The quintessential picture of a peaceful summer afternoon in the countryside often involves a picnic, sunny day, and a bicycle ride. There are few things as quintessentially rooted in our culture as the bicycle and the enjoyment that comes with riding bicycles on beautiful days. While the American culture has yet to match the bike-friendly cities of Europe, steps have been taken in the right direction. However, motor vehicle drivers have not yet caught on that bicyclists roam the city streets as well. As a result, drivers often do not pay attention to bike lanes and incoming bicyclists, resulting in serious injuries.
Awareness of bicyclists on the Nebraska city streets has risen in the past twenty years, leading to a marked decrease in the number of bicycle injuries reported each year. In 1994, a record 537 bicycle injuries were reported in Nebraska. This number has since decreased to 249 in 2014, representing a growing awareness of bicyclists on the road and better-developed bike lanes.
Bicyclists have a little more protection, and definitely more aware of impending accidents than pedestrians are. Bicyclists are often banned from riding on sidewalks and therefore must ride in the streets with vehicles that are several hundred times larger than they are. As a bicyclist, you are often rolling along with the speed of traffic and dodging cars left and right, while at the same time ensuring that you remain visible to cars.
Most Common Causes of Bicycle Accidents
In Nebraska, it is necessary to determine who or what caused your bicycle accident before you can file an insurance claim. This is because Nebraska is an at-fault car insurance state, where the party responsible for the crash pays for the related costs. Bicycle accidents on public roads are often caused by motor vehicle drivers. Many different examples of driver negligence and recklessness can cause a bicycle accident in Omaha, including:
- Distracted driving: Driver inattention took 3,142 lives in 2019 alone, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Many of these lives were bicyclists and pedestrians who went unseen by inattentive drivers. Texting and driving is the number one type of driver distraction.
- Driving while drunk or drugged: Driving under the influence of an intoxicating substance can impair a driver’s senses, reflexes, and judgment. Drunk driving drastically increases the risk of collisions, including bicycle accidents.
- Breaking traffic laws: Speeding, failing to stop at an intersection, failing to yield the right-of-way, and breaking other traffic laws can make bicycle and vehicle traffic cross paths, resulting in harmful collisions.
- Making unsafe lane changes: Lane-change accidents are common on public roads, especially for bicyclists, as they are small and difficult for drivers to see. Drivers are responsible for checking their blind spots and ensuring that a lane change is safe before executing the maneuver.
- Reckless driving: Driving recklessly, or with a wanton disregard for the safety of others, can refer to excessive speeding, racing, following too closely/tailgating, wrong-way driving or red-light running – all dangerous practices that can cause a bicycle accident.
- Following too closely: Many motor vehicle drivers are impatient with cyclists that whom they share the road, leading to vehicles coming dangerously close to bicycles. Following too closely, unsafe passing, cutting bikers off, and honking at them can cause accidents.
- Dooring: Dooring refers to a motor vehicle driver swinging a door open into the path of an oncoming cyclist. The bicyclist may strike the door and be propelled off of the bicycle and into the road.
- Turning on top of a cyclist: When turning left, drivers must check for oncoming bicycle traffic. Failing to yield to cyclists can lead to intersection accidents. Similarly, if a cyclist is to the right of a driver, a right-hook crash can take place if the driver doesn’t check before making a right turn.
Drivers cause the majority of vehicle accidents of all types, including car and truck accidents, but are a major problem for vulnerable bicyclists. If a driver causes a bicycle accident, his or her car insurance company must pay for related costs. Bicycle accidents in Omaha may also be caused by issues not related to motor vehicle drivers, however, such as:
- Road hazards: If the cause of a bicycle accident is a road hazard or defect, such as a pothole, the government could be responsible for failing to maintain a safe public road. On a private road, the private property owner could be liable for dangerous premises, instead.
- Bicycle defects: If the bicycle contains a defective part, it may malfunction in transit and contribute to a crash. Common examples include bad brakes, defective handlebars, and broken chains. Product defects can place liability on the bicycle manufacturer or seller
- Bad weather: Biking in bad weather, such as rain or fog, can come with visibility problems that increase the risk of an accident. If a motor vehicle driver doesn’t drive safely in poor weather, he or she could strike a cyclist.
Even if you were involved in a single-vehicle bicycle accident – one that doesn’t involve a motor vehicle driver – it is possible that a third party is responsible for your wreck. Our attorneys at The Knowles Law Firm can help you determine the cause of your bicycle accident and explore all available outlets for a financial recovery.
Where Are Bicycle Accidents Most Likely to Happen?
Although a bicycle accident can happen anywhere, some locations in Omaha come with higher risks of collisions naturally. One of these locations is intersections. A driver may fail to yield the right-of-way to a bicyclist at an intersection or turn left into an oncoming cyclist. Busy roadways also come with increased accident risks. In residential neighborhoods, the risk of striking a child bicyclist is higher. Roads without bike lanes, where bicyclists have to ride in traffic, can also be more dangerous for vulnerable bicyclists. Finally, roads with dangerous construction zones, potholes, uneven surfaces and obstacles can increase the risk of bicycle accidents.
How to Prevent Bicycle Accidents
As a bicyclist, you may have the power to prevent a bicycle accident with due care and vigilance. Never assume a driver will do the right thing. Instead, assume the driver will break the law and risk your life. Take it upon yourself to prevent accidents by obeying all traffic laws, watching carefully for oncoming cars and being as visible as possible. Wear brightly colored clothing or a reflective vest. Try to avoid riding between sundown and sunup, but if you must, equip your bicycle with the proper rear and front lights. Properly maintain your bike to help prevent accidents. Keep your actions predictable to drivers by obeying all roadway laws, including stoplights and stop signs.
If you are a driver in Omaha, prevent bicycle accidents by giving bikers the space they need. Keep at least three feet of distance between you and a cyclist at all times. Yield the right-of-way to bicyclists whenever applicable. Watch for oncoming bicyclists when making a left turn, pulling out of a driveway or opening your driver-side door. Reduce your speed around bicyclists and respect their rights to the road.
Types of Bicycle Accident Injuries
Despite being a commonly enjoyed activity, bicycle riding comes with a relatively high risk of injuries and deaths. Bike riding near motor vehicles can put the bicyclist at risk of serious or fatal collisions. Every year, bicyclists suffer life-changing injuries in traffic accidents around Nebraska. With or without protective gear such as a helmet, a bicyclist could end up in the hospital. The nature of bicycle accidents causes certain injuries more often than others.
- Leg and foot injuries
- Head and face injuries
- Broken bones
- Road rash/abrasions
- Muscle strains/sprains
- Neck and back injuries
Traumatic injuries from a bicycle-vehicle collision could affect any part of the body, from head to toe. Although wearing a helmet can significantly decrease the risk of a head or brain injury, a victim could still suffer a serious concussion or brain trauma from the impact between the helmet and the road or a vehicle. The spine and internal organs can also suffer irreversible injuries in bicycle accidents.
Bicycle Accident Recovery
After a bicycle accident occurs, the recovery process is often long and painful. Bicyclists often suffer very serious injuries after an accident, including:
- Spinal cord injuries
- Broken bones
- Internal organ damage
- Brain injuries
Many of these require ongoing care for the rest of their life. All of this could be prevented by a motor vehicle driver simply paying attention to the road. This negligence can lead to the ability of a bicyclist to recover for their medical costs, ongoing rehabilitation, and any lost wages. An Omaha personal injury attorney can assist you in calculating the number of damages you are entitled to receive.
It is important to contact a personal injury attorney shortly after your injury to prevent any settlement from occurring with the negligent party’s insurance company. Insurance companies are in the business to make money – they often do so by settling with an injured party shortly after an accident occurs. Any settlement which you sign, may limit your ability to bring a claim for your injuries.
Damages You Could Recover
It can be extremely important to your future to file a bicycle accident claim as soon as possible after a collision in Omaha. Prompt claims filing can ensure you do not miss the deadline and lose your right to obtain compensation. Filing an insurance claim or an injury lawsuit with the help of one of our Omaha personal injury lawyers could end in compensation for your economic and noneconomic damages. The compensatory award the defendant may owe you could make up for many different losses.
- Injury-related medical expenses
- Past and future pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Lost wages and missed future earning opportunities
- Bicycle repairs or replacement
- The cost of hiring an attorney
- Punitive damages
The best way to find out what your bicycle accident claim could be worth is with a free consultation at the Knowles Law Firm. We can carefully review your case, calculate your damages and help you determine a fair amount of compensation to demand from the defendant. Our attorneys can then help you negotiate your insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit for maximum compensation.
The Knowles Law Firm | Omaha, Nebraska
If you or a loved one have been injured in a bicycle accident, do not hesitate to contact the attorneys of the Knowles Law Firm. Our attorneys are avid supporters of bicyclists anywhere and will work tirelessly to ensure the responsible party is held responsible for your injuries. Bicycle awareness grows each year, and the number of accidents will decrease with the number of drivers held responsible for their actions. Your claim may help prevent a future bicycle accident from occurring in the state. Contact our Omaha, Nebraska office today for your initial free consultation.