Sarasota is a prime location for cyclists, in no small part due to the fantastic beaches and amazing weather. In fact, Sarasota is such a famous biking town that its several beautiful and much-loved trails, designed especially for people who enjoy being on their bicycles, seemed a necessity to the town’s residents. Pinellas County has begun a project that will create a 75-mile chain of trails that will be named Pinellas Trail Loop. To say that the many individuals who live in or near Sarasota adore being outdoors on their bikes is no overstatement. As you walk or drive through the town, you will no doubt see many enthusiastic bikers on the trails and roads of Sarasota.
Whether people ride for fitness, personal enjoyment, or simply to get from Point A to Point B, cycling can nonetheless have its dangers. Florida was the deadliest state in the nation for bicyclists in 2012.
Bike Accidents in Sarasota
Based on information from The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), bicycle accidents are a significant safety concern in Florida, as of 2014. During that year, there were 139 cyclist fatalities, which represented 20 percent of the total in the nation. From 2011 to 2014, 26,036 bicycle accidents occurred in the state. More data released by FDOT includes:
- The highest number of bike accidents took place on urban roadways.
- Of crashes that occurred on rural roadways, 16.9 percent resulted in fatalities. Fewer crashes took place, but deaths associated with these accidents were higher in number.
- Nighttime cycling resulted in more fatalities than daytime crashes.
- Sarasota County statistics note that in 2016 the total number of bicycle crashes that occurred was 170.
- The total number of fatalities from bicycle crashes for that same year was 5.
- Injuries due to bicycle crashes in Sarasota County in 2016 numbered 46.
In 2013, 116 bicyclists died in Florida accidents. In 2012, more than 6,000 cyclists were injured in Florida alone. This posed a significant increase from 2010. No matter how much different cities work to promote bicycling safety, the struggle to stay safe on the road is real. For example, Jupiter spent $5 million to improve local roadways, including adding bike paths. In 2014, the state began building bike lanes seven feet wide rather than the former four feet. Unfortunately, many bike accidents persist.
While Sarasota does not top the list of most dangerous biking cities in the state, you should pay close attention to the risk factors involved in biking accidents. The Tampa Bay metropolitan area has the highest rate of bicyclist fatality in the country. Pinellas County has the highest rate of bicyclist fatalities within that region.
If you were in a bike accident, it is natural to feel helpless. After all, you may be contending with more than painful injuries. You might also face lost income, mounting medical bills, and emotional suffering. Trying to navigate the legal processes involved in an accident may feel like too much effort.
The best way to take control over your situation is to learn more about bicycle accidents in Florida. Knowing what action to take and where to go next can provide you with the relief you need to begin pursuing your civil court case.
How to Avoid Bicycle Accidents
Bicycle safety experts say the best way to avoid being hurt while riding is to drive defensively. Some tips offered by those in the know are:
- Use a headlight when you drive at night. Add headlamps attached to your helmet and reflective tape to your bicycle and your clothing.
- Avoid riding on sidewalks. A bicycle can hit a pedestrian on a cement walkway and cause severe injury to the individual. In some states (not Florida, however) it is illegal to ride on sidewalks.
- Never cycle on the left side of the road facing traffic. Some think the ability to see cars approaching them is safer than risking a rear-end accident from cycling on the right-hand side of the roadway. One study showed that riding the wrong way was three times more dangerous than riding on the right.
- Wear a helmet and knee pads when out and about on your bicycle. Researchers found that wearing a helmet can decrease the risk of fatality by 93 percent.
- Never ride in inclement weather.
- Stay focused when riding.
- Follow the same traffic regulations as motor vehicles.
- Slow down (most injuries occur when males ride too fast).
- Never ride while intoxicated.
- Wear gloves, eye protection, and wearing reflective and bright clothing.
- Stick to bicycle paths and trails.
What Causes Bike Accidents in Sarasota?
Many incidents can lead to bike accidents. Sometimes the fault of the accident rests on another driver, pedestrian, or cyclist. These are among the most common contributors and causes to bicycle accidents.
- Distractions – As a bicyclist, you have probably seen drivers looking at their phones when they ought to be looking at the road. On a bicycle, you are already more difficult to see than a car. When drivers fail to pay attention to the road, it is much easier for them to avoid seeing you before an accident. Additionally, many drivers in the area may be tourists who are unable to focus on finding their destination and paying close attention to the road. Densely packed areas do not help either.
- Speeding – A driver may opt to speed through the streets, making it difficult to see a cyclist riding up ahead. As a result, the driver might hit the cyclist from behind without ever even slowing down.
- Failure to check blind spots – Bicycles are easy to miss on the road, and a driver merging into another lane might not see a cyclist in his or her blind spot. As a result, a driver could merge into you, sweeping you into other vehicles or onto the ground. Some parked drivers might fail to look before opening a car door, prompting an accident.
- Aggression – The nature of cycling means that sometimes you may be riding in the lane of traffic. Because bicyclists tend to be slower than the rest of traffic, drivers often become impatient. Drivers may try to intimidate cyclists by riding too closely or trying to pass them recklessly. They may even purposely pass very close to the cyclist, prompting him or her to ride dangerously.
- Impairment – Sometimes drivers under the influence of drugs or alcohol cause bicycle accidents as a result of their impairments. Not only are drivers under the influence less likely to focus, but they may also have poor judgment and even poor vision. In cases involving bicycle rider fatalities, alcohol was involved in many cases in recent years.
- Poor maintenance– In Sarasota, you may come across a road or bike path that is improperly maintained or not repaired. Potholes, cracks, and other hazards may pose a hazard for cyclists. Some accidents involving improper maintenance do not involve other parties at all, but this does not mean somebody is not liable. You may have a civil case against the city or county, for example.
- Equipment defect – Sometimes the cause of an accident is a defect in the bicycle you are riding. Bicycle manufacturers have a duty to sell only equipment that is safe to use, preventing malfunctions that could injure a user. In a case like this, you might pursue a court case against the bicycle manufacturer or a company who failed to repair your bicycle properly.
When you hire a Sarasota bicycle accident attorney, he or she will help you determine the exact cause of your bicycle accident. The attorney will help you hold the necessary parties liable for your losses.
What Are the Common Injuries Caused by Bicycle Accidents?
Bicycle accidents lead to several common injuries. The injuries may range from minor to permanent, and you should always consult with your doctor to receive a diagnosis. Your medical history may help your civil court case. Frequent injuries include:
- Paralysis – A spinal cord injury could lead to permanent paralysis that prevents you from being able to work again. These injuries severely impact your quality of life and financial situation.
- Shoulder dislocation – Bicyclists often fall toward the ground with their arms extended. As a result, they may experience shoulder dislocation which may extend into injuries of the neck.
- Broken bones – One of the most-seen injuries in a bike crash is a broken clavicle. This bone can take up to six weeks to heal. Fractured ribs and broken bones are also common bicycle accident injuries. Falling on one’s arms may lead to fractures of the shoulder. Broken bones can keep you from working or caring for your family and home as you used to.
- Traumatic brain injuries – The central cause of death in a bicycle accident is traumatic brain injury (TBI). The appearance of bicycle-related TBI, between the years of 1998 and 2012, increased 54 percent. Traumatic brain injuries are often serious with long-lasting consequences, including seizures and permanent brain damage.
- Nerve damage – Some cyclists report having long-term nerve damage, especially in their arms and shoulders. This injury is often linked to cyclists trying to catch themselves when they fall.
- Lower back pain – Long-term back pain is difficult to contend with and is often linked to the way one sits on a bike during impact.
- Road rash is usually not a life-threatening wound, but should not be taken for granted. Doctors suggest that riders clean the affected areas and then apply antiseptic cream. Cyclists involved in a collision can also suffer from abrasions, lacerations, and other wounds.
- Internal injuries – If a rider falls and lands on upturned handlebars, abdominal organ damage is possible.
What Losses Are Involved in Bicycle Accidents?
Damages many cyclists sue for after an accident include more than just the costs of medical bills. After all, these issues can have a significant impact on your life, ranging from the physical to the emotional. You and your attorney will work together to determine the amount of damages you are eligible to receive based on your injuries.
- Medical expenses – Medical bills after an accident can be expensive, especially if you have long-term injuries. Surgeries can put you into debt, and insurance may not cover everything. In fact, many insurance companies actively seek to avoid paying for cyclist injuries.
- Lost earnings – Following a bicycle accident, you may not be able to work for a long period of time. During your recovery period, you may be entitled to receive compensation for the time you are unable to work.
- Pain and suffering – You may have long-term emotional or physical distress that impacts your life. If you have permanent injuries or disfigurement, you may sue for pain and suffering.
- Property damage – If your property, like your bike, was damaged in the accident, you may also include its cost in your losses.
What Are Sarasota’s Bicycle Laws?
Florida law does not require cyclists over the age of 16 to wear helmets while riding. In addition, Florida law does not consider failing to wear a helmet to be contributory negligence. While it is always safer to wear a helmet on a bicycle, the regulations also state that not wearing a head protector “may not be considered evidence of negligence or contributory negligence.” Wearing a helmet while riding is an extremely bright thing to do, but be aware that although helmets do provide significant protection from injuries for many cyclists, they cannot protect riders from head trauma 100 percent of the time. A severe impact can cause damage to the brain tissue even when wearing a helmet.
Numerous insurance companies often claim that a rider cannot recover full compensation because he or she was not wearing a helmet. Be careful about believing all you hear. Every case and every individual involved in a case is different.
Because Sarasota County is such a haven for bicyclists, the city of Venice has included some of the state’s bicycle laws on its website:
- Bicyclists must obey traffic signals and traffic controls.
- Cyclers must yield to pedestrians at crosswalks and must give an audible sound before passing others.
- If operating a cycle after sunset or before sunrise, a bicycle must have a white light that is visible 500 feet in front of the bicycle. Additionally, a red reflector and a red light that can be seen from 600 feet away in the rear.
- Cycle riders may not wear headphones or other listening devices when riding. The exception is the wearing of a hearing aid.
Helmets can provide protection from some injuries, but wearing a helmet does not protect you from every injury. No matter how safe you are as a cyclist, you might still face head trauma and tissue injuries from cycling accidents. Regardless of whether you were following Florida’s bicycle laws, you should always consider hiring a personal injury attorney to manage your case.
What Bike Accidents Occur in Our Area?
Bicycle accidents occur throughout Sarasota, Sarasota County, and Florida at large each year. These cases are just the tip of the iceberg regarding bicycle accidents occurring in recent years:
- In May 2018, a bicyclist was killed in Sarasota County after a driver hit him as he was crossing US 41. The cyclist was 19-years-old, failed to observe a traffic signal, and had no protective gear. He was propelled from his bike.
- A 21-year-old cyclist was struck by a box truck at a four-way stop in Venice. The intersection is divided by a significant median which may have contributed to the accident.
- In June 2018, a Bradenton man was struck from behind by a vehicle when traveling on a bicycle in Manatee County. Charges are pending.
- Longboat Key encompasses 10 miles of bike path. While it is a wonderful place to ride a bicycle, serious accidents can occur on this stretch of road. In 2017, one bicyclist suffered severe injuries after another vehicle rear-ended him. The cyclist flew in the air and landed behind the car that hit him. This stretch of bike path has had at least 22 bicycle accidents since 2011.
- Children are not immune to serious bicycle accidents either. In 2012, a seven-year-old Sarasota boy rode his bicycle into traffic where he was hit by a truck. While the boy was in a crosswalk, he was riding against his light. The child suffered critical injuries.
What Should You Do After a Bicycle Accident?
After a bicycle accident, the first thing you should do is move out of the roadway or bike path and contact medical services if you have severe injuries. If your injuries do not require immediate attention, go to the hospital right away. You need to create a medical history for your injuries, and may have suffered an injury not readily visible without the evaluation of a medical professional.
You are wise to take note of what happened right away. You should collect witness contact information while on the scene, and if possible, take photos of the scene to use as evidence in court later. Make sure to contact the police as soon as possible after an accident; the police often make a determination of fault as a result of the accident investigation.
Should You Hire an Attorney for a Sarasota Bicycle Accident?
Bicycle accidents are expensive. Not only are you facing high medical bills based on your injuries, but you might also not be able to work for some time. Even when your health and injuries are stabilized, you are not out of the woods just yet. Insurance is often challenging to contend with and often involves difficult negotiation. Personal injury attorneys deal with insurance adjusters all the time, and they know the tricks insurance companies use to avoid making payments.
Bicycle accident lawyers provide assistance in determining the cause of the crash and identifying those liable. Attorneys also calculate your real and potential losses. Finally, the attorneys help you file a claim against insurers or another party to ensure you receive compensation for your injuries. If you’ve suffered harm as the result of a cycling accident caused by another party’s negligence, contacting an attorney can greatly increase your odds of receiving due compensation for your injuries.
Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA – Sarasota Office