(Last Updated: November 12, 2021)
If you’ve been injured in a bicycle accident in New Orleans, please contact our office for a free attorney consultation.
Bicycle accidents involving a motor vehicle, sadly, are more common in New Orleans and throughout Louisiana than we might think.
If you or loved one has been injured in a bike accident in New Orleans, it is important to speak to an experienced car accident lawyer that can ensure you receive the full and fair compensation you deserve to cover medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
Riding a bicycle to work or for leisure has increasingly become more popular in recent years; and many people take advantage of this economical and enjoyable form of transportation. Additionally many folks appreciate that biking is also a good way to minimize environmental impact, especially for those who commute to work, as it reduces vehicle emissions.
When involved in an accident with a car, because bikers are far more exposed, there is a greater risk of sustaining serious (even fatal) injuries than someone driving a car. Additionally, the significant differences in the size and speed between a vehicle and a bicycle further exacerbate an already dangerous situation.
In recent years, New Orleans has had an increase in the number of people that commute to work each day via bicycle. According to The Times-Picayune, the city ranks among the top five cities with the most bicyclists in the country. While that may be good news for the environment, the increased number of bicycle riders means that there are also likely to be more accidents on the road.
While the city has worked to improve its bicycle infrastructure and has become a more “bicycle friendly” city, accidents do happen.
Being involved and injured in a bicycle accident in New Orleans, or anywhere else, can be a very traumatic experience. For many folks there are many questions about what to do next, from what to do immediately after the accident, to getting proper medical treatment, and eventually dealing with the at-fault driver’s insurance company and filing a claim against them.
The goal of this article is to help those injured in a bike accident better understand their rights and options.
Bicycle Accident Statistics in Louisiana and New Orleans
Louisiana is the second most dangerous state, behind Florida, for cyclists in the U.S., according to an analysis by The Wall Street Journal, published by The Advocate in 2018. And New Orleans is the sixth most dangerous metro area for bicyclists.
Reports from 2015 have placed Louisiana third in the country when it came to the rate of bicycle deaths, behind Florida and Delaware.
The main reason behind these statistics, according to Doug Moore, president of Bike Baton Rouge, is the hostility of some motorists to bike riders. Moore, a lifelong cyclist, believes that there is a general assumption that the road only belongs to cars and trucks. And this is where the problem is rooted.
According to figures provided by the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development, 93 cyclists lost their lives in bicycle accidents in Louisiana between 2015 and 2018.
What Are the Causes of Bicycle Accidents in Louisiana?
National research has shown that the leading cause of accidents involving a bicycle and a vehicle is when drivers fail to yield to bike riders. Approximately 48% of these accidents can be attributed to motorists.
In New Orleans, 40% of all bicycle accidents happen when drivers don’t check before opening car doors in front of cyclists, according to The Times-Picayune.
Riding too close to a cyclist is another leading cause of accidents in Louisiana. According to state regulations, drivers should maintain at least three feet between their vehicle and a bicycle. Because not all cars will allow the necessary space or yield to riders, cyclists should always try to be aware of how much space they have on the road.
Bicycle accidents can be attributed to a variety of factors. Drivers speeding, entering streets, merging lanes, backing out of driveways, and turning into an intersection can all be issues. The influence of alcohol and drugs can play a role. Nighttime riding, uneven pavement (hardly uncommon in New Orleans), and lack of an adequate shoulder can also be problematic.
Bottom line, bicyclists need to be vigilant and should never assume that a driver sees them.
Safety Initiatives for Bicyclists in New Orleans
Multiple measures have been proposed over the years to improve safety on the roads for bike riders in New Orleans. To help motorists better understand their responsibilities and learn to share the road with bicyclists, there has been an emphasis in driver’s education.
Beyond raising awareness about the importance of being careful and sharing the road with bike riders, New Orleans also discussed the implementation of new street designs and building protected bike lanes to separate riders from traffic and reduce the risk of accidents.
While staying safe on the road may not always be easy for bicyclists in New Orleans, victims of auto accidents may be entitled to compensation if the driver of the vehicle was at fault.
What Are Some of the Most Common Bike Accident Injuries?
Bicycle accidents can result in all kinds of injuries, ranging from scrapes and bruises to traumatic brain injuries and death. Even for riders wearing a helmet, injuries can be significant and life-changing.
The most common types of injuries following a bicycle accident in Louisiana include:
- Head trauma
- Facial fractures and contusions
- Road rash
- Broken and dislocated bones
- Spinal cord injuries and paralysis
- Internal bleeding
- Rib fractures and lung injury
- Pelvic fractures
Evaluate Your Injuries Immediately After a Bike Accident
Even if you don’t feel like something is wrong immediately after an accident, it’s important to get checked out by a medical professional as soon as possible. This is especially important if you hit your head (even while wearing a helmet). Signs of brain hemorrhage are not always readily apparent, but may include confusion, vision changes, and loss of consciousness.
Spine and neck injuries are very serious. If there are any signs of numbness or tingling, it’s vital to get checked out immediately. If you have any issues moving your neck, get medical help right away. There can be risk of permanent injury to the spinal cord.
If you have any trouble breathing, contact medical emergency services immediately. There can be a risk of broken ribs or a punctured a lung. A quick way to determine whether you have a rib or pulmonary injury is to take a deep breath and see if it hurts. If it does, get medical attention right away.
What Are the Main Responsibilities of Bicyclists in Traffic?
In general, bicyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as motorists, including the responsibility to follow all traffic rules and regulations, as well as the prohibition of riding under the influence (which may or may not be a particular concern to some in New Orleans). The biggest difference between motorists and bicyclists is that the latter are allowed to ride on the shoulder of a road.
Louisiana legislation requires all people under the age of 12 to wear a helmet while riding a bicycle or being a passenger on one. Bicyclists are also required by law to have full knowledge of proper hand signals to use when alerting traffic of slowing down, stopping, or making a turn.
Bicyclists are also advised to take special care to make sure they are seen at all times, especially when riding in poor conditions with low visibility. This means having a lamp mounted on the front of the bike emitting a white light that is visible for up to 500 feet and a lamp on the rear of the bike emitting a steady or flashing red light that is visible for up to 500 feet. Cyclists are also required to have a red reflector on the rear of the bike and white or red reflectors on either side of the bike. Obviously, visibility is critical in the dark. But these practices can be helpful during daylight hours as well.
Legislation Protecting the Rights of Bicyclists in Louisiana and New Orleans
The main piece of legislation that protects cyclists in Louisiana is the Colin Goodier Protection Act. The law states:
The operator of a motor vehicle, when overtaking and passing a bicycle proceeding in the same direction on the roadway, shall exercise due care while the motor vehicle is passing the bicycle and shall leave a safe distance between the motor vehicle and the bicycle of not less than three feet and shall maintain such clearance until safely past the overtaken bicycle. An operator of a motor vehicle may pass a bicycle traveling in the same direction in a no-passing zone only when it is safe to do so.
The same act prohibits drivers from passing bicyclists in no-passing zones, except when it is safe to do so. Vehicle drivers are not allowed to drive in bike lanes, except for situations such as entering or leaving a parking place, preparing for a turn, entering or leaving the road, or emergencies. The law also states that it is illegal to taunt, harass, or maliciously throw objects at bike riders.
Collect Evidence Following a Bicycle Accident
If you have been involved in a bicycle accident in Louisiana, the most important thing is to immediately access your safety and well being. If you are able, it is important to react quickly and collect as much evidence as possible. This will be extremely important in establishing liability for the accident and pursuing a claim. Again, while time is of the essence, your health should always be the first priority.
Immediately after an accident, move somewhere safe and out of harm’s way. If you feel dizzy or light headed, sitting or lying down may help. It is important to know that you may be hurt more badly than you initially realize, as the trauma of the accident can trigger an adrenaline rush, minimizing pain or discomfort.
If it is safe to do so, start collecting evidence. Get the details of the other party, including the vehicle registration number, the car’s color, make, and model, and insurance details. This may not be possible in the case of a hit and run; but if possible, make a note of what you remember about the color and model of the car.
Take photos using your phone, making sure to get as many different angles as possible. If the driver is not willing to exchange details, it’s essential to take a picture of the license plate, or make a note of it in the event they are hostile and they don’t want you to take pictures.
Next, get witnesses. If anyone saw the incident, and they are willing to give an account of what they saw to the police, this can be very helpful later.
Finally, report the incident to the police as soon as possible and remember to ask for the police incident number.
Does Auto Insurance Cover Bicycle Accidents?
The short answer is, generally yes. Most car insurance policies cover bicycle accidents and injuries to cyclists. As a rule of thumb, if you were hurt while riding a bicycle and the accident was the driver’s fault, you are entitled to compensation from the driver’s insurance company. Sometimes, your own auto accident insurance may provide additional insurance coverage for bicycle accidents, so it’s worth checking.
To receive compensation from the driver’s insurance company, you will need to prove that the driver of the insured vehicle was at fault. This can be complicated and the insurance company will likely not make it easy. So at the time of the accident, whenever possible, it is imperative to gather as much evidence as possible and find witnesses who would be willing to testify.
In the case of a hit and run accident, where the driver cannot be identified, the rider’s insurance policy will only provide coverage for those who have uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM) coverage. This type of policy offers coverage for injuries caused by a hit and run driver just like in the case of an auto accident that involved an uninsured driver. Another good reason to be sure your auto insurance policy includes good UM coverage. Unfortunately there are many drivers in Louisiana that carry the minimum coverage, or have no auto accident coverage at all.
Who Is Liable for a Bicycle Accident?
Liability is determined based on the party that is at-fault for the accident. As previously mentioned, collecting evidence, gathering witnesses, and calling the police and acquiring a police report will be critical to making this determination.
Drivers responsible for an accident involving a bike rider are sometimes cited with a minor infraction. In more serious cases, they may be charged with a felony or misdemeanor offense, such as reckless driving, failure to stop at a crosswalk or stop sign, hit and run, or even driving under the influence when applicable.
Establishing who is at-fault in an accident involving a motorist and a bike rider is not always easy. So, again, it’s vital to document the accident as thoroughly as possible. Because Louisiana is a comparative fault state, the amount of damages the injured party can receive is reduced by their percentage of fault. This means that cyclists who are partially at fault can still receive compensation for the accident; however the amount will be reduced accordingly.
How to File a Personal Injury Lawsuit for a Bicycle Accident in Louisiana?
If you have been injured in a bicycle accident in New Orleans, after seeking immediate medical attention, the next step should be to consult an attorney. Beware of the insurance company. Their goal is to minimize your claim, and the compensation you may be entitled to. An experienced auto accident attorney can protect you and guide you through the process.
Note, the state of Louisiana has a one-year deadline for filing a personal injury lawsuit. This is true for wrongful death lawsuits as well; therefore, if a bicycle accident resulted in a fatality, the surviving family members must file within the year as well, as the statute of limitations will apply after that.
Individuals injured in a bicycle accident will need to have all the documentation about the accident, injuries, notes and photos of the accident scene, the police report, medical records and bills, and documentation of any time taken off from work as a result of the injuries.
Depending on the available evidence and willingness of the insurance company to settle, victims of accidents may receive compensation without going to trial. However, the insurance company may contest liability and the extent of injuries. In this case, a more involved process of gathering evidence will ensue. The injured party may be required to take part in an independent medical examination and a deposition, along with available witnesses.
Your attorney will shield you throughout this process and ensure that you are treated fairly by all parties, and receive the honest compensation that you deserve.
What Compensation Is Available for Victims of Bicycle Accidents?
The type and amount of compensation available for victims of bicycle accidents in Louisiana depend on the severity of the accident and the type of injuries that can be proven as a result of the accident. You may obtain compensation for both economic and non-economic damages.
Injured bicycle riders may typically be entitled to the following types of damages:
- Past and future medical bills
- Medical insurance co-pays and medication
- Lost earnings and lost earnings capacity
- Property damage
- Retraining to acquire a job if the accident left you disabled
- Physical impairment
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of companionship
- Emotional distress
- Wrongful death
If you have been injured in an accident and you have lost the capacity to earn a living, you may be able to obtain compensation both for lost earnings and any training you may require to get another job as a disabled individual.
How Much Compensation Can You Get for a Bicycle Accident?
There is no set amount that an injured bicyclist can obtain following an accident that involved a motor vehicle. Typically, damages covered include past and future medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering, disruption and loss of quality of life, property damage, and temporary or permanent disabilities. An experienced attorney will ensure that each of these are accounted for.
Not all of these apply to all bicycle accidents, so the amount of compensation one can receive depends on the severity of the accident and the level of impact it had on their life, both from an economic and non-economic point of view.
Getting Help After a Bicycle Accident
If you have been injured in a bicycle accident in Louisiana, speak to an experienced auto accident attorney to understand your rights and options. When it comes to seeking medical treatment and dealing with the insurance company, don’t go it alone. Have a dedicated lawyer by your side to represent your interests and ensure you are treated fairly and receive the true compensation your are entitled to.