The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported there were 773 bicyclists killed in collisions with cars, trucks and other vehicles in the United States in 2006. www.fars.nhtsa.dot.gov/People/PeoplePetalcyclists.aspx. The vast majority of those fatalities involved bicyclists who were struck by passenger cars and light trucks. There were also 44,000 bicyclists injured in traffic crashes that year. The average age of those killed was 41. Bicyclists under age 16, accounted for 33% of all those killed and 45% of all those injured in 1996. In Florida, 132 bicyclists were killed in vehicle accidents in 2006. Traffic Safety Facts, 2006 Data, www.nhtsa.gov.
Bicyclists sharing the road with cars, trucks and buses face constant danger. Many motorists are careless, unobservant, and fail to yield the right of way to bicyclists. Collisions occur when cars force bicyclists off the roadway traveling in the same lane, when they turn into the bicyclist’s path at intersections, growing impatient and passing too closely, or pulling into their path from a parking lot.
Pinellas County, Florida, has built the Pinellas Trail, a rails- to- trail conversion which was nationally recognized at the time that it was developed. It has been a great success and he is much used by bicyclists, in-line skaters, and walkers of all ages. Unfortunately, the trail intersects with existing roadways throughout Pinellas and Pasco counties. Many of those intersections require the car, truck or SUV to stop at the trail intersection. Many bicyclists are injured on the Pinellas Trail due to the failure of a car, truck or SUV to stop and yield the right of way at an intersection. Many vehicles fail to stop at all or merely slow down as they approach an intersection. Bicyclists must be extremely vigilant when approaching a road crossing and assume that any approaching vehicle does not see them and will not stop.
When bicyclists are struck by a car, truck or SUV they are frequently thrown to the ground, onto the hood, against the windshield, or fall under the vehicle. Injuries include:
2. broken bones and fractures
3. neck or back injuries with protruding or herniated disc
4. knee injuries
5. leg or ankle injuries
6. nerve damage
7. head injury, including closed head injury, hemorrhage or subdural hematoma
8. scarring and disfigurement
9. road rash.
Florida’s no-fault statute provides that no-fault/PIP benefits are payable to bicyclists when struck by a car or a motor vehicle. If the bicyclist owns their own car, the no-fault benefits under their own car policy are available to pay medical and wage loss benefits as provided by the statute. If the bicyclist does not own their own car, the no-fault benefits on the policy of the driver who caused the accident will pay the no-fault/PIP portion of the bicyclist’s medical expenses and wage loss. In those unfortunate cases involving the death of the bicyclist from a collision with a car, truck or SUV, no- fault does provide a death benefit in addition to medical benefits.
A bicyclist injured in a crash with a car, truck or SUV is entitled to compensation for mental and physical pain and suffering, scarring, disfigurement, road rash, inconvenience, loss of the enjoyment of life, as well as medical expenses incurred, and those likely to be incurred in the future. These damages may be substantial. It is critical to learn the insurance coverage available to pay these damages by the insurance carrier for the driver responsible for the accident. When the responsible driver does not have enough insurance to pay all of the damages suffered by the by the injured cyclist, a claim may be made against the uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage carried by the cyclist on their own auto policy. Cyclists need to be aware of the need to carry adequate uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage on their own auto policy in order to adequately protect themselves from irresponsible drivers causing injuries but who carry little or no insurance.