What to expect from a bicycle accident lawsuit
In one brief moment, an accident can change a person’s life forever. This is especially true when bicycle riders are involved in a collision with a vehicle. Every year, more than 1,500 Arizona bicycle riders are injured when they are involved in car crashes.
Nearly 25 others are killed. Bicycle riders are so vulnerable, even when wearing helmets, protective gloves and shoes, that their injuries are generally serious. Broken bones are common and spinal cord and brain injuries are not unusual. Some bicycle accident victims are injured so severely their lives are never again the same.
Almost all bicycle accidents are caused by the negligence of a vehicle driver. Drivers may suddenly change lanes, make turns at traffic lights or even open a car door to exit their parked car without noticing a bicycle rider. Distracted driving is a major cause of all vehicular accidents, including those accidents involving bicycle riding. If you have been injured in such an accident, you may have grounds for a personal injury lawsuit. If a bicyclist you love was killed by a negligent driver, you may have a wrongful death lawsuit.
A personal injury bicycle lawsuit
The lawsuit process actually begins at the site of the accident. If you are conscious and able, you should take photos of the accident scene and of your bicycle and the involved vehicle. Get the names and contact numbers of all witnesses. Call the police and make a report. Be cautious when you speak to law enforcement officers. They need to know what happened, but be very careful not to say that any part of the accident was your fault. Anything you say will later be used against you. Save your clothes. They may later be useful as evidence.
- Seek immediate medical care: It is possible to believe you are not injured, only to wake up the next day with aches and pains caused by the accident. If you wait too long to seek treatment, the insurer will try to claim that your injury was due to something else other than the accident.
- Do not give a statement to the insurance adjuster: Shortly after the accident, the driver’s insurance adjuster will call and ask you to make a recorded statement about the accident. The law does not require you to do this and it is highly recommended that you do not. No matter how kind and compassionate the adjuster seems to be, adjusters work for the insurance company. They do not work for injured people and your words can easily be twisted around to blame you at least partially for the accident.
- Filing the lawsuit: After your attorney reviews the facts of the case, including the police and investigative reports, he or she will file a personal injury lawsuit on your behalf. You are named as the plaintiff and the person you sue is the defendant.
- The discovery process: After a lawsuit is filed, a process called discovery begins. Witness statements are taken and they may be asked questions under oath at a deposition. Medical experts review your medical records and determine the extent of your injury and what the future holds for you. Vocational experts may be called in to comment on your future ability to work and whether or not you will need any job retraining. An expert accident reconstruction team may be needed. Financial consultants will evaluate the extent of your economic loss, both present and future.
- Settlement procedures: When discovery is complete, the insurer will likely make a settlement offer or your attorney will open settlement negotiations or make a settlement demand. If a fair settlement can be agreed to, the terms will be put in writing and filed with the court for approval and for the terms to be converted to a court judgment.
- Going to trial: If a fair settlement cannot be agreed upon, your attorney will vigorously present your case at trial.
Damages to which you are entitled
The amount of damages to which you are entitled depends on your individual injuries. The categories of damages are:
- Medical expenses both current and ones you are expected to incur in the future.
- Current lost wages and wages you will lose in the future either due to your inability to return to work at all or inability to return to your former employment even if you are able to work.
- Rehabilitation expenses, including physical rehabilitation and vocational retraining if required.
- Long term medical and nursing care needed as a result of your injury.
- Your pain and suffering.
You must file your personal injury lawsuit within a certain period of time after the accident, so it is important that you contact attorneys for a consultation as soon as possible. If you miss the deadline, no matter how seriously you were hurt, you will lose your right to file a personal injury lawsuit.
Psychologists have concluded that the death of a loved one is the most stressful life event. When the death was unavoidable and caused by the negligence of another, the grief is compounded. In addition to the personal loss, if the one who died was the primary wage earner there is financial loss. At the same time, there may have been expensive medical bills and funeral expenses. During this time of trauma, the parents, children or spouse of the deceased need to consult wrongful death attorneys to explore the possibility of filing a wrongful death lawsuit.
Many times, wrongful death attorneys are able to negotiate a fair settlement prior to the filing of a lawsuit. If this is not possible, the filing of the lawsuit, investigation, discovery, settlement negotiations or trial all proceed the same as in a personal injury lawsuit. The difference is the type of damages to which you are entitled which includes, but is not limited to:
- Medical expenses of your loved one and burial and funeral costs.
- The lost wages of your loved one and future financial support you expected to receive from your loved one if he or she had not been killed.
- Loss of expected benefits, such as health care coverage and retirement benefits.
- Mental anguish you suffered and are suffering due to your loss.
- The loss of the companionship of your loved one.
- Loss of care, guidance and protection of the deceased.
As with personal injury lawsuits, wrongful death lawsuits must be filed within a certain period of time after the death. If not filed within that time frame, you will lose your right to collect damages. Make sure to find and call an experienced personal injury and wrongful death attorney as soon as possible after the injury or death for a consultation.