As a cyclist, you already know that you’re much smaller and more fragile than most of the other vehicles on the road. Your bicycle provides no protection from vehicles zooming past you and while you may have carefully chosen your helmet and clothing to make you as safe and visible as possible, those precautions can only do so much good to protect you from serious injury in an accident.
One of the most common types of accidents cyclists face is a left-hook bicycle accident—a highly preventable type of accident that generally occurs because motorists aren’t paying attention to the road around them. Here is what every cyclist needs to know about left-hook accidents.
What Are Left Hook Bicycle Accidents?
A left hook bicycle accident occurs when a vehicle turns left without yielding to a cyclist in the oncoming lane. The car or truck turning left may strike the cyclist or may cut the cyclist off and cause a collision. Often, left hook accidents occur with a vehicle moving at a high speed relative to the bicycle, leading to significant injuries or fatality for the cyclist.
What Injuries Are Most Common in Left Hook Bicycle Accidents?
As a cyclist, you have as much gear as possible to provide you with protection. Unfortunately, that gear may be of little help when you are involved in a left hook bicycle accident. Injuries from left hook bicycle accidents can range in severity. The extent of a cyclist’s injuries may depend on how fast the vehicle was traveling, how fast the cyclist was traveling, the angles of impact involved, and the road surface. Common injuries may include:
- Traumatic brain injury. A bicycle helmet is designed to protect a cyclist’s head and to reduce the incidence of traumatic brain injury in an accident. Properly-fitted helmets in good condition are about 70 percent effective in protecting the brain from traumatic brain injury. Still, they cannot provide complete protection from the force and angle of an impact. Even when helmets do their job, cyclists may sustain mild to moderate brain injury. In the worst cases, brain injury can lead to cognitive or physical impairment, memory loss, coma, and death.
- Spinal cord injury. A collision between a bicycle and a vehicle tends to throw the cyclist to the ground in an awkward and violent impact or series of impacts. When this impact injures the cyclist’s spinal cord, the cyclist may be left with partial or total paralysis. In many cases, these injuries may be permanent, requiring the cyclist to adapt to life in a wheelchair or other assistive device.
- Broken bones and soft-tissue trauma. It is common in any violent impact for a cyclist to suffer fractures and soft-tissue trauma over their entire body. Some common injuries include shattered wrists and hips, and damaged shoulders. These injuries may require extensive orthopedic reconstruction and months (or more) of physical therapy before the cyclist can recover a full range of motion and functionality.
- Lacerations and abrasions. Striking and sliding along rough pavement can result in deep lacerations and massive abrasions that take a long time to heal and pose a risk of infection if not properly cleaned and dressed.
- Emotional trauma. In addition to the physical trauma associated with a bicycle accident, cyclists injured in left-hook collisions may also experience severe emotional trauma. They may have trouble sleeping or eating for some time after the accident, or they may struggle with activities that were previously enjoyable. It may be quite some time before they’re able to get back on their bicycle again comfortably. Recovering from the emotional trauma of a bicycle accident may take months or more of counseling and support.
How Can Cyclists Avoid Left Hook Bicycle Accidents?
Bicycle riders rarely bear the fault for left hook bicycle accidents, since these accidents occur when a vehicle fails to yield to the cyclist’s right-of-way. That doesn’t mean, however, that cyclists are helpless to prevent potential accidents. By following these tips, cyclists can decrease their odds of sustaining injuries in a left hook bicycle accident (or in any type of bicycle accident, for that matter).
- Always wear the right protective and safety gear. Cyclists should always wear a properly-fitted helmet in good condition. Never wear a helmet that is cracked or has absorbed the impact of a prior collision. Wearing leggings, gloves, and long sleeves can all help prevent road rash if in a collision or fall from a bicycle. Of course, that gear isn’t practical in warm weather, so it’s also important for gear to make the cyclist visible at all times. Bright, fluorescent colors are better than neutrals and earth-tones. If a cyclist anticipates riding in dim light (such as in the morning or evening), clothing should also have reflective strips on it. The cyclist should also have front and rear running lights mounted on their bikes. This may be required by law depending on where the cyclist rides.
- Practice situational awareness. It’s easy for cyclists to get into the “zone” and lose focus on what is happening around them while they’re riding. This is especially true when they ride on a familiar route or cover long distances. Responsible cyclists should be mindful not to lose focus this way. Bicycles are just one of many vehicles with the right to share the road, and they’re far-and-away the most vulnerable. On busy roads, cyclists must be sure to anticipate changes in road surface and bike lanes, to avoid making sudden directional changes that could put them in harm’s way. On relatively empty roads cyclists should stay alert to the dangers of blind corners and limited sight-lines that could expose them to vehicles traveling at high speed.
- Avoid distractions. Distracted biking is just as dangerous as distracted driving, maybe even more so because of how vulnerable cyclists are in a collision or fall. Despite the urge to treat cycling like any other workout, cyclists must not listen to music that drowns out their surroundings. They should also avoid fixing their attention on their bike computer or GPS rather than the road ahead while in motion. If they have to take a call, they should pull over.
- Put safety first. Bicycles have the right of way. Traffic should yield to cyclists. When the roadway is not wide enough for a car to pass a cyclist with at least three feet to spare, bicyclists should “ride big” in the middle of the lane, even if it annoys vehicle drivers behind them (as soon as it’s safe not to “ride big” anymore, the cyclist should move over). However, just because cyclists have the right-of-way doesn’t mean cyclists can safely act like kings and queens of the road in every circumstance. Riding two or three abreast may be a fun way to chat with fellow cyclists, but it also increases the dangers of a side-swipe accident. The agility of a bike may make it tempting to weave in and out of city traffic, but it also tends to set vehicle drivers on edge and gives them little time to react. Cyclists, like vehicle drivers, should exercise defensive riding to stay safe and accident-free.
- Follow the rules of the road. Cyclists are just as responsible for following the rules of the road as the drivers of any other vehicle They must make sure to adhere to the rules of the road: biking in the correct lane, staying with the flow of traffic, and adhering to traffic signals, including stop signs and stop lights. Cyclists who fail to obey traffic laws risk injuring themselves and others.
- Make eye contact before proceeding through an intersection. This is a specific safety tip, but also an important one. Cyclists should remain mindful that sometimes drivers simply may not see them. This blindness to cyclists can happen to the most responsible drivers. As protection against not being seen (particularly at intersections), cyclists should try to make eye contact with the driver of any oncoming or crossing vehicle. If the driver doesn’t return that eye contact, it’s a potential warning sign for the cyclist to exercise extreme caution. This technique is especially effective to prevent left-hook accidents, because the rider and driver are more-or-less facing each other head-on before the driver turns left.
Actions to Take After a Left Hook Bicycle Accident.
The actions a cyclist takes after a left-hook accident can mean the difference between life and death. They can also protect the cyclist’s legal rights to recover compensation from the driver of the left-hook vehicle. Here are some steps cyclists or those responding to them at an accident scene can take to protect their wellbeing:
- Step one: Self-check. Cyclists who remain conscious after an accident should be cautious in trying to move. Bicycle accidents can often cause neck and back trauma that may be made worse by moving. If it is safe to do so, it may be best to stay still and ask someone else to call 911.
- Step two: Get out of the road. Keeping Step One above in mind, cyclists who have been in a left-hook accident should, if possible, get themselves and then, if feasible, their bike out of the road of the road. Just as one driver was unable to see them, other drivers on the road may fail to realize that an accident has occurred. The last thing anyone needs after a left hook bicycle accident is a secondary accident.
- Step three: Summon help. Summon both police and ambulance by calling 911. When police arrive at the scene, they will be able to collect evidence and witness statements for an accident report. The ambulance will be able to assess everyone’s physical condition and, if needed, transport them to the hospital.
- Step four: Seek medical attention. If a ride to the hospital emergency department isn’t necessary, cyclists should still have a medical professional examine them at the scene, and then schedule a visit with their primary care doctor as soon as possible. The symptoms of some injuries may take time to appear. Also, it can be important for cyclists to protect their legal rights by having a clear record of the diligence they showed in seeking medical care.
- Step five: Take pictures of the scene of the accident. If possible, it can be helpful for protecting one’s legal rights to take pictures or video of the accident scene as soon as possible after the accident. The images should try to show the perspective of the cyclist and the vehicle driver, and any road features or signage that may have come into play.
- Step six: Collect information. At the scene of the accident, it may also be useful for cyclists to collect contact information from the driver of the vehicle involved, as well as the names of any witnesses who saw the accident happen. Exchanging insurance information is also a good idea and may be required by law in some states.
- Step seven: Preserve the bicycle. Cyclists may have the understandable urge to take their bike to be fixed right away, but they should resist. The bike may be evidence in a personal injury case. It is best instead for cyclists to store the bike in a safe place in exactly the condition the accident left it, and not to touch it again until they have spoken with a lawyer.
- Step eight: Contact legal help. Cyclists injured in a left-hook accident should contact legal counsel immediately to protect their rights to seek compensation from insurance companies and, potentially, the driver of the vehicle that turned left. The sooner a cyclist has a lawyer on board, the better the chances of recovering the maximum compensation available for the injuries, property damage, and pain and suffering the accident caused.
Do You Need Legal Help After a Left Hook Bicycle Accident?
If you’re looking for legal support after a left hook bicycle accident, call the experienced professionals at Dolman Law Group. From advice about how to recover maximum damages to what information you should avoid posting on social media, we serve injured Florida bicyclists day in, day out. Contact us today at (727) 451-6900 to schedule your free consultation.
Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765