An increasing percentage of the population is opting to turn towards bicycles as their commuting tools of choice. Not only is biking a great way to help the environment, but it helps keep people healthy and active as they go about their daily lives. Anybody in Illinois is likely to be greeted by the sight of at least a few cyclists each day. Some hop on their bikes for fun, others ride them to work, but one fact remains the same. A bicycle accident involving a car can be deadly, so everyone needs to do their part to keep each other safe.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, about 800 bicyclists are killed as a result of motor vehicle accidents each year. An accident doesn’t need to be fatal to have a significant impact on a victim’s life, though. Many bicycle accident victims avoid death, but emerge from crashes with tremendous emotional and physical damage.
Cyclists should feel perfectly at ease snapping on your helmet, adjusting your mirrors, and starting your commute, but you can only plan for other drivers’ negligence to a certain extent. One way that you can increase your safety by cycling is through a thorough understanding of some of the most common bicycle accidents and how to avoid them. If you have already been involved in an accident then speaking with a bicycle accident lawyer could reveal your legal options.
The 3 Most Common Bicycle Accidents
1. Crossing a Vehicle’s Path
While not the most likely to be fatal, these accidents do account for the majority of bicycle accidents that involve motor vehicles. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety conducted research that found nearly thirty percent of bicycle accidents involve cyclists crossing vehicles’ paths. When cars run into cyclists under circumstances like these, many bike riders suffer serious injuries.
Crossing in front of cars is one of the most dangerous aspects of being on the road as a cyclist. Those on bicycles should take every precaution necessary to ensure that drivers are fully aware of their presence and positioning. If you’re riding a bike and feel unsure about a driver’s attention to the road, it’s best to take the extra time to wait for them to pass rather than hurrying to make it to your destination.
2. The Left Hook
Left hook accidents account for 23 percent of bicycle crashes and two percent of cyclist deaths. These bicycle accidents occur when a vehicle turning left fails to yield to a cyclist in the oncoming lane. In some cases, vehicles directly collide with cyclists; other scenarios lead to drivers cutting cyclists off and causing a crash. Many left hook collisions and accidents involve vehicles traveling at high speeds, which renders them especially dangerous for cyclists.
3. The Right Hook
As the name suggests, these accidents take place when vehicles traveling in the same direction as cyclists turn right at an intersection and collide with bikes and their riders. The previously-mentioned IIHS study indicated that up to 45 percent of bicycle accidents occurred when cyclists and vehicle operators were traveling in the same direction. Right hook accidents can be extremely dangerous for cyclists.
Situational awareness and following bicycle safety tips can go a long way in helping bicyclists avoid right hook accidents. Ideally, you should have some sort of rearview mirror (or mirrors) attached to your bicycle or helmet to grant you improved visibility. It’s also important to anticipate what actions the drivers around you may take. You can’t predict everything— but paying attention to your surroundings can help keep you safe.
Other Common Bicycle Accident Causes
- Distracted drivers
- Driving too closely to a bicyclist
- Speeding while bicyclists are nearby
- Not respecting a cyclist’s (or group of cyclists’) right to share the road
- Unsafe lane changes without looking out for bikes
- Running a red light or stop sign at an intersection
- Driving while drunk or impaired on other drugs
- Driving while fatigued
Common Causes of Bicycle Accidents for Children
Children are obviously in serious danger from cars and other vehicles while riding their bikes on or around roads. Even an adult on a bike is no match for a car. For a child, the consequences of an accident can be even worse.
One of the most common causes of bicycle accidents involving children is inattentive or distracted driving. This can include:
- Drivers not properly looking behind them while backing out of their driveway
- Distractions caused by phones
- Distractions caused by children, passengers, or other tasks
- Not paying close enough attention in a school zone
- Failing to see a small child on a bike while turning or going through an intersection
Speeding in neighborhoods is also another common cause of child bicycle accidents. When you are driving too fast for a certain area, it’s harder to see unexpected hazards and it’s harder to slow down in time to avoid causing a collision. That is what speed limits are intended for. When a person speeds through an area with children riding their bikes, they greatly increase the risk of causing an injury or death.
If you believe a driver was behaving negligent when they caused your child’s injuries, you should speak with a bicycle accident attorney to understand your rights and options.
Potential Bicycle Accident Injuries
Every bicycle accident is different. While an accident may lead to one victim suffering contusions, a concussion, and a broken leg, that same crash could allow a different cyclist to escape unscathed. There’s no way to predict what sorts of injuries you may sustain during a bicycle accident, but those who rely on bicycles for transportation may expect to experience:
Head and Brain Injuries
There’s a reason that everyone advocates wearing a helmet while riding a bike. Head injuries are too common among bicyclists and helmets work. About 25 to 50% of all injured bicyclists suffer a head injury. Additionally, about 60% of bicycle-related deaths are caused by head injuries. Brain injuries can completely devastate a person’s life and leave them with lasting and serious repercussions.
Head and brain injuries include:
- Skull fracture
- Brain contusion
- Intracranial hemorrhage
Neck and Back Injuries
When a person is thrown from a bike, their neck and back is at serious risk of damage. Just like with a head injury, the spine is vulnerable during a bicycle accident. Injuries to the neck and back can cause severe pain and lost motor skills that disrupt one’s career, make carrying out daily duties difficult, and cause significant financial burdens and stress.
Neck and back injuries include:
When a person is thrown from their bike, their exposed face is at risk of injury. Facial injuries include contusions, facial fractures, dental fractures, and puncture wounds. These injuries can cause permanent damage, scarring, and chronic nerve pain.
Hip injuries that are caused by trauma can be expensive and painful. They can also hinder a person’s daily life. When someone is involved in a severe bike accident, the force of the impact can easily cause:
- hip fracture
- bursitis (a painful fluid-filled sac caused by impact)
- dislocation of the joint
- labral tear (where the cartilage surrounding the socket is torn)
All of these injuries can happen regardless of the age of the accident victim. A hip injury can be extremely expensive for the bicycle accident victim. Surgeries, rehabilitation, physical therapy, medications, assistive devices, diagnostic scans, and missed work could easily cost an innocent person tens of thousands of dollars.
Leg, Knee, and Foot Injuries
Because the legs, knees, and feet are so exposed while riding a bike, these areas are often injured in a collision. These injuries can range from a torn ligament in the knee to a crushed ankle. Depending the severity, these injuries can cause significant damages for accident victims.
Broken bones caused by a traumatic event like a bicycle accident can vary in severity. A simple fracture, also known as a hairline fracture, can usually be treated with minimal time off work. However, a compound fracture or a crushing injury not only causes severe pain and missed time from work but also runs the risk of complications that lead to further expenses, such as infections, multiple surgeries, and paralysis.
Skin and Soft Tissue Injuries
Soft tissue injuries are any injuries that affect the skin, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Since the skin is the first line of defense, soft tissue injuries are the most common types of bicycle accident injuries. Some tissue injuries can easily be treated. Severe skin and soft tissue injuries can require surgery or skin grafts. They can also leave accident victims with chronic pain and irreparable nerve damage.
Severe soft tissue injuries include cuts and lacerations, in addition to:
- Road rash
- Muscle sprains and strains
- Scrapes and cuts
- Puncture wounds
Internal injuries usually refer to injury of internal organs or to internal bleeding. Either one of these can be caused by blunt force trauma or penetrating trauma. Any of the body’s organs, blood vessels, and internal structures can be damaged in a bicycle accident, which could create a serious crisis for the victim. Some internal injuries are obvious and are given emergency medical treatment. However, other internal injuries may not be so obvious and may even be overlooked if an accident victim does not seek emergency care right away. Because of the risk of internal injury during a bicycle accident, you should always get medical treatment as soon as possible after an accident.
Seek Medical Treatment Immediately After A Bike Accident
It may be difficult to determine the state of your injuries directly following a bicycle accident. If you received emergency medical attention or were transported to a hospital, you still stand to benefit from meeting with your primary care provider afterward. Many injuries fail to appear for some time or lurk below the surface before rearing their heads.
Receiving treatment for your injuries is one of the most important steps that you can take after a crash. Before you worry about legalities, make sure to take care of your personal health and wellbeing.
Compensation for a Chicago Bicycle Accident Injury
After you’ve been involved in a bicycle accident, you’ll likely feel stressed about the amount of debt you’ve accumulated from medical bills, lost wages, and more. A qualified attorney can help you to understand your options and determine if your claim is eligible for compensation.
Some common damages in a bicycle accident include:
- Medical bills
- Surgery costs
- Ambulance transportation
- Physical therapy and rehabilitation
- Loss of current and future wages
- In-home care costs
- Property damage
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of earning capacity
- Permanent disability or disfigurement
- Wrongful death
A Bicycle Accident Attorney Can Help
One of the best steps that bicycle accident victims can take to protect themselves is to find a reliable, experienced bicycle accident attorney. When you partner with an attorney, you’ll get individualized advice and assistance based on your unique case.
A lawyer can help outline what sorts of documentation you need to collect and even bring in specialists to help strengthen your case. Many legal representatives retain contact information for doctors and other professionals who can offer testimonies or documentation for your case.
It’s a good idea to speak to a bicycle accident attorney as soon as possible after your crash. You should always establish your own physical and mental safety first, but it’s good practice to promptly select a legal representative of your choice. This can help make your recovery and legal processes much smoother.
If you or a loved one have suffered injuries due to a bicycle accident, you deserve compassion and understanding. A talented attorney could help you fight for the compensation that you deserve after your experiences. A trustworthy, experienced legal professional can help you navigate your case, and set you on the right path to a successful recovery.
Abels & Annes is Chicago’s Bicycle Accident Lawyer
If you or someone you love has been injured in a bicycle accident, you should contact our experienced attorneys at Abels and Annes as soon as possible. For more information or to schedule a free case evaluation, please call us at (312) 924-7575 or contact us online.