got a vehicle with UIM insurance? Check your policy. Use it if you need it.
Medical insurance is good for you and your case. It allows you to get medical care. It pays your doctors and keeps them happy. The medical care helps you get better. Medical treatment helps you prove the value of your losses. If you have medical insurance you can use it. It will cost you however in the form of subrogation.
Subrogation is the right of your medical insurance company to get paid back, from you, out of the money you settle for in your accident case. Be careful of subrogation, and keep it in mind when settling your case. You can and you should repay your insurance company less then they will ask for in subrogation. If you have an attorney, the medical insurer will in effect end up paying some of your attorney fees.
Med Pay and PIP
Med pay and Personal Injury Protection (PIP) provide medical bill payments, often without regard to fault. They can pay medical bills until your case settles. They also may be available to pay co-pays and deductibles on your health insurance. Check your policy.
Homeowners or Renters Insurance
These policies often provide insurance coverage similar to liability insurance to pay for damage you caused. They also often provide coverage for the theft of your bike. Check your policy.
Should I Talk with or Hire a Lawyer About my Seattle/Washington State Bicycle Accident?
A consultation with a bicycle attorney about your accident and injuries is going to be free and helpful. What’s not to like about that?
If you have questions or concerns, take advantage of that free consultation. You can make your decision about hiring an attorney after you talk with them.
Here is what you or you and your lawyer need to figure out:
- Which insurance company should pay, when and for what?
- What should I say to my doctor?
- Am I prepared to attend an insurance company medical exam by one of their doctors?
- How much money should I get for my damaged bicycle?
- How much medical care should I get for my injuries?
- How do I get the insurance adjuster to take me seriously?
- Is my medical insurance company going to demand subrogation? If so do they get 100% of the value of their services or should they take a discount?
- If I don’t have medical insurance how do I get the doctor to treat me now and get paid later?
- What about medical bills and collection companies?
- What is my case worth?
- If negotiations with the insurance company fail, are there alternatives to lawsuits?
- If I got a ticket for a bicycle accident, should I fight it?
Can I Do It Myself?
That depends on what your case looks like. If your injuries are minor, your bike damage easy to figure out, and the other side is cooperative then you should be able to DIY.
If you have serious injuries, wage loss, liability issues, or a cagey insurance adjuster on the other side, then talk to a lawyer. You don’t have to hire a lawyer to get a consultation and some free advice. After your consult, make your best decision about DIY or a lawyer.
Serious Bicycle Accidents are Worth More with a Lawyer.
- Not because lawyers are cheap, but rather because insurance companies are cheap and don't want to pay you anything.
- Most of a good recovery is worth more than no recovery at all.
- Contingent fees make getting a good lawyer possible.
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