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Orlando Bicycle Accident Attorney: Bad Week For Bike Riders

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Orlando Bicycle Accident Attorney | Florida Bicycle Crashes

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Orlando Bicycle Accident AttorneyI learned by reading the news this morning that two separate bicycle accidents killed several bicycle riders this past week (thankfully not in Florida).  This type of news always scares me on a personal level because my husband and I are avid cyclists and distance runners.  In fact, just this past weekend we rode the 30 mile “Loop” in Daytona Beach, Florida, portions of which were extremel

y beautiful, but I would not recommend from a cycling safety perspective. Those roads were much more suitable for motorcycle riders.  I felt like a sitting duck for a bicycle accident through many portions of that “trail,” which really was nothing more than various stretches of highway, most if not all of which did not have any decent shoulder for bikes (think inches rather than feet; see pictures here).  The serious potential for harm posed to cyclists from motorized vehicles causes my husband and I to stick with mostly non-vehicle trails, such as the rails-to-trails near our house, even though we are both reasonably serious bikers and triathletes.  Our caution is partly due to my keen awareness, as an Orlando bicycle accident attorney, that injury lawsuits involving bicycles or pedestrians often involve some of the worst accidents for which Orlando & Florida bicycle accident and personal injury attorneys seek justice in our court systems.

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(If you have been in a bicycle accident, please either text or call me now.)  There are many things that need to happen quickly after a bike accident to make sure you get the most money possible from your case.  Don’t trust large advertising firms that will have overworked paralegals handling your case.  Review the many awards I have received during my career, to learn why you should trust me with your accident case.  You need instructions regarding how to deal with insurance companies and medical providers, and you need them fast after an accident.  Also you can scroll down this page for a summary of my top tips after a bike accident to get the most money.)

First Tragic Bicycle Accident: Orlando Florida Personal Injury Attorney Explains Law

bicycle accident attorney orlandoIn the first bicycle accident, which happened in Oak Harbor, Ohio, a 21 year old bicycle rider was killed while riding her bike across the country to benefit multiple sclerosis, after a 49 year old female SUV driver hit her.  The SUV driver said that she was adjusting her visor and could not see because of the glare of the sun.

Bicycle Accident Involves Potential Criminal Punishment And Civil Penalties

Anytime a motor vehicle hits and seriously injures or kills someone riding a bicycle (or even a pedestrian, motorcycle or another vehicle), there are two potential proceedings that can be utilized to bring justice to the victims, and those are either criminal penalties, in which the driver faces criminal charges brought by the state that could lead to criminal punishment, such as time in prison, probation or fines, and civil penalties, in which the bicycle rider or his or her family may bring an action on their own behalf to seek monetary “justice” from the offender.  I would be the accident attorney to call if you are seeking relief or monetary “justice” in civil court.

What Caused This Bicycle Accident?

bicycle accident lawsuit recovery in orlando floridaIf this accident had happened in Florida, and the family members of the deceased cyclists wanted to bring a wrongful death lawsuit against the driver, many preliminary questions beyond the scope of this article would be involved.  But two of the obvious questions during the accident lawsuit would be whether the driver was negligent when moving her visor when she could not see from the glare and whether the bicycle rider herself was negligent in any way (such as by riding on the wrong side of the road in violation of traffic statutes, not signaling properly for any turns, etc).  Florida allows the defendant (which would be the SUV rider in this case) to argue that the deceased rider shared some fault for the accident.  This case strikes me as one that might involve a close call on the issue of who, if anyone, behaved negligently–specifically, whether not being able to see the road due to sun glare and moving your visor constitutes negligence–which is not behaving as a “reasonably prudent person” would behave under similar circumstances–and whether the bicycle rider was behaving negligently in any way herself (which would offset any jury award for damages by the rider’s “comparative” percentage of fault).  If the family brought a lawsuit, a jury would ultimately decide those factual questions.

*Please note that I am only using this accident as an example of how this type of case would be handled in Florida.  I am not licensed in Ohio, so could not handle this case there.

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Was The SUV Driver Negligent In This Bicycle Accident?

bicycle accident lawyer orlando floridaOverall, my very cursory observation is this particular case might involve some close questions.  Had the same bicycle accident happened in Florida, the case would definitely be worth careful investigation by an Orlando bicycle accident attorney.  I would probably argue that if the driver could not see, she should have either stopped driving or lowered her sun visor sooner than she did, rather than continuing to drive while adjusting her visor to reduce the glare.  One key question (most likely posed by any plaintiff’s lawyer taking the theoretical deposition of the driver or other witnesses) would be how long she had been driving without being able to see due to the glare.  If the glare that prevented her from seeing the road started seconds before the accident, then she would probably have a better argument (in front of a jury) than if she had been driving for an extended period without great vision due to the glare.

Other evidence that might persuade a jury that the driver had been negligent would be witnesses regarding any changes in the sun or shade levels (including any other drivers on the road that day or passengers in her vehicle), accident reconstruction or other experts regarding the shade and sun levels (and their likely duration) during that time of day on that stretch of road, and possibly other sources.  In my opinion, one of the primary goals of any bicycle accident attorney working on that case would be to show that the sun levels had not changed on the road for an extended period of time, in which case a “reasonably prudent person” would have either stopped the vehicle or lowered the visor at an earlier time.  But ultimately members of any jury would have to decide whether they believed the driver behaved reasonably.

Second Tragic Bicycle Accident Case With Completely Different Legal Issues

bicycle crash lawyer orlando floridaThe second tragic bicycle accident case that caught my eye this morning involved a 19 year old unlicensed driver who hit 4 bicycle riders, killing two of them and causing injuries to the other two.  The vehicle driver had been pulled over for speeding (59 mph in a 30 mph zone) in the exact spot where she killed the two bike riders eight hours earlier.  She was also charged with driving without a license, so a friend had to drive her home after she received the earlier tickets.  And she did not even own the vehicle that she was driving.  The police report did not indicate whether she had been texting while driving, or whether driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol might have been factors in the accident.  Witnesses said that she had been speeding and was inattentive (which suggests that she was driving in a distracted manner) at the time of the accident.

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Driver Who Caused Bicycle Accident Was Unquestionably Negligent

In my opinion, this case involved a much more culpable defendant and raised completely different legal issues than the first case discussed above.  Most notably, although a defense lawyer would probably still argue that the cyclists were also negligent for some reason (only because defense lawyers generally make any and all arguments, even if they are obviously losers), it would be an undeniable fact to an accident lawyer that the driver was negligent: she was speeding, she was driving without a license, and who knows what else (possibly distracted driving, driving while texting, or driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol).  I will go out on a limb and say that there is not a jury in America that would conclude her behavior was reasonable.  So, the driver was unquestionably negligent.

When A Potential Defendant Does Not Own The Vehicle, Can The Vehicle Owner Be Sued?

bicycle crash attorney orlando floridaBut that does not end the questions posed by this accident.  The driver was 19, unlicensed and not driving her own car.  We have no idea whether she owned another vehicle with separate insurance coverage.  But I would guess that is not likely since she did not even have a driver’s license. And I would further guess that she has little or no personal assets.  (Of course, if I were representing the family of the deceased cyclists or the other injured cyclists, I would verify the accuracy of my preliminary guesswork.)  So, as a practical matter, from a civil bicycle accident lawsuit perspective, the question is whether there is anyone with any money against whom filing a lawsuit would make financial sense. In Florida, we have something called the “dangerous instrumentality doctrine,” which essentially says that the owner of any vehicle can be liable for any accident caused by anyone the driver allowed to drive their own vehicle.  So, depending on how this young driver obtained the keys to this vehicle (whether by theft or permission or other circumstances), I would guess there is a reasonably good chance that, at least in Florida, the owner of the vehicle could be held liable if the same accident happened here.  The only real question in my mind initially would be the amount of the vehicle owner’s insurance coverage and/or available assets.

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What If You Are Involved In A Bicycle Accident?

bicycle accident lawyer in orlando floridaI’m starting to run a little long on this post, so I’ll try to keep this short and sweet.  If you are involved in a bicycle accident:

1.  Report the bike accident to the police, and stay on the scene until they arrive.  You should immediately report the accident to the local police so that we have documentation that a vehicle caused your accident.

2.  As soon as you are seen by any medical providers, make sure you communicate any and all physical complaints that you have.  If you are involved in any bicycle or other accident, you should never (ever) downplay your injuries when speaking to medical provides. The reason is that insurance companies will review your medical records, talk to witnesses, and use your own statements to argue that you were not really injured, if that is what you said.

3.  Try to get driver and witness contact information.  For the driver, ideally you would like to have their name, address, phone number, driver’s license number, vehicle license number and insurance information.  For any witnesses, ideally you would like to have their name(s) and contact information.  The police report may or may not include this information.

4.  Take lots of pictures!  Camera phones make it easy to take pictures of the other driver’s vehicle, yourself, your bike, your helmet, any damaged biking equipment or gear, any other injured riders (and their bikes, helmets and damaged gear), and even your biking clothes, on and off of you.  One photo of the vehicle license plate and other driver’s license, registration and insurance card would also be helpful.  Borrow someone else’s phone if needed and possible to take these pictures.

5.  Write down your version of the accident.  This might include where the accident happened, exactly what happened from your perspective, what caused the accident, the time of day, along with road, traffic and weather conditions.

6.  Document your injuries.  Even if you only suffered what you believe are minor injuries, you absolutely must seek medical attention as soon as possible (in Florida, if you do not obtain medical coverage within 14 days, you may not get PIP coverage).  Insurance companies and juries are more likely to believe that you were injured if you sought medical attention (and the sooner, the better).  Medical records will also document the extent of your injuries, along with any photos that you should take of your injuries as soon as you can after the bicycle accident.

7.  Preserve evidence.  Keep and do not repair your bike, helmet, and any other biking equipment, and do not wash your biking clothes.

8.  Do not, not, not (!) speak to an insurance adjuster before calling an Orlando bicycle accident lawyer.  This is a common mistake.  Insurance companies tell you that you should call them first for a reason, and it’s not to help you.  It’s to make sure they get information from you, before we lawyers get involved, to lower the value of your case.  Innocent statements can and will be twisted & used against you.  Don’t talk to them.  You are required to report to your own insurance company within a short time period.  The time for required reporting varies with each policy.  But 30 days is common.  Don’t make any assumptions.  Just call me first for a free consultation to learn why calling them is a mistake.

8.  Call me.  I am an Orlando bicycle accident attorney, and that’s what you need before talking to any insurance company, including your own.  Every insurance company (including your own) ALWAYS seeks to downplay and devalue accidents.  In fact, I would say that is their primary focus when evaluating any and all accident claims.  And they can use anything that you tell them against you later.  I repeat for emphasis: an insurance company’s only goal after an accident is to pay you as little as possible (underpayment is an industry-wide policy).  Not immediately talking to a bike accident lawyer would be a big mistake.

If you have been involved in a biking accident, feel free to call me anytime to discuss your potential case at (407) 383-7290 or you can send me an email by completing the contact form on this site.  As a Florida bicycle accident attorney, I can help you recover the most money (assuming the other driver caused the accident and there is available insurance coverage) if you call me in the immediate aftermath of a biking accident.

Why Should You Hire Tina?

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About the Author:

Tina Willis is a Florida & Georgia personal injury & wrongful death attorney. This includes auto accidents, slip and fall accidents, products & premises liability cases, as well as medical malpractice cases.

Ms. Willis operates a boutique law firm from Orlando, Florida, focused on maintaining a reasonable case load so that she can provide personalized service to each and every one of her clients. She spends a tremendous amount of time helping her clients understand how they can help increase the value of their cases, sometimes significantly.

After graduating second in her class from Florida State University College of Law in 1995, Ms. Willis worked as an attorney for two large Atlanta defense firms, where she practiced employment and excess insurer defense. Ms. Willis also worked as a professor of Civil Procedure & Advanced Legal Writing at Barry University in Orlando, Florida. Ms. Willis has a “superb” AVVO rating, and was selected by the National Trial Lawyers, as a “Top 100 Trial Lawyer.”

She now devotes her passion and compassion to her unwavering goal of helping her clients fully achieve the justice they deserve, in the form of maximum compensation for their injuries and losses. Before you hire another law firm, you owe it to yourself to hear what Ms. Willis has to say. Consultations and representation never cost you a penny until she wins your case.

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