The bicycle is a tried and true method of transportation that permits individuals to travel quickly and conveniently throughout Pennsylvania and Philadelphia. Unfortunately, as nearly any cyclists can attest, drivers of cars and trucks and other motorists do not always respect the rights of bikers. Under Title 75 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, Chapter 35, Section 3501 riders of bicycles in Pennsylvania are “granted all of the rights and shall be subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle.” However, all too often, drivers of other vehicles fail to exercise the-the due care required of them and treat bicyclists as a nuisance or an obstacle.
In some cases, this results in mere annoyance to the bicycle rider or riders. However, in other cases, particularly dangerous or even deadly situations can arise. Unfortunately, as bicycle ridership in Philadelphia and throughout Pennsylvania continues to increase it seems that the number of bike accidents also continue to increase.
Bicycle Accidents are Very Common in Philadelphia
While 2015 Pennsylvania bicycle accident statistics are not yet available, we can gain an understanding of the frequency of crashes involving cyclists by analyzing the 2014 Pennsylvania Crash Facts & Statistics. The report indicates that over the past 5 years the number of bike crashes has remained rather consistent with roughly 1,400 bicycle crashes occurring annually. Unfortunately, 2014 produced the second most fatal crashes during this five-year period. Fatal crashes peaked in 2010 with 21 deaths, but 2014 nearly equaled this number with its 19 fatalities.
Bicycle accidents with vehicles were most likely to involve a passenger car for crashes producing death, an injury, or property damage only. 55.1% of fatal bike crashes involved a passenger car. Crashes involving SUVs, vans, and light trucks were the second most prevalent crash. Crashes with heavy trucks accounted for 12.3 percent of fatal crashes and 5 percent of crashes that produced an injury. Crashes with motorcycles accounted for 16.6% of fatalities and 5.1 percent of injuries making it the third most prevalent source of bike injuries and deaths.
The Main Cause of Cycling Accidents in Philadelphia
Cycling accidents are some of the most devastating kinds of accidents a person can go through. Many factors can lead to a bicycle accident and subsequent injuries. However, we have identified driver negligence as the most prevalent cause of cycling accidents in Philadelphia.
The vast majority of cycling accidents happen due to a driver’s negligence. Cyclists are often at the mercy of other car drivers on the road. Their poor decisions behind the steering wheel often lead to devastating results, especially when involving unsuspecting bicyclists. Drivers’ negligence can take many forms, and each of them has its own set of dangers.
For instance, one of the most common forms of driver’s negligence is speeding. Driving above established speed limits often lead to severe accidents. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in 2018, speeding was responsible for 9,378 deaths in the U.S.
Distracted driving is also another behavior many negligent drivers engage in while on the road. Texting, eating, drinking, and grooming while driving are typical examples of actions that often lead to distractions. A distracted driver cannot realize that there is a cyclist nearby. A distracted driver can run a red light and hit a bicyclist as a result.
One of the most dangerous conducts of negligent drivers is drunk driving. Driving a vehicle while under the effects of alcohol can lead to a devastating accident. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), millions of people are reported drinking and driving throughout the U.S. Thousands of cyclists have suffered severe injuries caused by drunk drivers in Philadelphia and throughout the country. If a negligent driver in Philadelphia injured you, our cycling accident lawyers can help.
Dooring is another common cause of cyclist accidents in Philadelphia. Dooring happens when bicyclists run into the open door of a parked car. It also refers to situations where a cyclist has to swerve to avoid an open door and crashes. This kind of accident happens because the car driver fails to make sure that there is no oncoming traffic before opening their vehicle’s door. Many times, the car driver fails to exercise caution, which often leads to an accident.
Hit and Runs
Unfortunately, hit-and-run accidents involving bicycles do occur and many motorists do not have the decency to remain at the scene of the accident or to call for needed medical care for the injured cyclist. In fact a 2003 NHTSA report indicated that 20 percent of motorists who hit a bicyclist or a pedestrian will flee the scene of the accident.
For instance, in April 2016, a 26-year-old man suffered life-altering injuries when he was riding his bicycle in West Philadelphia near the intersection of 45th Street and market Street. The man suffered a severe traumatic brain injury in the crash and was in extremely critical condition at Presbyterian Hospital following the accident. Unfortunately, the motorist never stopped. Just one month later, a similar incident occurred in also in West Philadelphia near the intersection of 52nd Street and Irving Street.
In July 2015, a bicyclist was killed in a hit-and-run that occurred in Hunting Park. Here, the driver was attempting to pass another car when she hit the cyclist. She did not stop and fled the scene. She was latter apprehended by police at 7th and Atlantic streets.
What to Do After a Cycling Accident in Philadelphia
Being involved in a cycling accident in Philadelphia can be scary and overwhelming. However, it is critical to consider that everything you do after your accident can have a significant impact on any future claim. For this reason, it is essential to follow a series of steps after your crash.
Get to Safety
The first thing you should do after your bicycle accident is to think about your safety. If you are physically able to, find a safe place away from incoming traffic. This can help you avoid any subsequent accident(s). Once you have found a safe place, call 911 and report your accident. Getting an emergency medical treatment can help you rule out any underlying health issue as a result of your crash.
Call the Philadelphia Police and Make a Report
Call the police and report your accident. A police officer will show up to the crash scene and perform an investigation. After their investigation, they will make a report. This report may contain essential information that can be used in any future claim. Make sure to ask for a copy.
Make sure to gather as much information as possible. Taking video footage and photographic evidence of your crash can shed additional light on your case and can help establish liability in your claim. Make sure to gather essential data such as the involved party’s name, address, phone number, and insurance information.
Reporting a Bike Accident to the Philadelphia Police
Since bicycles are considered a vehicle in the eyes of the law in Pennsylvania, it is wise to report the accident and treat it as if it were a crash in a motor vehicle. However, it is important to note that police in Philadelphia and some other jurisdictions are not generally required to complete an accident report where no injuries occur and both vehicles are able to drive away. Police may also be hesitant to consider a damaged bicycle a “vehicle” despite what Pennsylvania law has to say on the subject. Furthermore, due to a variety of reasons, it can sometimes be challenging to get police to show up even when there are minor injuries. However, making a report of the accident is always a wise step even if police will not come to the scene
If the Police Won’t Take Your Report or Don’t Show Up
In the case that you do sustain serious and potentially life-altering injuries, the police should make a report and you should focus on getting the medical treatment you need. But, if the police won’t come to the scene of your bike crash, there are certain steps you should take before you leave the scene provided that you are medically able to do so. If you are involved in a bike crash with a car, truck, motorcycle, or other vehicle do not leave the scene of the accident without first obtaining the license plate number of the vehicle, the name and contact information of the driver, and the driver’s insurance. Furthermore, you should obtain the name and contact information of any individuals who witnessed the crash or who can provide information regarding the accident. If a police officer comes to the scene but won’t make a report, it is also a good idea to get their name and badge number.
You should then take this information to the local precinct office. It is likely that an officer at this location will provide you with a PA Driver’s Accident Report. This form should be completed and submitted as stated on the form. If you are having difficulties completing the form, working with a bike accident lawyer can be the first step to making your claim.
Pennsylvania Law on Cars and Bikes
Pennsylvania state safe passing law HB 170 provides that drivers must provide for ample space when passing cyclists. In fact, Pennsylvania’s law requiring at least 4 feet of clearance when passing is the toughest and most generous in the nation. Furthermore, it is unlawful for the driver of a motor vehicle to force a cyclist off the road. Additionally, state law prohibits any turn by a driver of a motor vehicle from interfering with a cyclist proceeding straight on a roadway or shoulder of a roadway. However, cyclists are also required to ride prudently and follow the rules of the road.
Establishing Liability in a Cycling Accident in Philadelphia
The first thing you may ask after being involved in a bicycle accident with a car is who will be liable for your losses. In order to establish liability for your cycling accident in Philadelphia, you need to prove the at-fault driver’s negligence. As a plaintiff, you will need to prove the existence of four main elements in your personal injury claim.
First, you will need to establish that the driver owed you some sort of legal duty. For instance, you may argue that the driver owed a legal obligation to drive safely, following all traffic laws. Second, you will need to establish that the defendant in your case breached their legal duty. In other words, evidence can show that the defendant failed to follow traffic law. Next, you will need to establish a link between the defendant’s actions or omissions and your losses. This is what is known as causation. Finally, you will need to be able to show your losses to the court. For example, you can provide evidence of losses such as your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Once you have proven your case, the court may grant you compensation.
Bike Accidents that Result in Death
While many people still consider bicycle deaths and injuries to be something that more frequently impacts children and teens, the truth is that all age groups from children, to adults, to senior citizens are affected by bike injuries and deaths. In fact, adults from ages 20 to 34 accounted for 21.1 percent of bicycling deaths and 32.7 percent of all cycling injuries. Similarly, adults ranging from age 45 to age 44 accounted for nearly 16 percent of cycling fatalities and 8.3 percent of deaths. Adults aged 55 years to 64 years accounted for 21.1 percent of cycling deaths. In all, these three age cohorts accounted for nearly 60 percent of all cycling deaths.
The 2014 Pennsylvania crash statistics stated that just over 75% of all bike accident injuries occurred while it was light outside. By contrast, 20 % of injuries occurred when it was dark. As for deaths, 52.6% occurred during the day. For deaths that occurred during the dark evening hours, 26.3 percent occurred where street lights were present. 21.1 percent of nighttime bicycle deaths occurred where no street lights were present.
If your loved one has passed away from injuries related to a bicycle crash, you may be entitled to compensation under Pennsylvania’s Wrongful Death Act (42 Pa. C.S. § 8301 et seq.). The Act provides that an action for wrongful death may be brought to recover damages for the death of a victim caused by the illegal violence, wrongful act, or negligence of another. The personal representative of a victim’s estate has the option to file a wrongful death action within 6 months of the date of death. The personal representative is the executor or administrator of the victim’s estate. After 6 months have passed, a beneficiary may bring a wrongful death action as trustee ad litem. Pa.R.Civ.P. 2201, 2202.
Beneficiaries include a victim’s spouse, children and/or parents. The share of damages that a beneficiary can recover is calculated in accordance with the laws governing intestacy in Pennsylvania. If it is determined that a victim has no beneficiaries, the personal representative of the decedent may bring an action to recover damages.
The damages that a victim’s beneficiaries or estate representative may collect include:
- Hospital bills
- Nursing and medical expenses
- Costs of funeral and burial arrangements
- Expenses related to the administration of a victim’s estate
- Lost wages
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of consortium
Bicycle accidents are among the most catastrophic accidents that can occur on the road today. The injuries sustained by bicyclists are typically very severe, and fatalities are not uncommon. If a victim received medical treatment before succumbing to injuries, the medical bills and hospital expenses could cost survivors hundreds, sometimes even thousands of dollars. Thus, it is imperative that loved ones seek the counsel of an experienced Pennsylvania bicycle accident attorney to put themselves in an optimal position for financial recovery.
Pennsylvania’s Survival Action Statute
Pennsylvania’s Survival Action statute (42 Pa. C.S. § 8302) is an action seeking compensation for a deceased victim’s injuries. In essence, the statute provides that injuries “survive” the deceased victim, and it allows for the personal representative of the estate to file a personal injury claim on the victim’s behalf. Damages recovered through a survival action are distributed to the victim’s estate. Damages that a personal representative may be able to collect in a survival action include:
- Pain and suffering from the date of injury until death
- Lost earnings from the date of injury until death
- Future lost earnings through life expectancy
Pennsylvania Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death and Survival Action Claims
Wrongful death actions in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania have a 2 year statute of limitations. The statute of limitations expires within 2 years of the date of the victim’s death. In short, a victim’s beneficiaries or personal representative have 2 years from the date of the victim’s death to file a wrongful death claim to recover damages.
The statute of limitations for survival actions in Pennsylvania are applied differently. There is a 2 year statute of limitations, but it begins to toll from the date the victim was injured, not the date of the victim’s death. The survival action is filed on behalf of the victim by the appointed personal representative. A victim’s personal representative has 2 years from the date of the victim’s injury to file a survival action to recover damages.
Our Philadelphia Bicycle Accident Attorneys Can Help
If you have suffered serious injuries due to a collision with a car, truck, motorcycle, or other vehicle in Pennsylvania you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. In some cases, a bike accident injury demand letter is sufficient to obtain the compensation you need to cover the medical expenses related to the treatment of your serious injuries. However, in other cases, the responsible driver or his or her insurance company may fight your attempts to obtain reasonable compensation at every step in the process. In these situations, working with an experienced bicycle accident and personal injury lawyer can make all the difference in holding a responsible party financially accountable.
For more than 40 years, the lawyers of The Reiff Law Firm have fought for injury victims in Philadelphia and throughout Pennsylvania. We fight aggressively and strategically for injured people when it seems like their world is falling apart and they have nowhere to turn. To schedule a free and confidential legal consultation at their Philadelphia law office by calling (215) 709-6940 today.