Florida is not exactly known for having a great public transportation system. More often than not, people tend to bring their cars everywhere, even for short trips. However, there are those who use bicycles on a regular basis — whether for exercise or to run errands — and find it to be a practical and environmentally-friendly option. That said, Florida is also known for having a higher rate of car accidents. What happens if you’re involved in one while riding a bike?
Are there laws that apply specifically to cyclists in Florida?
The first thing to be aware of, is that as a cyclist, you have to comply with several laws when riding on Florida roads. Specifically, Florida Statute 316.2065 requires the following:
- You are required to run a bicycle astride a bicycle seat.
- If there’s a bicycle lane, use it — if there isn’t one, ride on the right shoulder of the road.
- When riding at night, use a white light that’s visible at least 500 feet from the front.
- When riding at night, install a reflector on the back of your bicycle that’s visible at least 600 feet from the rear.
- Test the brakes — they must allow you to stop the bicycle within 25 feet on dry pavement.
- People under 16 years of age are required to wear a helmet.
- If you’re riding with friends, you may not ride more than two abreast — as long as you’re not impeding traffic.
- If you’re riding on a sidewalk or crossing the street, you have all the rights and duties applicable to pedestrians.
While a victim of a car accident has the right to sue to recover damages sustained while riding a bike, it’s essential to know your duties, because Florida is a comparative negligence jurisdiction. This means that if you’re in an accident and you sustain worse injuries because you weren’t complying with bicycle regulations, the amount you can recover in a lawsuit will be reduced in proportion with your own degree of negligence.
What to do after a bicycle accident?
If you’re involved in a car accident while riding a bicycle, follow these steps:
1. Do not admit fault
Right after an accident, you may be feeling nervous or anxious — which may cause you to talk a lot, including to apologize. Do not do this. Anything you say can be used against you later on by the motorist to reduce their liability. This is especially the case because Florida is a comparative negligence jurisdiction. This means that if two or more parties are responsible for an accident, liability will be apportioned accordingly. For example, let’s say you failed to cross the street at a crosswalk and the motorist ran a red light. Both of you were negligent. Yet, you would still be able to recover for at least half of the damages.
2. Report the accident
Always do this, even if you feel fine. When your body is under a lot of stress, it releases adrenaline, a hormone that reduces your ability to feel pain. Its function is to allow you to fight or flight, and its effect can last up to an hour. Therefore, it’s possible to think you haven’t sustained any injuries, only to start feeling pain long after the accident. In addition, Florida Statutes 316.066 requires accidents to be reported if they result in personal injury, while Section 316.065requires reporting it if there’s damage to any vehicle or property in an apparent amount of at least $500.
3. Take pictures
You want to preserve as much evidence of damages as possible. This includes taking pictures of your injuries, damage to your bicycle, the state of the motor vehicle after the crash, and the location of the accident — showing relevant evidence, such as the state of the roads, the cross streets, whether there was adequate lighting, and any close by businesses that may have surveillance video.
4. Take names and contact information from eyewitnesses
If there were any pedestrians close by, or any motorists or good samaritans who showed up to the scene to offer their help, get their full names and contact information. They can either be deposed later — this means your attorney can ask them a list of questions they have to answer under oath — or they may be helpful if they testify at trial.
5. Preserve the evidence
While pictures are helpful, the state of your bicycle, clothing, helmet, and anything else that may have been damaged can also be used in court to show the effect of the impact. This is especially important because when presenting photographic evidence, the other party’s attorney may present objections to them being admitted as evidence — such as requiring that they’re authenticated. Having both photographs as well as the actual damaged property can help make your case stronger.
6. If you got a traffic citation, contest it
Speak with an attorney about the facts of the case to look for ways to having the citation dropped or diminished. If you fail to do so, the other party’s attorney may try to argue that paying for the ticket without contesting it may be an admission of guilt.
7. Do not post on social media
We live in an age where most people overshare what has been going on with their day. Others may use it to vent about frustrating events. The problem with doing so after an accident is that your statements can be used against you in court. Even if you have your settings set to private, you never know if an acquaintance on your friends list is friends with the motorist, or works for the other party’s insurance company. Even if you don’t post about the accident per se, hold off on posting anything at all. If you were injured during the accident, then post pictures of you playing sports or having fun, it could also be used to argue that your injuries weren’t as bad as you claim them to be.
When to Hire an Attorney
Always talk to an attorney when you get into an accident. Your lawyer will know about time-sensitive matters — such as submitting claims to insurance companies and statute of limitations to file a lawsuit — as well as how to collect evidence from the other party. This is done through a process called discovery. Through it, your lawyer can request the driver of the car that hit you to provide records showing damages to their car or medical bills, as well as deposing the motorist and witnesses.
If you got into a car accident with a bicycle and were not at fault, let us help you.
Every car accident is different. There are many factors that determine a person’s level of liability, and that liability could be diminished, depending on the circumstances.
At Carey, Leisure & Neal, we have over three decades of combined experience successfully representing clients involved in car accidents. All of our attorneys are accessible and Board Certified in civil trial law.
Disclaimer: This blog is for informational purposes only and does not create an attorney/client relationship.