NYC Bike Accident Attorney
Cycling in New York City can be an excellent way to avoid traffic and save on cab fares. Unfortunately, it’s not always the safest way to get around. Bicyclists are often the victims of car accidents in NYC. Among residents of New York County that sustained traumatic brain injuries in traffic crashes, bicyclists accounted for the highest rate (38%). While wearing a bicycle helmet can help reduce the risk of this serious injury, it is no guarantee. If you recently sustained serious injuries in a bicycle crash in The Big Apple, contact an NYC bike accident attorney at Meirowitz & Wasserberg, LLP to learn your legal options.
NYC Bicycle Laws
Bicyclists bear the brunt of a lot of impatience and road rage in New York City. Drivers are often in a hurry to get where they’re going and don’t drive as safely as they should around vulnerable bikers. Vehicles may pass or follow too closely, cut cyclists off while making turns, and fail to check before opening their doors into bicycle lanes. Bicyclists have most of the same rights to the roadways as drivers, but they don’t always enjoy these rights safely. Instead, they often end up the victims of harmful collisions. As a bicyclist in NYC, here are a few of your legal rights:
- Bicyclists have right of way when the law requires it, exactly like other vehicles.
- Bicyclists may share the road on most public highways, but not interstates or expressways.
- Bicyclists may ride in the roadway if there is no bike lane available.
- A bicyclist may ride closer to the left side of the road if necessary to avoid hazards.
- Bicyclists must ride two abreast on the roadway.
- Bicyclists do not have to wear helmets unless they are under 14 years old.
- Motorists must take due care to avoid colliding with bicycles.
Drivers must respect these rights and treat bicyclists as if they were other drivers on the roadway. Failure to do so, resulting in an accident, is negligence. A motorist may also be guilty of negligence if he or she causes the crash while texting and driving, driving drowsy, eating and drinking, or otherwise driving carelessly. A New York City personal injury attorney experienced in bike crashes can help you assign fault and initiate a claim for compensation after a bicycle accident in NYC.
Compensation for Bicycle Accident Victims in NYC
If you or a loved one suffered serious injuries in a bicycle accident in the New York City area, you might be wondering what your claim is worth. This is one of the most common questions our NYC bike accident attorneys encounter in our practice, and it’s helpful to know how insurance companies and your attorney may evaluate damages in a bike accident claim. The following types of compensation may be available to victims of bicycle accidents:
Economic Losses in a Bicycle Injury Case
Two main categories of damages are available in a personal injury case: special (or economic) damages and general damages. The former category seeks to compensate a victim of an accident, such as a bike injury, for the material losses associated with the incident. The intent of these damages is to make an accident “whole” again, at least to the monetary extent that’s possible. Monetary losses are easy to quantify and may include:
- Medical bills. A personal injury settlement or court judgment almost always includes compensation for the cost of a victim’s medical care. This includes not only payment for current medical bills, but also the cost of projected medical care. This is especially important in instances involving serious or catastrophic injuries, in which a victim might requires months or even years of follow-up medical treatment.
- Lost wages or loss in income. Many bicycle accident victims require long and extensive recovery periods. They may be unable to perform their regular job duties while they recover. A personal injury settlement or court judgment seeks to compensate a victim for all the work he or she missed. If that a person cannot resume his or her normal job duties, a personal injury claim will also seek to address any loss in earning capacity.
- Property damage. A bike accident settlement will also include compensatory damages for replacing any damaged property. This includes bike repairs or the fair market value for replacement of the bicycle, as well as replacement for any other damaged gear (helmets, clothing, etc.)
The second category of monetary awards is known as general damages, which seek to compensate victims for the intangible losses associated with a victim’s experience. Examples of these damages include:
- Pain and suffering. A victim of a bike accident may be entitled to compensation for the physical pain they suffered as a consequence of another party’s negligence. These awards address not only the pain a victim suffered immediately following an accident, but also any ongoing pain he or she might expect in the future.
- Emotional distress. A victim may be able to collect damages for the emotional trauma resulting from the experience, though these damages are typically reserved for serious accidents. This requires proof of the psychological impact of an injury.
- Loss of life quality or enjoyment. Serious injuries can keep a victim from enjoying his or her daily life activities, such as exercise, hobbies, and recreational activities. Compensation for any loss in life quality is a common type of award in bicycle accidents.
- Loss of consortium. In serious accidents, the extent of a victim’s injuries may impact his or her relationship with a spouse. These types of damages compensate for the damages a couple may incur as the result of a debilitating or catastrophic injury.
A victim of a bike accident in NYC may be able to collect punitive damages if a defendant’s conduct involved egregious carelessness or misconduct. So-called “gross negligence” may give rise to punitive damages, which seek to punish the defendant for his or her wrongdoing. Lawmakers created punitive damages to make an example of the defendant to discourage others from engaging in similar conduct in the future. Punitive damage awards typically involve high damages and are not applicable to every instance of personal injury.
What to Do After a Bicycle Accident in NYC
Bicycle accidents throughout the NYC area are unfortunately common. If you or a loved one suffered injuries in an accident involving a motor vehicle or other hazard, you can take certain steps to protect your claim. Take the following actions after a bike accident in NYC:
Wait for the Police, If Possible
The extent of your injuries may make it impossible to wait for the authorities to arrive; however, it’s a good idea to call the police to the scene and wait for them to make a report if possible. File a police report even if you think you have only minor injuries, because sometimes cyclists notice injuries that manifest into more serious problems over a matter of days. Remaining at the scene helps you identify the at-fault driver and get your version of the event into the police report, which will prove important for future insurance negotiations.
Take Information from Bystanders
Be sure to ask witnesses for their contact information while you are waiting for the police to arrive. The police may also collect this information, but it’s a good idea to be as thorough as possible and have your own records. Try to take several pictures at the scene of the accident if you are able.
Try to limit your contact with the driver. Don’t attempt to negotiate or take him or her up on an offer to pay for your medical care. Often, drivers apologize and accept initial liability for an accident, but will later deny any claims of negligence. The police report will be one of the most important pieces of evidence in your case, so save your communication for law enforcement. You will, however, need the driver’s name, insurance information, and basic contact information.
Seek Medical Care
Prompt and thorough treatment for your injuries is essential. When you visit the doctor or local emergency department, describe the full extent of your injuries and any symptoms you’re experiencing. This creates an official medical record of your injuries that an insurance company may use to offer compensation for your injuries, pain, and suffering.
It’s essential to follow all of your physician’s orders regarding testing or other follow-up care. Compliance will play a role not only in your recovery, but also in your potential personal injury claim. You do not want to give the defense any reason to convey your injuries might not be as serious as you claim if your case ends up going to court.
It might be tempting to fix up your old bike so it’s ready to use again once your injuries are healed, but consider it as a piece of evidence. Don’t complete any repairs, don’t wash the clothing you were wearing, and don’t throw away your damaged helmet. Take pictures of all the damage to your property, and save it as evidence for a potential personal injury claim.
Talk About Your Legal Options
Accidents involving bicycles and motorists can give rise to complicated legal issues. If you sustained injuries in a bicycle accident, it’s essential to consult with an NYC bike accident attorney who understands the laws governing bike accidents and has experience litigating these types of cases. A lawyer can provide you with a strategic review of your legal options, negotiate with an insurance company on your behalf, and represent your interests should you choose to file a formal claim in court.
It’s not advisable to attempt to negotiate with insurance companies on your own. Insurers are committed to paying as little on your claim as possible, so you could be accepting far less than what your claim is actually worth. A demand letter from an NYC bike accident lawyer can encourage insurance companies to take your claim more seriously and will better position you to receive fair compensation for your tangible and intangible losses.
Common Bicycle Accident Injuries
Bicycle accidents in NYC are often serious. Heavy traffic throughout the city and congested crosswalks and pathways make bicycle accidents quite common. The victims of pedestrian and cycling accidents can suffer serious injuries that take a long time to heal. Any number of injuries can occur as a result of these accidents, but some are more common than others. Our years of experience representing bicycle accident victims in NYC have shown us the following types of injuries tend to occur most often:
Unfortunately, many bicycle accidents result in trauma to the head. Up to 47% of all cyclists sustained a head injury at some point in their lifetimes, according to a study by the American Academy of Family Physicians.
Many of these crashes result from collisions with vehicles, and they can be fatal. Head injuries make up around 60% of crashes that lead to fatalities or permanent disabilities. Traumatic brain injuries are catastrophic afflictions that can lead to changes in motor coordination, sensory perception, cognition, and emotional disturbances. Victims often require extensive medical care and assistance for the rest of their lives.
The American Academy of Family Physicians also reports cyclists are likely to report facial trauma such as:
- Damage to the eyes resulting from airborne particles
- Fractures to the mouth, broken teeth
- Facial soft tissue injuries, such as contusions
- Broken cheekbones
- Other dental issues
These types of injuries often occur when a cyclist flips over a bike’s handlebars. This is more likely to happen when a cyclist gets hit from behind, such as by a distracted driver.
Broken bones are some of the most commonly reported injuries in bike accidents, and their location will vary depending on the nature of the accident. Wrist bones are some of the easiest bones to break in a bike accident, because a cyclist often throws his or her arms out reflexively to break a fall. Cyclists may also suffer fractures to the forearm, shoulder, clavicle, and leg bones. These more serious breaks are likely to occur due to contact with a motor vehicle.
Fractures cause extreme pain and swelling. Cyclists sometimes mistake breaks for sprains and go home to rest rather than seeking medical attention. This is why it’s important for injured cyclists to consult with a medical professional as soon as possible after an accident.
Spinal Cord Injuries
Spinal cord injuries are rare, but they can occur in bicycle-versus-motor vehicle accidents. High-speed crashes can send a cyclist flying or pin him or her between two objects, creating this type of injury. Spinal cord injuries are catastrophic and no two are exactly the same. Victims may experience paraplegia or quadriplegia, loss of motor or sensory control, or even loss of basic body functions such as unassisted breathing or bladder control, depending on the area of the spine affected. This kind of injury requires extensive treatment and often a lifetime of follow-up care.
This painful condition results from a cyclist skidding across the pavement or sidewalk, creating multiple abrasions over a large surface area of the skin. Since many bicyclists in the NYC area wear street clothes while riding, there is not much in the way of protection should a collision with a motor vehicle or other object occur.
The extent of a road rash will depend on several factors, including the speed of the collision and whether the accident was a single occurrence (i.e. involving only the bicycle) or involving multiple vehicles (i.e. a car crashing into a bike). Some instances of road rash will heal without serious medical intervention; other cases may require surgical procedures such as skin grafts. The scarring and disfigurement from road rash can last a lifetime.
Why Retain an Attorney After an NYC Bike Accident?
Bicycle accidents can feel highly unjust to victims. The driver caused your collision, yet it’s you who ends up in the hospital while he or she remains unscathed. If you suffered serious or catastrophic injuries like broken bones or internal bleeding, you definitely need to retain an NYC bike accident attorney. New York State’s no-fault laws mean you have to seek damages through your own insurance company first, regardless of who caused the crash. This process doesn’t always yield adequate compensation.
Meirowitz & Wasserberg, LLP | Skilled Bike Accident Lawyers in NYC
Working with a lawyer can improve your chances of receiving the most money possible for your medical bills, property damage, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Don’t miss your opportunity for maximum compensation just because you think you can’t pay the attorney fees. Meirowitz & Wasserberg, LLP operates on a contingency-fee basis. That means you don’t pay a cent unless we win you a monetary settlement or judgment award. To speak with a qualified NYC bike accident attorney and to learn more about your legal options after a bicycle accident in New York City, contact our team.