Biking is a great way to exercise, avoid traffic, and enjoy all that Florida has to offer. The Sunshine State didn’t get its nickname without reason, and the number of bikers on Florida’s roads continues to rise each year. Unfortunately, this is likely the reason why Florida has the highest rate of bicycling deaths in the United States—and not just the highest rate, but a rate more than double the national average. This means that Florida bike accidents are far too common, and these cases often involve serious injuries. If you have been injured or a loved one was killed in a bicycle accident in Florida, call our Florida Bicycle Accident Attorneys at Dolman Law Group for assistance at (727) 451-6900 immediately.
Common Causes of Florida Bike Accidents
The most common accidents involved bike-vehicle crashes when the drivers of the vehicles were between 20 and 24 years old. This was surprising to many Floridians, who often blame the aging snowbird population for road-related accidents, but drivers older than 75 were least likely to be involved when cars and bikes collided.
The most common negligent driving behaviors that lead to bike collisions are:
- Failure of drivers to yield right-of-way to cyclists
- Distracted driving, such as texting
- Careless driving
- Running stop signs
Your Rights as a Florida Cyclist
Under Florida law, cyclists have “all the rights and all of the duties applicable to the driver of any other vehicle.” Of course, there are certain exceptions, such as regulations for riding with a child younger than four and using a bicycle helmet if you are younger than 16, but cyclists are generally entitled to their fair share of the road. Bike riders are supposed to use the bike lane if they are riding slower than the normal speed of traffic—and if no such lane is available, then they are required to ride as far to the right as possible. But as you can imagine, failure to yield right-of-way accidents can often occur when drivers make right turns across bike lanes and crash into riders who adhere to the law. Unfortunately, most drivers do not consider bicycle lanes as actual traffic lanes, but this is no excuse for their negligence under Florida law.
Recovering for Your Injuries After a Florida Bike Accident
If you were injured by a motor vehicle while riding your bike, there are generally two causes of action your attorney may pursue in court: negligence and negligence per se. To show that another driver was negligent, your attorney must prove the following:
- Duty: The driver had a duty to others to operate a motor vehicle in a safe manner and in accordance with Florida law.
- Breach: The driver failed to take measures to operate the vehicle in a safe, reasonable, or legal manner.
- Cause: As a result of the driver’s breach, you were involved in a traffic accident.
- Damages: As a result of the accident, you sustained injuries or other compensable damages.
If the accident occurred because an aggressive driver did not want to share the road, however, you have a case for both your personal injuries and to bring to the police. Negligence per se is also a potential cause of action if the accident was caused because the other driver violated Florida law and that violation caused the accident. For example, if the other driver changed lanes without using a turn signal or made a right turn over a bike lane, your attorney can argue that the driver should pay compensation for your injuries. Because bicycle accidents can result in serious injuries to riders, you should not hesitate to contact a Florida bike accident attorney to discuss whether you have a viable claim for compensation.
Most Common Bike Crash Injuries and Factors
Did you know that bicycle-related injuries are second only to horseback riding accidents on the scale of seriousness? The most serious injuries suffered in a bike accident include traumatic brain injuries, especially for those who do not wear helmets. Unfortunately, traumatic brain injuries can result in lifelong disabilities for injured riders. Even what appears to be a minor impact can result in fatal injuries depending on the way in which the cyclist hits the ground, vehicle, or other object.
Not all injuries are to the brain, however. In fact, the most common bike accident injuries include:
- Face, eye, and dental injuries
- Fractures and dislocations
- Punctured lungs
- Abdominal injuries such as bowel contusions and ruptures
Furthermore, the most common factors that contribute to a cyclist’s injuries include:
- Age and gender
- Time of day
- Lack of safety gear
- Unsafe riding environments, including uneven pavement
- Tricks and competitive riding
- Motor vehicle involvement
Reported Bicycle Accidents Involving Injuries in Florida
Even if certain factors—in addition to another driver’s negligence—contributed to your Florida bike accident, you may still be entitled to compensation, either from the driver’s insurance policy or in a court of law.
Florida Bicycle Accident FAQ
For those who love outdoor cycling, it doesn’t get much better than bicycling in Florida. The great weather and splendid scenery make it the perfect place to cycle for transportation or recreation. Unfortunately, it also has one of the highest per-capita bicyclist death rates in the country, with 9,356 bicycle crashes, including 720 fatalities and 1,543 incapacitating injuries in 2018.
What are the common causes of Florida bicycle accidents?
As with all accidents, there may be one main factor or a combination of factors causing the accident. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 30 percent of bicyclists injured in an accident are struck by a car. Motorists often do not leave enough room between their vehicle and the bicycle. Cars frequently rear-end bicyclists, particularly at stop signs. Approximately 11 percent of the time, accidents happen when a vehicle crosses the path of a bicyclist in an intersection or emerging from an alley or driveway.
Common causes of bicycle accidents include:
- Driver inattention. Bicyclists are just as much in danger from distracted drivers as are other vehicle drivers on the road. Drivers are about three times more likely to crash if they are making a phone call while driving and 23 times more likely to crash when texting and driving. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that every day, there are 1,161 people injured, and eight people killed because of distracted drivers. However, bicyclists are also distracted when they are using hands-free devices or wearing headphones while riding, possibly causing them to swerve into traffic or across intersections with oncoming traffic.
- Failure to yield. Drivers are often unaware that they must yield to bicyclists on the road, but failure to yield accidents may also happen when a driver is speeding or driving aggressively. Such accidents frequently occur at intersections, and approximately 45 percent of crashes between bicycles and motor vehicles take place in intersections. Almost half of all bicycle accidents happen when a motor vehicle makes a left turn and hits an oncoming cyclist.
- Speeding. When a driver is speeding, they require greater stopping time and have less time to avoid potential collisions. Even in areas with a low speed limit, a driver going too fast puts bicyclists at risk.
- Dangerous road conditions. Road hazards are especially risky for bicyclists. In fact, 13 percent of bike accident injuries are the result of substandard road or bike lane conditions, which can cause a cyclist or other vehicle to swerve to avoid a dangerous condition. Bikes are less stable than four-wheeled vehicles, so sudden changes in the road surface, such as ruts, potholes, or sewer grates, may cause an accident. If a road hazard causes the accident, the state, county, city, or other entity responsible for road maintenance may be liable.
- Riding at night. More than half of all bicycle accidents happen after dark. Bicyclists are more difficult to see, and the motorist may see the cyclist too late to avoid a collision. Bicycles should have reflectors and lights to make them more visible, and riders are more visible when wearing reflective gear.
- “Dooring.” On busy streets, the bicyclist has to ride closer to parked cars. “Dooring” happens when the motorist fails to check for oncoming traffic, opens the door, and strikes the cyclist.
- Impaired driving. Drugs and alcohol cause one out of three motor vehicle-related fatalities. Consuming drugs or alcohol before driving leads to diminished cognitive abilities, so the chances are greater that the driver does not see the bicyclist. In 2017, alcohol played a part in 37 percent of all fatal bicyclist crashes.
- Bad weather. Accidents are more likely to occur in bad weather. Bicycles have relatively thin tires, and when riding in the rain, sleet, snow, or ice, traction is affected. Drivers may have difficulty seeing bicyclists in bad weather conditions.
What are some common injuries suffered in a Florida bicycle accident?
When a bicycle and a car collide, the cyclist will probably suffer more severe injuries. Bike accidents often result in fatalities, especially when the car is going fast, or the cyclist is not wearing a helmet.
Bicyclists may sustain catastrophic injuries, such as:
- Head and brain injuries. Traumatic brain injuries, such as concussions or skull fractures, may leave the injured person with permanent disabilities.
- Internal injuries. A bicycle accident may result in damage to the internal organs, such as the spleen, liver, or kidneys. Other dangerous injuries, such as those to the bowel and pancreas, are very serious and may take days to discover.
- Neck and back injuries. An injured bicyclist may suffer severe spinal cord damage.
- Soft tissue injuries. These may include damaged ligaments, tendons, or muscles, which can cause pain, swelling, bruising, and damage.
- Fractures. Broken bones are painful, debilitating, and may require surgery.
- Face, eye, and dental injuries.
- Scarring and disfigurement.
What is the law regarding bicycles in Florida?
Often, motorists and bicyclists don’t think of bicycles as a vehicle. However, Florida law defines a bicycle as a vehicle, and the bicyclist is a driver. Both cyclists and car drivers must exercise care and obey the rules of the road. Florida statute 316.2065 states that “Every person propelling a vehicle by human power has all of the rights and all of the duties applicable to the driver of any other vehicle.”
Bicyclists have the same rights to the roadways as motor vehicles, but they must also obey the same traffic laws as the drivers of other vehicles. These laws include riding with the flow of traffic, obeying stop signs and red lights, using lights at night, yielding the right-of-way when entering a roadway, and yielding to pedestrians in crosswalks.
Cyclists are not required to ride on the shoulder, although they may ride on the shoulder if they choose. However, bicyclists should never hug the curb or ride in the gutter, both of which increase the risk of a crash. Cyclists may ride a bike on a sidewalk in Florida, but some local governments may forbid it. However, when biking on a sidewalk or in a crosswalk, they have all the same responsibilities as pedestrians.
There are some basic rules and regulations for bicyclists as provided under Florida’s bicycle law, section 316.2065 of the Florida Statutes.
- Bicyclists must obey all traffic controls and signals.
- Bicyclists must use a fixed, regular seat for riding. You are only permitted to ride your bike if you’re sitting on the seat.
- The number of riders and passengers on any bicycle is limited to the maximum number for that bike. You may have a passenger on your bike if the bike was made for more than one person, or if the cyclist is an adult carrying a child securely in a backpack or sling. Children under 4 years old or who weigh 40 pounds or less must travel in a seat or carrier appropriate for a child of that size or age. The seat or carrier must protect the child from all moving parts of the bike.
- Cyclists must keep at least one hand on the handlebars at all times while riding.
- Every bicycle must have a brake that can stop the bike within 25 feet.
- Bikers must ride reasonably close to the right-hand curb of the road. There are some exceptions to this rule include when passing, making a left turn, when a lane is too narrow to share with a car safely, or if traveling on a one-way street with at least two lanes.
- If two cyclists are riding abreast, they must stay within a single lane.
- The use of headphones, earbuds, or listening devices other than hearing aids is prohibited.
- Florida Statutes section 316.2065(7) requires the use of lights and/ or reflectors for bicycles operated between sunset and sunrise.
- Parents and guardians have a responsibility to ensure that their children obey all the provisions of Florida’s bicycle law.
- A bicycle rider or passenger who is under 16 years of age must wear a properly fitted bicycle helmet that meets the federal safety standard for bicycle helmets, as defined by the Code of Federal Regulations (16 C.F.R. Part 1203). This includes a child riding in a trailer attached to a bike.
What are the responsibilities of drivers to Florida bicyclists?
Drivers must pay attention to their own driving, but must also pay attention to other vehicles around them. Bicyclists have little or no protection. Therefore, in the event of a crash, their injuries are often serious or fatal. A “Share the road” sign may be present if the road is too narrow for both bikes and cars in one lane.
In those circumstances, the bicyclist has the full use of the lane and motorists may only pass if it is safe.
- Motorists should be aware that bicyclists usually ride in the right half of the lane, except in certain circumstances.
- Accidents often happen when a motorist makes a right turn in front of a bicyclist. Drivers should assume the bicyclist is moving straight ahead at an intersection unless they have signaled a turn.
- When making left turns, drivers must yield to oncoming bicyclists, just as they would to other vehicles.
- Passing and overtaking is especially risky when sharing the road with a cyclist. According to Florida law, if a driver is overtaking a bicycle, they must allow a distance of at least 3 feet between the motor vehicle and bicycle. The driver must pass to the left at a safe distance and must only return to the right side of the roadway when safely clear of the overtaken vehicle.
- Motorists should be alert to hazards such as potholes, drain grates, and debris, as these can cause bike accidents, and bicyclists may need space to maneuver around hazards.
- Always especially careful around children on bicycles. Allow plenty of space and watch out for unexpected movements.
What are other factors that place Florida cyclists at risk?
Driving a car responsibly and staying alert can reduce the risk of accidents, though Florida cyclists have no way of ensuring they are sharing the road with responsible, attentive drivers at all times.
Other risk factors include:
- Distracted driving has become a serious problem because people try to multitask while operating a vehicle.
- Operating any vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol is dangerous.
- It is hazardous to drive faster than the posted speed limit or too fast for road conditions. A speeding driver may be slow to react to a dangerous situation or cannot stop in time.
- Treacherous road conditions and poor visibility can impair drivers’ response time. Drivers must be aware that there may be bicyclists on the road even in ice, snow, sleet, or heavy rain. Sun glare is also a risk.
- Unclear bicycle lanes are confusing and dangerous for everyone on the roads.
- Poorly maintained roads are a hazard for both bicyclists and motorists.
What are the basics of Florida bicycle accident lawsuits?
In a bicycle accident lawsuit, the main issue is whether someone’s negligence caused the accident and the resulting injuries. Negligence by a driver can take many forms, including ignoring traffic signals, speeding, drifting into a bike lane, or failing to maintain the basic duty of care owed to everyone else on the road. In addition to a driver’s negligence, liability may arise from a defective bicycle, confusing bicycle lanes, or poorly maintained roads.
If you are injured in a bicycle accident, and you decide to sue the defendant in court for your bicycle accident, you and your attorney need to prove that the defendant owed you a duty of care, that they failed to perform this duty of care either by their action or failure to act, that the defendant caused your bicycle accident, and that as a result, you suffered damages.
Each bicycle accident is unique, and determining liability comes down to specific facts of the accident. Evidence, such as police reports, photos, or witness testimony helps prove the facts and establish liability.
What types of compensation might I receive after my Florida bike accident?
If you were injured in a bicycle accident, the court may award these damages, depending on the facts of your case:
- Any medical bills and expenses related to the accident, including ambulances, emergency care, tests, hospitalization, doctor visits, rehabilitation, or ongoing care
- Compensation for lost wages
- Past, present, and future pain, suffering, and inconvenience
- Past, present, and future mental anguish and emotional distress
- Loss of earning capacity in cases of permanent physical or mental impairment
- Compensation for permanent injuries and damages
- Payment of all causally related bills for psychological or psychiatric treatment
- Loss of consortium, companionship, or spousal support
- Compensation for future medical treatment or procedures (including future surgeries and hospital stays)
- Rehabilitation expenses, including physical rehabilitation and vocational retraining if required.
- Long term medical and nursing care needed as a result of your injury.
- Wrongful death
What should I do in the event of a Florida bicycle crash?
The first and most important step is to seek medical care as soon as possible.
Even if you think you have no injuries or that your injuries are minor, some injuries do not show up until days or even weeks later, so prompt medical attention is important.
- When biking, carry a cell phone, some form of identification, and emergency contact information.
- Call the police. Even if the crash appears to be minor, an official police report may be valuable in the event of a lawsuit.
- Leave your bike in the same state it was after the crash, if possible. It is best if the police see the accident scene undisturbed.
- Get the basic information, such as the name and insurance information of the driver, and the names of any passengers and witnesses.
- Take photos of injuries, your bicycle, and the accident scene.
- Never admit fault. Do not publish photos of or information about your accident on social media. Insurance adjusters and private investigators may read your posts, and it may harm your case.
- Make no statement to insurance or other people until you talk to a lawyer.
If you or a loved one were injured in a bicycle accident, consult an experienced Florida bicycle accident attorney at Dolman Law Group or Sibley Dolman to discuss your legal options.
Call an Experienced Florida Personal Injury Attorney as Soon as Possible
Bike accident law is a complex field due to the legal standards and protections that apply to Florida cyclists. It takes an attorney who understands that Florida cyclists have the same rights to use the road as drivers and that motorists should respect these rights. If you or a loved one were injured as the result of a bike accident, the Dolman Law Group has the personal injury lawyers and bike accident attorneys you need in the greater South Florida area. Call our office today at (727) 451-6900 or contact us online for a free, no-risk consultation about your injuries.
*The above information was written and reviewed by either Attorney Matthew Dolman or another injury lawyer at the Dolman Law Group which has a combined 90 plus years of experience practicing Florida personal injury law. Matthew Dolman himself has been practicing personal injury law in Clearwater and St. Petersburg for the last fifteen (15) years. The information provided comes from extensive research and years of experience trying legal cases in courtrooms throughout Florida.