As Florida's summer season begins to heat up, tourists and residents alike are taking to the road, on their bikes, that is. Although bicycles are not considered motor vehicles under Florida law because they are “muscle powered,” cyclists are generally entitled to the same rights to use the road as Florida drivers. Cyclists must, of course, adhere to all applicable Florida traffic laws and regulations, but options for injured cyclists can differ from those injured in a traditional motor vehicle accident because no-fault insurance is not required for cyclists. Accordingly, if you are injured in a Florida bike accident, what are your options for compensation?
Rules of the Road for Florida Cyclists
According to the Florida Bicycle Association, if a roadway is marked with a bicycle lane, cyclists must use that lane unless they are attempting to avoid a hazard or making a necessary turn. Cyclists must also adhere to the general rules of the road, such as stopping for red lights and stop signs. Further, a cyclist should be mindful not to unexpectedly leave the bicycle lane to make a turn if it would result in cutting off an unsuspecting driver. Where there is no bicycle lane, however, drivers and riders alike must share the road. Even if a cyclist is traveling at a slower rate of speed than traffic would allow, she does not need to pull or move over unless there is a bicycle lane available or the roadway is greater than 14-feet. It is important, however, for cyclists to use discretion, as even if you are asserting your rights, many frustrated or aggressive drivers may not feel the same way about riding as you do.
Florida No-Fault Law and Cyclists
Florida is known as a “no-fault” state, which means that state law requires Florida drivers to carry at least $10,000 in personal injury coverage to pay for medical expenses that arise out of car accidents. This coverage is “primary” regardless of who is at-fault for the accident, hence the term “no-fault.” However, the no-fault law does not apply to bike riders, who are not required to carry (and generally do not carry) personal injury insurance. This means if you are injured in an accident that does not involve a motor vehicle, such as riding over an obscured pothole on a public road, you must rely on your own medical insurance for treatment. This can create problems for future recovery for personal injuries, as certain state-based insurance companies, such as state Medicaid or Medicare, have a right to reimbursement from the proceeds of a personal injury case.
However, if you are involved in an accident with a motor vehicle, such as a car or truck, regardless of fault that driver's no-fault coverage will provide you with certain personal injury benefits. It is important to contact a Florida personal injury attorney who understands no-fault law if you believe a motor vehicle was involved in a complex bicycle accident.
Common Florida Bicycle Accidents and Injuries
As you can imagine, superficial bruising, scrapes and minor musculoskeletal injuries are among the most common suffered by cyclists. However, bicycle-related injuries are second only to horseback riding accidents on the scale of seriousness. The most common factors that contribute to bicycle injuries include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Age and gender;
- Time of day;
- Lack of safety gear;
- Unsafe riding environments, including uneven pavement;
- Tricks and competitive riding; and
- Motor vehicle involvement.
Among the most serious injuries suffered include traumatic brain injuries, especially in those not wearing a helmet, but such injuries can also include:
- Face, eye, and dental injuries;
- Fractures and dislocations;
- Punctured lungs, and
- Abdominal injuries such as bowel contusions and ruptures.
Because most cyclists do not wear heavy safety gear, and some even choose not to wear helmets, the level of injury may be more severe than those seen by motorcycle riders, who wear special protective gear. Be sure to take the safety precautions necessary for the type of bike you're riding and the area in which you will be operating it.
Seeking Compensation for Bicycle Injuries
Your remedies for bicycle injuries are similar to those remedies available for other personal injuries suffered, which include claims for common law negligence, negligence per se, recklessness, and premises liability. For example, if you are injured on public Clearwater property due to poor road maintenance, you may have a cause of action against the town; although, your damages may be limited based on state and county immunity laws. However, if you are sideswiped by a motor vehicle in Tampa Bay, you can seek recovery under the driver's no-fault policy and you may be able to bring litigation against the driver for the value of the driver's auto insurance policy.
The difficulty when it comes to recovery is if you were, in fact, injured due to the negligence of another but neither the person nor the property owner had an insurance policy. In that case, you might be limited to recovering directly from the individual, who more than likely will not have the finances necessary to cover serious medical expenses. Further, if you are mountain biking on a difficult trail or engaging in racing or bicycle tricks, you may be subject to contributory negligence under the doctrine of assumption of risk because you would have been aware of the risks involved.
Contact a Clearwater Bicycle Accident Attorney Today
Even if you are not sure whether you have a claim for compensation under Florida law, it is always essential to contact a Florida personal injury attorney to discuss your options. Often, multiple parties may be responsible for causing your injuries, such as the owner of the property, a negligent driver, or another person who distracted the driver at the time of the accident. If you or a loved one were injured in a bicycle accident due to the negligence of another, including motor vehicle negligence or failure to maintain safe premises, the Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA can help. They have your premier personal injury lawyers in the greater Tampa Bay area, and they are here to fight for your right to compensation, especially when you were entitled to share the road. Contact them today online or at (727) 451-6900 for a free, no-risk consultation.