Unfortunately riding a bicycle and cycling present opportunities for accidents, injuries and deaths in Texas. Bicycle riders are frequently injured or killed by distracted drivers, drivers who refuse to share the road, and drivers who do not recognize a cyclist’s rights. Cyclists and bicycle riders have the same rights as other vehicles on the roads, but car and truck drivers too often fail to respect those rights.
A bicycle rider or cyclist who is injured by a car, van or truck may be entitled to compensation. The bicycle rider or cyclist does not automatically have the right of way in Texas. But, Texas grants bicycle riders the same rights as car and truck drivers on the road.
To be entitled to compensation for a bicycle accident, the bicycle rider or cyclist must show that the driver of the vehicle involved in the collision was at least partially at fault. A driver is at fault when the driver’s negligence – actions or failure to act – is a cause of the accident.
Drivers are negligent when they disobey traffic laws, drive carelessly, drive distracted, or fail act in a reasonable and prudent manner under the circumstances.
Texas evaluates everyone involved in the accident and allows a judge or jury to apportion percentages of fault to each person – if deserved. This is called “Comparative Negligence.” If a bicycle rider or cyclist is hit by a driver, the bicycle accident victim who is injured can recover if they are 50% or less at fault.
Determining fault is not always easy. For instance, in an intersection with no light or stop sign, the car or truck driver often tries to blame the cyclist or bicycle rider. But, a good bicycle accident lawyer will ask the driver what they could have done to stop, yield the right of way, or observe and avoid the cyclist or bicycle rider’s intended path. Most of the time, the car or truck driver could have braked, yielded, turned, slowed, or stopped to prevent the accident. Unfortunately, they seldom do and thus are negligent in causing or contributing to the cause of the accident.
Under the comparative negligence law in Texas, the judge will reduce any damage award by the percentage of fault attributed to the injured bicycle accident victim. For instance, if the jury determines the car or truck driver was 80% at fault and the cyclist or bicycle rider was 20% at fault, the judge will allow the cyclist or bicycle accident victim to recover 80% of his or her damages. In this example, if the bicycle accident victim is awarded $100,000, the judge would award the injured bicycle accident victim $80,000 or 80% of the total damages.
Texas has not enacted a statewide, mandatory, helmet law. However, individual cities and municipalities may enact a mandatory law as part of their ordinances or regulations. For instance, in Houston, a child (any person under 18) may not operate or ride upon a bicycle or any side car, trailer, child carrier, seat or other device attached to a bicycle unless the child is wearing a helmet. Other cities with mandatory bicycle helmet laws include Austin, Arlington, Dallas and Fort Worth.
Texas does not have a statewide law, rule, or regulation governing the distance that a car must separate from a bicycle in order to pass, or the distance that a car must establish when following a bicycle rider or cyclist. However, individual cities and municipalities may enact such “safe passing” regulations as part of their ordinances, rules, or regulations.
For instance, Houston defines a bicycle rider or cyclist as a “vulnerable road user” and has established a duty of due care for a driver passing a bicycle rider or cyclist. Houston defines a safe passing distance as at least 3 feet for cars and 6 feet for commercial vehicles and large trucks. In Houston, the safe distance behind a bicycle rider or cyclist is not defined in feet, but requires sufficient space for the car or truck driver to avoid a collision with the cyclist when all road, traffic and weather conditions are considered.
Other cities with safe passing and/or safe following requirements include Alamo, Alton, Austin, Beaumont, Brownsville, Corpus Christi, Denton, Edinburg, El Paso, Fort Worth, Harlingen, Helotes, Laredo, McAllen, Mission, New Braunfels, Palmhurst, Pharr, Plano, San Antonio, San Juan, San Marcos, Waco, and Weslaco.
If you, or someone in your family was injured by a car or truck driver in a bicycle accident, here is a list of things to do:
The driver of the car or truck should alert their employer and/or their insurance company following the accident. The insurance company will then assign a claims adjuster whose job is to evaluate the bicycle accident and your injuries.
The claims adjuster is not on your side. The claims adjuster’s sole job is to protect the rights of the company or insurance company who hired the claims adjuster. If their car or truck driver was clearly at fault, then the claims adjuster’s job will be to get you to settle your claim and injuries for the least amount of money as possible.
The claims adjuster will want to take a recorded statement from you. You should not do this without a bicycle accident lawyer present to protect your rights. Anything you say in the interview can and will be used against the injured bicycle rider or cyclist in the future. Even if you believe that fault is clear, how you describe the bicycle accident and your injuries will play a factor in whether you can receive compensation, and how much.
Part of the job of the claims adjuster assigned to your bicycle accident is to determine whether you sustained any injuries. The claims adjuster will often ask you to sign a medical records authorization. You should not sign this authorization without having it reviewed by a bicycle accident lawyer at the Stilwell Law Firm.
Most of the time an authorization provided by a claims adjuster is not limited to the injuries you sustained in the bicycle accident. Instead, the authorization will allow the claims adjuster and the insurance company to collect your full medical history.
Once they have your medical history, the claims adjuster and insurance company will identify any and every other event for which you sought medical treatment. Often, the claims adjuster and insurance company will argue that your injuries were caused by some other event or incident and therefore were “pre-existing.” If the claims adjuster or insurance company can identify another event that they can argue caused or created an injury other than the bicycle accident, then they will not compensate you for the bicycle accident.
Additionally, the claims adjuster and insurance company will evaluate your general health conditions. If they find that you take medications for routine conditions such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or diabetes, they may blame these medications as effecting or impairing your ability to pay attention. In other words, they will blame these routine health conditions and your medications as being the cause of the bicycle accident. If this happens, they will not compensate you for the injuries sustained in your bicycle accident.
A bicycle accident lawyer at the Stilwell Law Firm will help you collect the medical records that are relevant to your bicycle accident injuries and will provide those records for review and evaluation. Your whole medical history is not on trial. Just the medical records related to the injuries sustained in your bicycle accident.
If the claims adjuster assigned to your bicycle accident decides to settle, they will try to offer you money and get you to sign a release before you consult with a bicycle accident lawyer. The claims adjuster knows you do not know all of your rights. The claims adjuster knows you do not know what fair compensation would be. The claims adjuster wants you to settle and release your claims before you know your rights and the value of your claim.
The claims adjuster wants to save money for the driver’s employer and the insurance company. To do so, they may offer to pay your medical bills, and they may offer some compensation for the cost of your bicycle. Beyond this, they will probably offer little else.
Most of the time, claims are settled outside of court. But there is no need to rush to settle a claim. Settlements are final. If you accept a settlement and realize later that you have more injuries, or more impairments than you thought, you cannot go back to the insurance company and ask for more money. You should not settle your claim until you know the full extent of your rights and the full extent of your injuries – including whether those injuries will be permanent or will cause lasting impairments and impacts on your life.
To receive the compensation that you deserve for being injured in a bicycle accident, you should consult a lawyer who understands bike law like the lawyers at the Stilwell Law Firm. An experienced bicycle accident lawyer will evaluate your claims, collect your medical records, total your medical expenses and consult with your treating doctors. After knowing the full extent of your injuries, the bicycle accident lawyer will present a demand to the insurance company which will properly set the expectations for any ensuing settlement discussions.
In Texas, a bicycle accident victim can recover property damages and personal injury damages.
Property damages would be the cost to repair or replace the bicycle.
Personal injury damages include things such as:
If the injuries are serious, the spouse of the injured bicycle rider or cyclist may be entitled to recover things such as loss of household services and loss of consortium.
If the bicycle accident resulted in a death, Texas allows the family of the deceased bicycle rider or cyclist to recover damages such as:
At the Stilwell Law Firm, we not only know Bike Law and the rights of bicycle accident victims, but we are riders and cyclists too. We are highly competitive individuals who race at marathons, half marathons, 5k’s and triathlons year-round. In our experience on the roads and as bicycle accident lawyers, we’ve seen drivers refuse to share the road, and we’ve stopped short when distracted drivers failed to keep a look out. Unfortunately, we’ve also been on the scene of accidents when a bicyclist, runner, or pedestrian have been hit.
When a bicycle or pedestrian accident occurs, the consequences are catastrophic. It is important to get help right away. It can be overwhelming to take care of the injuries, navigate the insurance implications, and assess the legal aspects of the accident. The Stilwell Law Firm can and does help from the moment you call us. We are here to help you and your family through this difficult and trying time.