Were You Injured Because Of Someone Else's Negligence? Browse Our FAQs
In addition to coping with a lot of stress and frustration, personal injury cases also come with a lot of questions. Here are some of the questions we hear the most at Max Meyers Law.
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What are the most common types of bicycle accidents in Washington?
Every bicyclist in Washington State has their favorite stretch of road: taking the hills on Bainbridge Island, racing the waves along Elliott Bay Trail, or soaking in the scenery all along the Bay to Baker Trail. Even though every rider has their preferred route, we all share a common love for fresh air, a generous tail wind, and life on two wheels.
Unfortunately, life on two wheels also comes with common dangers which every rider—from bicycle messenger to triathlete-in-training to cross-town commuter—will face. Understanding common accident types, where they happen, and what to look out for will keep you safe and rolling this cycling season.
Common Accidents on Open Roads
One common type of accident on the open road is sideswiping—which occurs when a bicycle rider and a car are sharing a lane of traffic when the car veers toward the cyclists, either driving them off the road or hitting the cyclist with the side of their vehicle. A similar accident type occurs when a car which is traveling at a higher rate of speed hits a cyclist from behind when overtaking the rider.
In each of these open-road accident types, the cause is frequently distracted driving. Drivers in cars and trucks who take their eyes off the road to send a text, check their map, or take a bite from their drive-thru lunch may not see a bicycle rider until it is too late. Alcohol and drugs also increase accident risk.
Common Accidents at Intersections and Crossings
Though bicycles are considered road vehicles in Washington State, it rarely seems as if cyclists are treated equally at intersections and crossings where traffic signals and right-of-way rules dictate behavior. The speed of impact in these accidents is usually (though not always) slower than open-road accidents, so they may seem less likely to cause injury, but statistics show that even low-speed collisions between cars and bicycle riders can cause serious injury and death, especially when when a cyclist strikes their head on the vehicle or pavement during the accident and suffers a traumatic brain injury (TBI).
Frequently, motorists fail to even see bicycles at intersections or other crossings, or forget to consider the bicycle as having the same right of way that cars have, resulting in an accident. For instance, cars turning left across oncoming traffic are required to yield to oncoming traffic, but frequently drivers don’t see—or believe they can “beat”—a bicycle rider travelling straight through the intersection in the opposite direction, and the bike and car collide when the driver pulls into the cyclist’s path. Similarly, drivers turning right at an intersection may not notice a cyclist directly to their right and turn directly into the rider or otherwise block the cyclist’s path—resulting in a crash.
Here again, distracted driving is often the cause, though another cause is “biker blindness”, in which drivers become so focused on other motorists at an intersection that they completely ignore bicyclists around them.
Common Accidents While Parked
It may seem paradoxical at first, but some of the most damaging accidents between bicycles and cars happen when the car is not even moving at all.
When a car parallel parks on a city street, for instance, the driver may forget to check their surroundings before opening their door into traffic. That is bad luck for the car door if a semi happens to be passing at that moment, but it is terrible luck for the cyclist coasting downhill when a car door opens directly in front of them. Cyclists who are “doored” make up only two percent of all bicycle/car accidents nationwide, but in large cities like Seattle, as many as one in four accidents are the result of “dooring”.
What Should I Do If I Am in an Accident?
Regardless of whether your accident occurs in the city or on a trail, on the open road or in a parking lot, the first thing every cyclist must do if they have been involved in an accident is seek medical attention. Serious injuries, including TBI and spinal trauma, may not show symptoms for hours or even days, so seek treatment even if you do not feel hurt. This treatment will also establish your injuries at the time of the accident, which may be important when seeking compensation for medical care or lost wages caused by a negligent driver.
The next thing to do after being injured by a negligent driver while riding your bicycle is contact an experienced bicycle accident attorney in Washington. Contact our offices today to schedule a free consultation to learn how Max Meyers Law can help protect your rights, secure full and fair compensation for your injuries, and get you back on the road again. Be sure to ask for a copy of our free book: Bicycle Accident Secrets Unlocked to learn more.
When I choose an attorney to represent my bicycle injury case, what do I look for?
Every year in the United States, thousands of bicyclists are injured—and hundreds killed—in traffic accidents. For those injured cyclists and their families, finding the right attorney to represent their interests with investigators, opposing counsel, insurance companies, and the court is essential if they hope to get full and fair compensation for their injuries or losses.
But how are people supposed to find the right lawyer to represent them in a bicycle injury case? Follow this simple checklist to find someone right for you:
Look for Experience
Every lawyer receives training that might allow them to practice different types of law, such as family law, criminal defense, or personal injury. Receiving an introduction to the subject in law school is no match for years of trial-tested experience in court, however. Further, laws regarding traffic, roads, and bicycles are different from state to state, so it is essential to find an attorney who is licensed and routinely practices in the state where the injury occurred. When researching an attorney to represent your bike accident case, be sure to find someone with experience fighting—and winning—for cyclists in Washington State.
Look for Courage
When you select an attorney to represent your interests, you need someone who will not back down—someone who is willing to go to court and fight hard to get their client the fair judgment and generous compensation they deserve. Some lawyers are nervous about going to trial where they will have to go toe-to-toe with legal representation for the defendant or from big insurance companies; they may even encourage their client to accept a small settlement to avoid the courtroom. Make sure the attorney you choose has a reputation for not accepting anything but the full and fair compensation their client deserves, even if it means going to court.
Look for Good Communication
Though a good bicycle accident attorney has years of experience representing injured cyclists, you probably do not have a lot of experience being an injured cyclist. It is essential, then, that your attorney takes the time to explain the law fully, honestly evaluate the strength of your case, listen to your thoughts and concerns, and stay in contact as your case proceeds. Do not settle for a big-name firm that will not return your calls or high-powered lawyers who don’t listen to your needs. Get someone who is ready and willing to be present and support you at every turn along the way.
Look for Confidence
Following a bicycle accident, an injured cyclist faces a great deal of uncertainty. Will their injuries heal? Who is going to pay for their medical treatment? When will they be able to return to work? How can they afford an attorney and everything else at the same time?
When you choose an attorney to represent you, look for someone willing to stand behind their promise to fight hard for your interests. When a lawyer charges their clients hundreds of dollars per hour to represent them with no guarantee that they will win, that client may end up owing thousands of dollars in fees even if they lose in court or settle for less than what they deserve. Look for an attorney who is willing to share the burden and the risk with their clients by accepting a fee for their work only if their client wins in court.
Look for a Winning Record
Injured cyclists deserve good communication, experienced representation, and a confident partner when they look for an attorney to represent them, but the thing an injured cyclist needs most from their attorney is a win. When looking for someone to represent your bicycle personal injury claim, look for someone who can show you real, trial-tested results for clients for whom they stood up, fought hard, and won big.
Look No Further
Max Meyers Law has represented bicycle riders who were injured while riding, and they have won judgments and earned big settlements for those clients—an established firm with a winning record.
Fighting for the rights of bicyclists is more than a profession for Max Meyers, it is a personal mission. Meyers is an accomplished cyclist himself, taking part in the 200+ mile Seattle-to-Portland Bicycle Classic, cycling up Mount Rainier for 10,000 of total elevation gain, and pedaling across Washington, throughout the United States, and beyond. His commitment to injured cyclists is rooted in his passion for cycling. He even collected his best insights into bicycle safety, bicycle law, and legal recourse for injured bicyclists into a free book: Bicycle Accident Secrets Unlocked.
If you or a loved one have been injured while bicycling in Washington State, and you believe your injuries were caused by the neglect or recklessness of another, contact our offices in Kirkland or Bothall to schedule a free consultation to learn how Max Meyers can work for you.
Is a Bicyclist Considered a Pedestrian?
We have a lot of people who commute to work and ride bikes for recreation in the state of Washington. One question that comes up in conversation is around whether a bicyclist is considered a pedestrian or a vehicle? This can be a tricky question to answer!
A better question to ask is if someone who is riding their bike has the right to ride on the street, ride on the sidewalk, or both? Are they held to the same helmet and traffic laws as motorcycle riders? Are they treated with the same rights as pedestrians? And if they are recognized as both a pedestrian and a vehicle how do you determine when and where to treat them as each?
State and City Guidelines
As you can see, this is a tricky question to answer. Most states do look at bicyclists as both pedestrians and vehicles depending on the situation. It is important to know the rules of the road if you are a cyclist in Washington state. The laws can vary by county and even cities, so make sure you are familiar with the laws for the areas in which you will be riding.
Washington provides that every city and town may by ordinance:
- Regulate and license the riding of bicycles and other similar vehicles upon or along the streets, alleys, highways, or other public grounds within its limits;
- Construct and maintain bicycle paths or roadways within or outside of and beyond its limits leading to or from the city or town;
- Establish and collect reasonable license fees from all persons riding a bicycle or other similar vehicle within its respective corporate limits; and
- Enforce ordinances by reasonable fines and penalties.
(Source: Wash. Rev. Code §§35.75.010; 35.75.030; 35.75.040)
Bicycle Treated as a Vehicle
If a bicyclist is riding on the street, they are viewed and treated much like a vehicle would be. They are required to observe the rules of the road by adhering to signaled turns, traffic signs, and are also are required to have lights, reflectors, and helmets. There are some areas in Washington state where roads are closed to bicyclists and alternate routes to sidewalks or bike trails are provided.
In Washington, bicycles are vehicles according to the statute that defines vehicles and a person riding a bicycle has all of the rights and duties of a driver of a vehicle under Chapter 46.61 of the Revised Code of Washington, except for special regulations specific to bicycles and those provisions that by their nature can have no application. (Source: Wash. Rev. Code §§46.04.670; 46.61.755)
Bicycle Treated as a Pedestrian
The general rule is that if a bicyclist is riding on a sidewalk, then the cyclist is treated like a pedestrian would be. If a bicyclist is in a crosswalk, then a driver is supposed to yield to a cyclist. A person riding a bicycle is allowed to ride on the sidewalks along with pedestrians, though there may be some areas with signage that states otherwise or has lanes that are dedicated to bike traffic and foot traffic. Seattle does allow bicyclists to ride on the sidewalk. If a bicyclist is riding on the sidewalk, they are required to travel “at a rate of speed no greater than is reasonable and proper under the conditions existing at the point of operation.” Washington state law states:
Sidewalks, crosswalks—Pedestrians, bicycles, personal delivery devices.
(1) The driver of a vehicle shall yield the right-of-way to any pedestrian, bicycle, or personal delivery device on a sidewalk. The rider of a bicycle shall yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian on a sidewalk or crosswalk. A personal delivery device must yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian or a bicycle on a sidewalk or crosswalk.
(2)(a) If a person is found to have committed an infraction under this section within a school, playground, or crosswalk speed zone created under RCW 46.61.440, the person must be assessed a monetary penalty equal to twice the penalty assessed under RCW 46.63.110. The penalty may not be waived, reduced, or suspended.
(b) Fifty percent of the moneys collected under this subsection must be deposited into the school zone safety account.
Specialized Laws for Bicyclists
Because bicycle riders can be treated as both a pedestrian and/or a vehicle, many states have laws that are in direct relation to the bicyclist. One example of this would be that it is a common requirement that a bicyclist keeps to the far right of a lane at all times unless they are getting ready to make a left turn. A new safety law was passed in Washington state effective January 1, 2020 which states that Washington drivers must give cyclists and pedestrians three feet of space, or more, if passing them on the road. Here is what drivers need to know about this law:
- If there are two or more lanes, drivers must move out of the right lane to pass a cyclist.
- If there is only one lane in each direction, drivers must slow down and give the cyclist at least three feet of space.
- If there is one lane in each direction, but not enough room to pass, the driver must move into oncoming traffic when safe to do so.
Another example is that there are instances where a bicyclist can run a red light (if no other vehicles are approaching the intersection) because they are not heavy enough to trigger the sensors to change the light at a traffic intersection.
Bicycles are allowed to ride in the “bus only” lanes in Seattle, which other vehicles are not allowed to use. They are also allowed to ride two abreast on the roads.
Helmets are also required to be worn by minors in many states, even though adults may not be required to do the same. Washington does not currently have a state law that requires helmet use, however some cities and counties DO require helmets.
There are also many states that require bicyclists to use safety lights if they are out riding in the dark or at night so that other drivers and pedestrians are alerted to their presence and can clearly see them. You may have also heard a bicyclist riding down the sidewalk when all of the sudden you hear “on your left” shouted at you by the cyclist. In many areas it is required that a bicyclist say this to announce they are passing another pedestrian and to help avoid a collision.
Bicyclists and Law Enforcement
One of the unique things about treating a bicyclist like the driver of a vehicle is that a bicyclist does not need a driver’s license. A bicyclist is also not required to have insurance in order to ride a bike. Because of this, law enforcement is usually pretty laid back about traffic laws when dealing with a bicycle rider.
Sadly, many law enforcement officers are also unclear about traffic laws when it comes to bicyclists. Often times when a car hits a bicyclist, the cyclist is usually treated as a pedestrian instead of a vehicle driver.
Bicycle riders usually want to know about any penalties they may face if they break a traffic law while out riding. It is common for a bicyclist to ignore traffic lights and stop signs while they are riding out on the roads for a couple of reasons:
- The first reason is that bicyclists often think that everyone can clearly see them out on the roads and will yield to them.
- The second reason is that bicyclists may think that traffic lights and stop signs do not apply to them.
If a bicyclist is caught not following these rules of the road, then they can be issued a ticket by law enforcement. As mentioned above, a bicyclist is considered to be a vehicle while they are riding on the roads and they are subject to the same laws and violations. If a bicyclist receives a ticket it can potentially affect and go against their driver’s license if they have one.
There are other laws a bicyclist can be cited for as well, including the operation of a bicycle under the influence (DUI/DWI), or speeding. Any of these violations can go against their driver’s license, lead to fines and citations, and even jail time.
Duties Drivers Have to Bicyclists on the Road
There are special rights of bicycles that require duties placed on drivers to protect cyclists out on the road. Here are some of the duties place on drivers regarding bicyclists:
- Motorists must stay a safe distance to the left of a bicyclist when passing
- Drivers are prohibited from making abrupt turns in front of a cyclist
- Motorists must yield to oncoming bicyclists when making left turns
- Drivers must share the road with bicyclists and exercise caution when changing lanes
- Vehicle occupants must check for passing bicyclists before opening their door
Car Insurance Purposes
A new Washington court case in December 2020 defined bicyclists as pedestrians when it comes to insurance policies. Why is this important? Because when a pedestrian (and now a bicyclist) are hit by a negligent car driver, the bicyclist’s medical bills will be paid by the car’s Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage. This is a special rule just for bicyclists and pedestrians and does not apply to car versus car accidents.
The attorneys at Max Meyers Law understand the issues that are important to bicyclists. If you have been in a bicycle accident, we can help to protect your rights. If you or someone you know has been in a bicycle accident, please give us a call for a free consultation today at 425-399-7000.
Does Washington State Have a Bicycle Helmet Law?
In Washington, state bicycle laws do not require cyclists to wear a helmet. However, many counties and cities make it illegal to ride a bike without one. In Orting, for example, all bike riders under the age of 17 must wear a helmet. In Poulsbo, you have to wear one if you are under 18. Washington bike riders of all ages must wear helmets in:
- Bainbridge Island;
- Gig Harbor;
- King County, including Seattle;
- Pierce County, including unincorporated areas;
- Port Angeles;
- Port Orchard;
- University Place;
- Vancouver; and
- At all military installations.
King County passed its bicycle helmet rule in 1993. The original requirement did not include Seattle until 10 years later when the county updated its statute.
If Bicycle Helmets Are Not Required in My Area, Should I Wear One?
Head injuries are common in wrecks involving helmetless bicyclists. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends bike riders of all ages use helmets on every ride to reduce the risk of head and brain injuries. According to the CDC, more than 1,000 bike riders died in America in 2015. Nearly half a million cyclists suffered injuries.
According to a 2015 report, the only consumer product that injures more children than bicycles are motor vehicles. A 2016 report stated that bike helmets reduce the risk of a severe head injury by almost 70 percent. Helmets also cut down on the number of fatal head injuries by 65 percent.
Aside from the safety benefits, there are numerous reasons to wear a bicycle helmet. A helmet can protect you from weather conditions while improving your ability to see what is in your path. A brightly colored helmet can make it easier for motorists to see you, which can prevent an accident with an inattentive driver. It is essential to buy the right helmet before you or your child starts riding.
Are There Legal Consequences for Not Wearing a Helmet?
Failure to wear a helmet in a city or county that requires it subjects you to the penalties the regulation imposes. The penalties may vary, but the typical punishment is a monetary fine.
There is another risk you take as a helmetless bicyclist. If you sustain injuries in a bike accident and you were not wearing a helmet, you may not be able to recover as much compensation, regardless of whether your locality requires helmet use. If you engaged in a dangerous activity—such as riding a bicycle without a helmet—that made your injuries worse than they would have been if you had been acting in a prudent manner, the other party may argue that you were partly at fault for your damages.
Being partly at fault triggers Washington’s rules on comparative negligence. Under comparative negligence, you can still recover some damages even if you were partly at fault for an accident. The comparative negligence rule will reduce the amount of money you get proportionally by the amount of your fault.
To be partly at fault, you do not need to have helped to cause the accident itself. If your actions exacerbated your injuries, you may not receive full compensation. this is true even if the other person was 100-percent responsible for causing the wreck.
Be aware, however, that the other side cannot assign partial fault to you if your injuries had nothing to do with your failure to wear a helmet. For example, if you suffered a broken arm after a car struck you and threw you from your bicycle, your failure to wear a helmet should not impact your compensation. Since a helmet would not have protected you from a broken arm, it is irrelevant to those damages.
How Does Comparative Negligence Work in Washington?
Washington is a “pure” comparative fault state, which means that you can be up to 99-percent responsible for an accident and still get compensation for your injuries, although you will not receive the full value of your damages. Some states follow “modified” comparative fault and ban a person who is more than 50 percent at fault from getting any compensation. Washington does not follow that approach. If you were 50-percent at fault, you would receive half of your damages.
How Can I Get Help If I Was in a Bicycle Crash?
At Max Meyers Law, we understand the issues that are important to bicyclists and we can help after a bike accident. We will work hard to protect your rights, even if you were not wearing a helmet at the time of your crash. Call us today at 425-399-7000 to set up a free consultation.
How Much Is a Bicycle Accident Settlement Worth?
Because every situation is unique, there is no fixed settlement amount for a bicycle accident. There are, however, predictable factors that will affect settlement value. Here are six important factors that can impact the amount of compensation you could receive in your bicycle accident settlement:
- Initial medical bills. If you have minor injuries, you probably have relatively low medical bills, but severe injuries can stick you with a mountain of medical expenses, including bills for ambulance transportation, emergency room fees, surgical fees, hospital stays, and more. Your medical bills factor into your total financial recovery.
- Initial lost wages. When you suffer injuries, you will probably miss some time from work while you recuperate. This time away from the job might be a few days, or it could be weeks or even months. Whatever the case, lost wages due to missed work are recoverable in your settlement.
- Continuing medical treatment. Some people recover entirely from just their initial medical treatment. Others, however, may need additional medical procedures to achieve their previous level of functioning or to get as close to that point as possible. If you need ongoing medical care after the initial treatments, you can also get compensation for these expenses. Make sure your lawyer is aware of all the problems you are having and whether your doctors have recommended additional procedures or therapy. Do not agree to settle before you fully understand your prognosis.
- Loss of earning potential. If you cannot perform all the tasks you could before your bicycle accident, you might not be on the same income trajectory anymore. If you make less money than you once did, it could add up to a substantial loss over time. For example, a 30-year-old who earns $10,000 less every year because of her injuries could lose $400,000 or more over the course of her remaining working life.
- Disability. If your injuries leave you unable to support yourself through gainful employment, you have a disability. This level of impairment will be a significant factor in the value of your accident claim. And if your disability renders you in need of assistance for the ordinary tasks of daily living, the amount that you pay for housekeeping and personal care help can be part of your compensable damages.
- Comparative fault. So, what happens if you are partly at fault for your bicycle accident? You can still get money for your injuries, but the settlement amount will decline proportionate to your percentage of fault.
How Does Comparative Fault Work in Washington?
Washington is a pure comparative fault state. Comparative fault means that, even if you were negligent, you could get some compensation as long as someone else was partly responsible for the accident.
The amount you get, however, will be less because of your negligence. For example, if your damages were $20,000 and you were 25 percent at fault, you will receive $15,000, which is 75 percent of $20,000.
Does Max Meyers Law Handle Bicycle Accident Claims?
Yes, we do. We got a $50,000 settlement for a bicyclist who suffered a separated shoulder from a bike crash. The bicyclist was riding to work on the sidewalk when a car came out of a condo complex driveway. The car pulled out onto the sidewalk before looking for pedestrians or bicycles. Our client, who was legally on the sidewalk, tried to avoid the car by swerving but hit the front of the car, and the impact threw him into the street.
The car driver was negligent for entering the sidewalk before stopping to check for pedestrians and bikes. The bike rider was not at fault.
At Max Meyers Law, we only handle transportation-related claims. Max is a cyclist himself who understands the challenges you face when sharing the road with cars and trucks. For your free claim evaluation, call us at 425-399-7000.
What Are Dooring Bicycle Accidents?
Dooring bicycle accidents occur when a parked motorist opens their car door and a cyclist crashes into it. Many of these accidents occur when a bicyclist actually strikes the door, but some may occur when bicyclists swerve to avoid the open door in their path. Dooring accidents, as well as other types of bicycle accidents, are responsible for thousands of bicyclist injuries every year.
If you suffered injuries in a dooring accident and believe another party is at fault, the attorneys at Max Meyers Law can evaluate your case and help you recover compensation for your damages. Call us today at 425-399-7000.
Who Is Liable for a Dooring Bike Accident?
Motorists and Passengers
According to Washington state traffic laws, motorists and passengers must not open their car doors until it is reasonably safe to do so. A motorist or passenger may be negligent and liable for a bicyclist’s dooring accident injuries for:
- Failing to be aware of their surroundings
- Failing to check for oncoming bicyclists (failing to check mirrors)
- Failing to wait until it was reasonably safe before opening their door
- Leaving car doors open for an unnecessary amount of time
- Operating their vehicles and opening their doors while distracted, drowsy or intoxicated
While motorists and passengers are responsible for looking for bicyclists in the door-zone before opening their doors, bicyclists also have a responsibility to pay attention to the road ahead and be aware of their surroundings and hazards that may pose a risk to their safety. Bicyclists also must avoid striking into a door when they have the opportunity to do so.
Even if you were partially liable for the accident, you may still be able to recover damages. However, your damages decrease in proportion to your liability. For example, if you suffered $100,000 in damages for your bike accident injuries, but you were 40 percent negligent, you will only recover $60,000 ($100,000 minus 40 percent).
Proving Liability in Dooring Accidents
Any insurance claims or lawsuits filed as a result of the dooring accident will depend on fault. So, it is vital to establish how the accident happened. To establish fault, we will consider the following evidence and use it to support your claim for damages.
- Police reports detailing how the accident occurred and whether the parties involved violated any traffic laws.
- Witness statements from those who saw the accident
- Expert statements to determine whether the bicyclist could have safely avoided the accident and whether the motorist or passenger could have seen the bicyclist
Our case must establish that the defendant was negligent (e.g., opening the car door without checking for oncoming bicyclists) and caused your accident. We must also prove the value of your damages, which may include medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. To prove case value, we may rely on evidence like:
- Medical bills and records
- Medical expert testimony regarding future surgeries or treatment
- Vocational or occupational specialists
- Evidence of lost wages
How to Prevent Dooring Bike AccidentsBicyclists and drivers can each do their part to reduce the risk of these accidents.
- Bicyclists should ride in designated bike lanes, when available
- Bicyclists should ride in the center of the bike lane to avoid opening car doors as well as moving traffic
- Drivers should check for oncoming bicyclists before opening a car door.
- Drivers should be mindful not to block bike lanes when parking their vehicle.
What To Do After a Dooring Accident
If you are in a dooring accident, call the police to report the accident. If you require emergency medical care, call 9-1-1 and request an ambulance; if you do not require emergency care, go to the emergency room or make an appointment with your doctor for an evaluation shortly after your accident.
Also take these steps after your dooring accident:
- Ask all parties involved for contact information.
- Ask eyewitnesses for contact information.
- Take photographs of the scene, if you are able to do so.
- Request a copy of the accident report.
- Follow up with medical care.
- Document the time you take off from work to recover.
- Document all the ways your injuries affect your finances, health, and other aspects of your life.
The attorneys Max Meyers Law can help you file a claim for damages if you were hurt in a bicycle dooring accident. Call us today: 425-399-7000.
Can a Bicycle Accident Lawyer Settle Without Checking With Me?
If an insurance company makes a settlement offer after your bicycle accident, your attorney is legally and ethically obligated to inform you of the offer and to check with you before accepting it. The acceptance or rejection of an offer can have a major impact on your personal injury case and ultimately determine the amount of money you will recover for your accident-related damages.
Max Meyers Law PLLC knows that while it is our job to advise our clients, it is ultimately their decision whether to accept or reject any settlement offers that come their way.
Can My Lawyer Settle My Claim Without Informing Me?
No, an attorney cannot settle a case without the client’s consent and authorization. Attorneys are required to promptly inform clients of all settlement offers, even if they seem unacceptable or unreasonable. The client must then decide whether to accept or reject the offer. Attorneys can advise clients on what to do, and help determine whether the offer is fair, based on their knowledge and experience. In the end, however, it is up to the client to decide what the next steps should be.
What should I do if my attorney settled my claim without checking with me?
If your attorney accepts a settlement offer without your consent, they have violated a fiduciary duty owed to you as their client and committed an ethical violation.
If your attorney accepted a settlement offer that you did not want to accept, you will need to take immediate action by:
- Firing your attorney and hiring new representation– If your attorney accepted a settlement offer without consulting you, they are not acting in your best interest. You are strongly encouraged to find a new attorney to represent you in all matters relating to your bicycle accident.
- Reviewing your retention contract – When a personal injury attorney agrees to represent you in your bicycle accident case, you will likely have to sign a written retention agreement that will specify the terms of your attorney/client relationship during your case, including whether your attorney has the authority to make settlement decisions on your behalf. Have your new attorney review the retention contract and other documents to make sure your attorney did not have the authority to agree to settle.
- Contacting the insurance company – When your attorney accepted your offer, the insurance company may have closed your file and written you a check for the “agreed upon” amount. That is why you need to contact the insurer as soon as possible to let them know that you did not authorize your attorney to accept the offer and that the attorney who accepted the offer no longer represents you. You should then provide the insurer with the contact information of your new attorney, so that the insurer can work directly with your new attorney to resolve the case.
- Reporting your former attorney – Your attorney violated ethical rules by accepting an offer without checking with you first and should be held accountable for their actions. Go to the state bar website to download the forms necessary to report the attorney’s wrongful conduct. The state bar can punish the attorney by suspending or revoking their license. You may also be able to file a malpractice claim against your attorney.
Attorneys are responsible for keeping clients informed regarding all aspects of the case, including settlement offers. Your attorney may think they know what is best for your case, but that does not mean they can make decisions without you. Attorneys and their clients should work together to make decisions and evaluate settlement offers. However, if there is a disagreement on how you should proceed, you have the final say.
If your attorney wrongfully settled your bicycle accident claim without your consent, it may cost you a lot of money. Additionally, you may lose faith in your attorney and feel that they do not have your best interests at heart.
Contact Max Meyers Law PLLC at 425-399-7000. We listen to our clients and work with them to make the best possible decisions to benefit their claims.
Most Common Causes of Bicycle Accidents: How They Happen & Liability
Being hit by a car is the most common cause of injury to bicyclists, reports the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, over 800 riders died from crashes with motor vehicles in 2015. Learn more about the most common causes of bicycle accidents, how they happen, and who you can hold liable.
Who is liable for the most common cycling accidents?
The liable party in a bicycle accident depends largely on how the accident occurred. Below, we detail the most types of bike accidents and who might be at fault:
Clipping: This occurs when the car and the bicycle are both traveling in the same direction. The car does not allow the cyclist enough distance and either sideswipes or rear-ends the rider.
The driver will be at fault if he:
- Strikes a bicyclist in the bike lane
- Did not give the rider enough space
- Uses the bike lane to park and hits the rider in the process
While the driver is at fault in many cases, the bicyclist may be at fault if she merges into the traffic lane without checking or signaling.
Dooring: Dooring happens when the driver of stopped or parked car opens his door into the path of the bicycle, striking the cyclist or causing the rider to run into the car door.
The car driver is liable when he opens his car door into the path of a bicyclist. If, however, a parked car safely has its door open away from traffic lanes and a bicyclist crashes into it due to inattention, the bicyclist is liable.
Left turn: A driver makes a left turn in front of a bicyclist heading in the opposite direction.
Bicycles have the same rights on the road as cars and trucks. Per Washington State traffic laws, a car making a left turn must yield to oncoming traffic, whether that traffic is a car, truck or bicycle. If a car making a left turn strikes a bicycle due to failure of the car to yield right-of-way, the car driver is liable. The bicyclist can be liable if the car is legally turning left on a left-turn arrow and the bicyclist runs a red light.
Side street: The car pulls out from the side street, turning left or right into the path of the bicycle. If the bicycle does not have enough time to stop, the bicycle may crash into the car. Sometimes the car will strike the bicycle broadside.
When a car pulls out from the side street into the path of a bicycle, the car driver is liable for failure to keep a proper lookout and failure to yield right-of-way. If, however, the bicyclist caused the accident by whipping in and out of traffic lanes without keeping a proper lookout, the bicyclist will be liable.
Right hook: A driver makes a right turn into the path of the bicyclist heading in the same direction.
Liability for a right hook bicycle accident will depend on the facts of the case. If the car made a right turn without checking the bike lane and without using a turn signal, the car driver would be liable. If the car is legally and cautiously turning right on a right-turn arrow at a red light, and a bicycle attempts to pass the car on the right side to run the red light, the bicyclist can be liable for the collision.
What if both the bicyclist and the car driver were negligent?
In many crashes, more than one person was negligent in causing the accident. Washington law provides a simple solution to this situation. You can recover the amount of your damages minus a proportional amount to account for your negligence. This is called comparative negligence.
Consider the following: you were riding in the bike lane when a driver opened his door in front of you. You might have had time to slow down to decrease the force of impact or potentially avoid the collision but you were looking at a text on your phone. The insurer finds you 40 percent at fault. You could only recover 60 percent of your $50,000 settlement demand ($30,000).
What is the most common point of impact in bicycle accidents?
Per 2015 NHTSA statistics, over 92 percent of the bicyclists killed by passenger cars crashed into the front of the car. Approximately 1.6 percent of the bicyclists killed by passenger cars impacted the left side of the car, while 4.4 percent made an impact with the right side of the car.
These numbers would indicate that very few of the bicyclist fatalities are the result of cars turning right or left into the path of a bicyclist who is traveling in the same direction as the car; however, this also shows that left turn collision fatalities are almost three times as common as right turn fatalities.
Large trucks, on the other hand, had much greater numbers of side impact statistics than cars. Almost 21 percent of all bicyclist fatalities in crashes with large trucks involved the bicycle making an impact with the right side of the truck. Almost 50 percent of fatalities resulted from a front impact, while approximately seven percent of resulted from left side impacts.
The higher right-side collision fatality rates are likely due to the fact that large truck drivers cannot see anything to the immediate right of them.
Get help from a Kirkland bicycle accident attorney today.
Bicycle accident claims can be complicated, especially if you suspect you might have violated one of Washington State’s bicycle laws. If you need help establishing liability or filing your bicycle accident claim, call Max Meyers Law, PLLC at 425-399-7000 today to set up your free consultation.
How much space must a driver allow a bicyclist in Washington State?
You must give a cyclist in Washington State enough room that you would clearly avoid coming into contact with the rider, per RCW § 46.61.110. While there is no specific distance required by law, the Washington State Department of Licensing (DOL) suggests that drivers give bicyclists a minimum of three feet when traveling slowly.
Is there information on space for bicyclists in addition to the Washington statutes?
The DOL provides the following guidance on drivers allowing space to bicycles:
- Cars must yield to bicycles traveling in a bicycle lane. It is not a matter of the amount of space to be given to the bicycle within the bike lane.
- Cars are not allowed to drive in bicycle lanes. Cars are only allowed to enter bicycle lanes when turning, getting into a parking space, or entering the roadway. Cars are never allowed to park in a bicycle lane.
- If a bicyclist is crossing the road on a painted or unpainted crosswalk, drivers must stop for the bicyclist until the bicyclist is on the other half of the roadway. This is the same rule as for pedestrians.
- If a bicyclist is riding on the sidewalk, a driver must yield right-of-way when driving across the sidewalk. When a bicycle is traveling on a sidewalk, the bicyclist has the same rights and duties as a pedestrian.
- A driver may not drive on the left side of the road if there is an approaching bicyclist and there is not enough space for the bicyclist to be safe. For example, a car driver wants to pass another car, but it is a two-lane road, and there is a bicycle in the left (oncoming) lane. The driver must wait until the bicyclist has gone by before initiating the overtaking of the other car.
- Bicyclists are allowed to ride on the roadway, in a bicycle lane, on the shoulder of the road, or the sidewalk, unless signs prohibit this. It is the choice of the bicyclist, not of a driver. Drivers are not allowed to force bicyclists off the road to the shoulder. They must allow them space in a lane of the roadway.
- If a bicyclist is traveling on the road and is going slower than the flow of traffic, the bicyclist must ride as close to the right side of the roadway as he safely can. Regardless of whether she is traveling at the speed of traffic, the bicyclist may move to the left before and during turns. Cars must keep a safe distance during these turns.
- A bicyclist may ride in traffic lanes either singly or two abreast. When bicycles are traveling two abreast, they are entitled to the entire width of the lane. A car may not enter the lane until it has safely passed both bicycles.
Are there any other laws bicyclists need to know?
Yes. While drivers should give bicyclists the suggested three feet of space, there are laws that bicyclists need to know to keep themselves safe and protect their rights. All bicyclists should remember these four important bicycle laws:
- Bicyclists are motorists under Washington State law. This means that they have the same rights and responsibilities of drivers.
- All King County residents must wear helmets when operating a bicycle. (Washington State does not have a bicycle helmet law, but King County adopted the law in 1993.)
- All bicyclists must signal their turns. (This video from The League of American Bicyclists demonstrates how to signal all turns.)
- Bicyclists do not have the right-of-way on sidewalks. They must always yield right-of-way to pedestrians.
Max Meyers Law PLLC: Your Kirkland Bicycle Accident Lawyers
Unfortunately, many drivers do not give bicyclists the three feet suggested by the DOL. If you or a loved one has sustained injuries in a bicycle accident that was not your fault, we can help. Call Max Meyers Law PLLC today at 425-399-7000 to set up your free consultation.
Should I hire a bicycle accident attorney?
Should I hire a bicycle accident attorney?
Proving who was at fault in your bicycle accident is one of the most important aspects of your injury claim. It can be difficult for a person without legal experience to successfully prove who was liable. That is why you may want to hire an experienced Kirkland bicycle accident lawyer before filing a claim.
How do I win my bicycle accident claim?
You will have to show that the other person was negligent in some way and that his negligence caused the crash and your injuries. Negligence is a legal concept involving a duty of care owed to others. Everyone on the road, whether they are riding a bicycle or driving a car or truck, has a legal duty of care.
That duty means engaging in responsible driving behaviors, including:
- Following the rules of the road;
- Obeying traffic signals, signs, and lane markings;
- Driving within the speed limit;
- Paying attention to the road and traffic; and
- Keeping a careful lookout for low-profile vehicles, pedestrians, and cyclists.
If a driver fails in any of these duties or acts in a way that is not consistent with the cautious and prudent operation of his vehicle, he is negligent. If his negligence causes an accident, he is legally responsible for that accident.
How do I prove who was at fault for my bicycle accident?
An attorney will use credible evidence that provides information on the cause of the accident to prove fault. Police reports are one of the most common types of evidence a lawyer will use to establish who caused an accident. The testimony of the drivers, passengers, and eyewitnesses can provide information as well.
Depending on the type of fault, other evidence can be useful. Blood alcohol levels or breathalyzer test results can establish whether someone was drinking and driving at the time of the accident. Cell phone records can prove that a person was talking or texting while driving in a distracted driving accident.
Your bicycle accident attorney will evaluate your case and determine the types of evidence he needs in order to prove liability. Your lawyer knows the procedures he must follow to obtain the evidence.
What if I was partially at fault in the accident?
Being partially at fault does not prevent you from receiving compensation for your injuries, as long as the other person was also partially at fault. Your fault in the accident proportionally reduces the amount of compensation you receive for your injuries.
This is the rule of comparative negligence, which allows people to recover damages even if they had some fault in causing the accident. Since Washington is a pure comparative fault state, you can make a claim for and recover damages as long as you are no more than 99% at fault. Your negligence will reduce the amount you receive in damages.
Calculating and apportioning fault can be complex. Determining the amount of your damages is also difficult. If you have an attorney for your bicycle accident, he will handle the calculation and apportionment of fault as well as the determination of the amount of your damages.
Do I have to talk with the insurance company to settle my claim?
If you have a lawyer, you do not have to speak with an insurance company regarding your claim. Your attorney will deal directly with the insurance company and negotiate on your behalf. He will handle all of the documents and other paperwork. He will explain what the documents mean and will advise you on the amount of your settlement. He will gather the necessary evidence to prove your claim. In addition to the evidence needed to prove fault, he will also gather the evidence to prove the amount of your injuries, lost wages, and any residual harm.
For help with your bicycle accident injury claim, call Max Meyers Law at 425-399-7000 today to set up your free, no-obligation consultation.
Bicycle/Pedestrian Accidents: Who is liable if a bicyclist struck a pedestrian?
Liability for a bicycle/pedestrian accident works the same as any other type of accident in Washington state. Pure comparative negligence rules mean that each party involved in an accident between a bicyclist and a pedestrian will have their degree of fault assessed and their right to recovery reduced accordingly.
In an accident where a bicyclist hits a pedestrian, each party is potentially liable for the crash. Therefore, each party must present evidence to prove the other party was more at fault for causing the collision than the other.
Proving Liability if You are a Pedestrian Who Was Hit By a Bicyclist
Pedestrians are required to use sidewalks when available and must obey all traffic signals. Bicycle accident statistics show that if you were lawfully on a sidewalk or in a crosswalk when the bicycle hit you, you might be able to claim that the bicyclist negligently entered the area where you were lawfully walking.
Proving liability for a bicyclist's negligence is a matter of showing that his or her reckless behavior caused the accident. For example, if you could prove the bicyclist was distracted from the path in front of them because he or she was engaged in texting on a cell phone, you could claim that he or she neglected to watch where they in the road and struck you as a result.
Proving Liability if You Are a Bicyclist Who Was Hit by a Pedestrian
While it may seem unlikely, pedestrians can do severe damage to bicyclists as well. If a pedestrian steps out abruptly into the path of a cyclist, there's often little time for that cyclist to slow down and avoid a collision. In a case such as this, the bicyclist would have to prove that there was no way s/he could have stopped in time to prevent the pedestrian and that the pedestrian's negligence of watching where s/he was walking caused the accident.
Again, distractions such as cell phones are often the cause of pedestrians causing bicyclists to crash. Therefore, it is important for both bicyclists and pedestrians to remain alert and focused on the path (and potential hazards) in front of them at all times.
A Washington, Personal Injury Attorney Can Help You Prove Liability
Proving liability in a bicycle/pedestrian accident is all about gathering enough evidence to prove your claim.
A Kirkland pedestrian and bicycle accident lawyer can gather this evidence.
- Photos of the accident scene
- Photos of your injuries
- Witness statements
- Police reports
Just because there was no car involved doesn't mean you can't sustain severe injuries in this type of transit accident. Before you talk to the insurance company, or if you don't have insurance to cover your damages, talk to an attorney about your options for recovery. Contact Max Meyers Law to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation regarding your potential claim: 425-399-7000.