Common Legal Questions: Bicycle Accidents
Injury victims need accurate information on how to pursue their accident claim. If you have been injured in an accident through no fault of your own, you may have a lot of questions. Below are some of the initial questions that many of our clients have when they first contact Davis Law Group. The questions below may address some of your initial concerns.
If you don't find the answers to your questions here, feel free to contact us at any time to speak with someone about your case. There is no obligation in setting up a free consultation with our attorneys.
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How Do I Find The Right Bicycle Accident Attorney?
Even the most skilled bicyclist puts themselves at risk for accident every time they get on a bike. Bicyclists enjoy the freedom, exercise and convenience, but unfortunately this group is also susceptible to plenty of serious and life-changing accidents.
When a bicyclist is struck by a vehicle, or otherwise finds themselves in a crash, the result is often serious injury. If the accident wasn’t the bicyclist’s fault, they may be able to make a claim for damages against the at-fault person’s insurance company. In some cases, hiring an attorney is a smart option.
Do not go with the attorney that promises the best results or the fastest settlements. No attorney can guarantee those things while still having their client’s best interests in mind. After careful deliberation, the right bicycle accident attorney should:
1. Have the resources to properly invest in your case: Not all attorneys are created equal. A bicycle accident lawyer without the financial position to hire experts, hold depositions and properly invest in your case probably isn’t the right one for your serious accident.
2. Have knowledge on the causes of bicycle accidents: These types of accidents can occur because of a multitude of reasons, and the right attorney should have experience identifying the causes. Texting and driving, improper turns, failure to yield, etc. are just a few of the reasons bicyclists are injured in accidents.
3. Have experience going to trial and winning: An attorney that settles all their cases and never goes to trial likely won’t get you the best possible result. Having trial experience is essential for compelling insurance companies to make fair settlement offers. If those offers aren’t good enough, your attorney should be able to prepare a case for trial – then win.
4. Have your best interest in mind: The attorney you choose to represent you should be a good listener and understand what is important to you. Honesty and integrity should be high on the top of your checklist when looking for a bicycle accident lawyer.
Contact An Attorney After A Bicycle Accident
For almost 25 years, Attorney Chris Davis has obtained significant verdicts and settlements for bicycle accident victims and their families in Washington State. Davis Law Group, P.S., is respected in the courts and known for providing needed guidance and straight counsel. For a free case evaluation, call (206) 727-4000, use the chat feature below or fill out the form on this page.
How Much Does It Cost To Hire A Bicycle Accident Lawyer?
If you’ve been involved in a serious bicycle accident, you’re probably frustrated, scared and unsure of what the next steps are. That’s OK. Asking for help may be the hardest thing to do, but if your medical bills are rising and you’re missing extensive time for work, contacting a bicycle accident attorney is likely the best thing to do.
Making sure your rights are protected is an attorney’s No. 1 goal. While you’re not required to hire an attorney to open a personal injury claim against the at-fault person, pursuing a claim on your own is a risky and difficult move. Handling the claim yourself is time consuming and stressful, things to worry about on top of your own recovery.
So how much does it cost to hire a bicycle accident lawyer in Washington State? The answer is $0. The attorneys at Davis Law Group, P.S., operate on what is called a contingency fee, meaning you only pay after your case is settled. This means the lawyer is paid a percentage of the amount recovered for you.
Attorney Chris Davis believes bicycle accident injury victims have a right to speak to an attorney – free of charge. After an accident you have enough to worry about. Don’t hire a lawyer that asks for money up-front. You shouldn’t have to worry about out-of-pocket expenses just to have an attorney look at your case.
Most lawyers charge a contingency fee of 33 percent of the total settlement. For example, imagine you’re in a bicycle accident and hire a contingency fee attorney to file and pursue your case. If your case results in a settlement of $120,000, your lawyer receives $40,000 and you receive the remaining $80,000 to cover your losses.
Consult With An Attorney After A Bicycle Accident
Davis Law Group understands that a bicycle accident can be a stressful experience. If you have been injured or affected by an bicycle accident caused by another person’s negligence in Washington State, Davis Law Group can provide the legal assistance you need to receive a fair settlement for your injuries, losses and pain and suffering.
At Davis Law Group, we offer free case evaluations to all potential clients to help you learn more about your legal options. To schedule a case evaluation, fill out the form on this page, use the chat feature below, or call us at (206) 727-4000.
How Do I Pay My Medical Bills After A Bicycle Accident?
If you’ve been injured while riding your bicycle, you probably already know how severe and stressful these accidents can be. If a motor vehicle caused the damage, it can be even more serious.
The attorneys at Seattle-based Davis Law Group, P.S., have over 20 years of experience representing bicycle accident victims. Many clients wonder how they’ll ever be able to get back on their feet, with a mountain of medical bills staring them in the face.
Bicycle accidents routinely cause head injuries, broken bones, ligament damage and other minor injuries. These injuries can end up costing tens of thousands of dollars – considering the time you might spend in the hospital and away from work, not to mention rehabilitation.
Below are the ways the average person typically pays for their medical bills after a bicycle accident.
While some people have personal savings to cover their medical bills after a bicycle accident, most people are forced to use their personal health insurance plan to receive treatment. If you have an auto insurance policy, you might also want to check and see if it covers some of your medical bills.
For some people, and in the case of a serious accident, there might not be enough health insurance to cover the significant medical bills. Don’t worry, there are still options.
Settlement From The At-Fault Driver
An experienced personal injury attorney can help you manage your medical bills until you’ve reached a settlement with the at-fault party’s insurance company. The attorney can contact the people you owe money to for medical bills and set up a lien – an agreement that ensures you won’t pay your medical bills until a settlement comes in.
Meanwhile, your attorney will navigate the sometimes-complex task of reaching a settlement with the at-fault party. If you try to negotiate a settlement on your own, there are many mistakes you could make that will derail your claim.
Once you’re satisfied with the settlement the insurance company has presented, they’ll write a check to your attorney. The attorney will then take their fees – typically one-third of the settlement – then pay off any liens that you’ve incurred (medical bills, etc.)
The remaining settlement amount will go into your pocket.
Legal Help After A Bicycle Accident
If you need advice from an attorney about your bicycle crash, call the Washington State personal injury attorneys at Davis Law Group today at (206) 727-4000. You can also use the chat feature below or fill out the contact form on this page.
Does Washington State Law Require Bicycle Helmet Use?
Currently, Washington state law does not require bicyclists to wear helmets while riding in public. That means that bicycle helmet laws are left up to individual localities on a case-by-case basis. There are 23 individual localities (cities or counties) which do have active bicycle helmet laws, in addition to all military installations throughout the state.
Below is a table listing the Washington state localities which require bicyclists to wear a helmet in public, according to the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT):
Aberdeen All ages 2001 Bainbridge Island All ages 2001 Bremerton All ages 2000 DuPont All ages 2008 Eatonville All ages 1996 Fircrest All ages 1995 Gig Harbor All ages 1996 Kent All ages 1999 King County All ages 1993 (Updated in 2003) Lakewood All ages 1996 Milton All ages 1997 Orting Under 17 Years Old 1997 Pierce County (unincorporated) All ages 1994 Port Angeles All ages 1994 Port Orchard All ages 2004 Poulsbo Under 18 Years Old 1995 Puyallup All ages 1994 Renton All ages 1999 Spokane All ages 2004 Steilacoom All ages 1995 Tacoma All ages 1994 University Place All ages 1996 Vancouver All ages 2008 All Military Installations All ages N/A
Costs of Not Wearing a Bicycle Helmet
Just because the law doesn't require you to wear a bicycle helmet does not necessarily mean it's a good idea. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 90% of bicyclists killed in traffic collisions were not wearing helmets at the time of the incident.
There are also financial repercussions associated with not wearing a helmet. Not only can you be ticketed for riding a bicycle without a helmet in any of the locations listed above, but the medical costs associated with being injured in a bicycle accident are much higher if you suffer an injury to your head or brain. Ambulance rides, lengthy hospital stays, and the time of recovery is much higher in situations where a person has suffered a concussion or other form of traumatic brain injury.
What traffic laws apply to bicyclists in Washington state?
Bicycles occupy an unusual space in our traffic laws. In one sense, bicycles are vehicles; they can be operated legally on most of the same roads as cars and other motorized vehicles, and usually, they are required to follow the same rules of the road. In another sense, bicycles are pedestrians, with special legal privileges that allow them to ride on the sidewalk. In some areas, bicycles operate in their own special category, and can be operated in bike lanes that are closed to other vehicle and foot traffic.
If you’re a cyclist in Washington state, it’s important to know when the rules of the road apply to you. Laws vary by city and county in the state, so if you’re planning a trip that will take you through more than one legal jurisdiction, make sure you check the laws of all the areas you will be travelling through.
Bicycles as Vehicles
In some cases, bicycles are vehicles that must follow the safe traffic rules as cars, trucks, and motorcycles while travelling on a roadway. However, they may be permitted to do things that other vehicles are not.
Because they are not large and heavy enough to activate the automatic sensors at some traffic intersections, there are some cases in which cyclists are allowed to run red lights if no other vehicles are approaching the intersection. In Seattle, bicycles are also allowed in the “bus only” lane, which other privately operated vehicles cannot legally use. Bicyclists are also allowed to ride two abreast on roadways; larger groups of cyclists are not allowed to spread out across an entire lane unless they’re on a path or a bike lane set aside exclusively for bicycles.
Bicycles may not be allowed in all places that permit motorized vehicles. Many U.S. roads and interstates prohibit cycling and other slow traffic. Even the most efficient cyclists can’t keep up with highway speeds. In areas low visibility or without a safe shoulder or separated bike lane, cyclists could become a road hazard as drivers swerve to avoid them or fail to see them. In Washington state, certain highways are closed to cyclists; in some areas, the Washington State Department of Transit provides alternate routes on bike trails or sidewalks.
Bicycles as Pedestrians
In many cities, bicyclists are allowed to ride on the sidewalk. Seattle is one of those cities; cyclists are allowed to share the sidewalk with foot traffic, but they can’t behave the same way they would on the road. When bicyclists function as pedestrians, they are required to take special care and pay attention to their surroundings, and they must travel "at a rate of speed no greater than is reasonable and proper under the conditions existing at the point of operation."
Even when bicycles are legally treated as pedestrians, cyclists are required to give certain privileges to other pedestrians travelling on foot or on mobility devices such as wheelchairs and scooters. According to the city of Seattle,
“Every person operating a bicycle upon a sidewalk or public path shall yield the right of way to any pedestrian thereon, and shall give an audible signal before overtaking and passing any pedestrian."
Special Rights of Bicycles
There are a number of duties placed on drivers in order to legally protect bicyclists and ideally prevent potential collisions. If a driver of another vehicle violates any of these duties, they may be held financially responsible for any injuries or other damages they cause to the bicyclist. Some of the duties placed on drivers in regard to bicyclists include:
- Vehicle occupants must check for passing bicyclists before opening their door
- 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
Is It Illegal to Ride a Bicycle Drunk?
Technically speaking, no, there are no official Washington state laws that explicitly prohibit a person from riding a bicycle while they are under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Because Washington state law does not consider bicycles to be “motor vehicles,” the specific laws regarding driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs do not apply to a person operating a bicycle.
That’s not to say that riding a bicycle under the influence of drugs or alcohol is OK, or that a bicyclist won’t be disciplined if they are too impaired to ride safely. Here’s a quote from Trooper Chris Webb of the Washington State Patrol (WSP) that explains this issue a bit further:
“Law enforcement does have the authority to take a bicyclist into ‘protective custody’ if they feel the subject is too intoxicated to travel. The impoundment of a bike is also permitted if the officer determines it is necessary to reduce the risk of threat to public safety and if no other reasonable alternative exists.”
Since bicyclists are tasked with sharing the roadways with drivers of motor vehicles, they are therefore also subject to many of the same laws that were perhaps originally designed to govern the behavior of motorists.
But as we’ve discovered recently, many people throughout Washington state are unclear about exactly which traffic laws apply to bicyclists and which do not. Namely:
“Can a bicyclist be busted for cycling under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol?”
Technically speaking, there is no official Washington state law that explicitly prohibits bicyclists from riding while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Bicycles are not technically considered “motor vehicles” under state law. As a result of this, state laws regarding driving under the influence (DUI) do not apply to bicyclists in the same way that they apply to people driving a motor vehicle.
How Police Interpret DUI Laws for Bicyclists
That’s not to say that it’s OK to operate a bicycle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or even that a bicyclist would get away with riding impaired. Cycling under the influence puts the bicyclist at risk of being seriously injured in a collision, as well as causing accidents between other motorists.
According to Trooper Chris Webb with the Washington State Patrol (WSP), there are a number of precautions that officers may take if they encounter a bicyclist who is overly drunk or high on drugs.
“Law enforcement does have the authority to take a bicyclist into ‘protective custody’ if they feel the subject is too intoxicated to travel,” explains Webb. “The impoundment of a bike is also permitted if the officer determines it is necessary to reduce the risk of threat to public safety and if no other reasonable alternative exists.”
So, according to Webb, impaired bicyclists who don’t appear to be a danger to themselves or the general public are unlikely to be stopped or cited for bicycling under the influence. However, if a bicyclist does appear to be too intoxicated to ride safely, then the police have a few different options for resolving the issue, the most severe of which being the ‘protective custody’ that Webb previously mentioned.
Is There a Bicycle Helmet Law in Seattle?
Currently, there is no Washington state law requiring bicyclists to wear a protective bicycle helmet. That means that the decision to set and enforce bicycle helmet laws is left up to the local cities and counties on an individual basis. King County and the city of Seattle require do bicyclists to wear helmets while riding in public.
King County first established a law requiring bicyclists of all ages to wear helmets in 1993. However, that law did not apply within city of Seattle until it was later updated in 2003. Today, all bicyclists within King County (including the city of Seattle) are required to wear a protective helmet while they are riding.
While some helmet laws throughout Washington state only apply to people of certain ages (for example, the city of Poulsbo's helmet law only applies to those under the age of 18), King County's helmet law applies to everyone who rides a bicycle.
Washington State Localities Requiring Bicycle Helmet Use
Below is a table listing all of the localities in Washington state that currently have active laws requiring helmet use among bicyclists, according to the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT):
Locality Who Is Affected Effective Date Aberdeen All ages 2001 Bainbridge Island All ages 2001 Bremerton All ages 2000 DuPont All ages 2008 Eatonville All ages 1996 Fircrest All ages 1995 Gig Harbor All ages 1996 Kent All ages 1999 King County All ages 1993 (Updated in 2003) Lakewood All ages 1996 Milton All ages 1997 Orting Under 17 Years Old 1997 Pierce County (unincorporated) All ages 1994 Port Angeles All ages 1994 Port Orchard All ages 2004 Poulsbo Under 18 Years Old 1995 Puyallup All ages 1994 Renton All ages 1999 Spokane All ages 2004 Steilacoom All ages 1995 Tacoma All ages 1994 University Place All ages 1996 Vancouver All ages 2008 All Military Installations All ages N/A
Penalty for Not Wearing a Helmet in Seattle or King County
The violation for not wearing a bicycle helmet is a civil infraction (ticket) and the base fine is $30. There are additional court costs of $51 added to the base fine amount, so the total is $81. All law enforcement officers have the authority to enforce this code -- police officers, sheriff's deputies, state patrol troopers, and so on.
In addition to the financial costs, a bicyclist's failure to wear a helmet can come at an even greater cost. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 91 percent of bicyclists who were killed in collisions in 2009 were not wearing helmets at the time of the crash. The CDC says there were approximately 800 bicyclist fatalities in 2010 and another 515,000 bicycle accident-related injuries. Overall, it is estimated that the indirect financial costs for injuries to unhelmeted bicyclists is approximately $2.3 billion each year.
Are Bicyclists Allowed to Ride 'Two Abreast' in Seattle?
Yes, bicyclists are permitted to ride 'two abreast' in Seattle, meaning that two bicyclists may ride side-by-side in the same lane on a given roadway or sidewalk in the city. Motorists are often surprised to see bicyclists riding this way, especially in busy metropolitan areas like downtown Seattle, but it is completely legal in our city.
However, the City of Seattle's bicycle code prohibits bicyclists from riding more than two abreast on roadways or sidewalks. So the maximum number of side-by-side bicyclists legally permitted to ride in the same lane would be two, and any more than that could lead to a traffic infraction.
The exception to this rule is when bicyclists are riding on designated paths or roadways that are exclusively set aside for the use of bicycles.
More from the city's bike code:
"Riding more than two abreast is prohibited. Persons operating bicycles upon a roadway or sidewalk shall NOT ride more than two abreast except on paths or parts of roadways set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles."
Furthermore, city code dictates that bicyclists do not have the right of way at 4-way stops. If traffic control signals or signs exist, they must be adhered to. The first vehicle to arrive at an intersection or that is already in the intersection, has the right of way.
When two vehicles (either motor vehicles or bicycles) approach or enter an uncontrolled intersection that has no traffic signals or signs present from different directions at approximately the same time, the operator of the vehicle on the right has the right of way.
Washington state law also dictates that bicyclists may ride 'two abreast' on sidewalks and roadways, but no more than two riders may ride abreast. Again, state law also says the exception to this rule is in areas exclusively designed to be used by bicyclists.
Can Bicyclists Legally Ride on the Sidewalk in Seattle?
Despite common misconceptions about this issue, it is actually perfectly legal for a bicyclist to ride on a public sidewalk in Seattle, even if there is a designated and marked bicycle lane provided for bicyclists on that roadway.
Aside from addressing the fact that it is legal for bicyclists to use sidewalks in the city, Seattle's bicycle code simply states that cyclists are required to operate carefully and in a prudent manner "at a rate of speed no greater than is reasonable and proper under the conditions existing at the point of operation."
Bicyclists should take into consideration the size of the sidewalk as well as the number of people walking. In an article on the City of Seattle's "SDOT Blog," it is stated that bicyclists may also ride in the "bus only" lane.
More from the City of Seattle website:
"Every person operating a bicycle upon any sidewalk or public path shall operate the same in a careful and prudent manner and at a rate of speed no greater than is reasonable and proper under the conditions existing at the point of operation, taking into account the amount and character of pedestrian traffic, grade and width of sidewalk or public path, and condition of surface, and shall obey all traffic-control devices (signals, signs, road markings, etc.).
Every person operating a bicycle upon a sidewalk or public path shall yield the right of way to any pedestrian thereon, and shall give an audible signal before overtaking and passing any pedestrian."
Are Bicyclists Required to Stay on the Right-Hand Side of the Roadway?
In the city of Seattle, bicyclists who are riding on a public roadway at a slower speed than the normal flow of motor vehicle traffic should ride as near to the right-hand side of the right lane as is safely possible. This allows motor vehicles to maintain regular traffic flow without endangering the lives of bicyclists.
Bicyclists are allowed to change into other lanes of the roadway as is necessary, but must do so using the proper hand signals or otherwise alert other drivers of their intent to change lanes. If a bicyclist is keeping up with the pace of traffic, then they are not explicitly required to stay on the right-hand side of the roadway.
More on these laws from the Revised Code of Washington (RCW):
"...Every person operating a bicycle upon a roadway at a speed slower than the normal flow of motor vehicle traffic thereon shall ride as near to the right side of the right lane as is safe, except as may be appropriate while preparing to make or while making a turning movement, or while overtaking and passing another bicycle or vehicle proceeding in the same direction. A person operating a bicycle upon a roadway may utilize the shoulder of the roadway or any specially designated bicycle lane if such exists."
Do Bicyclists Have to Follow the Same Rules of the Road as Motorists?
Generally speaking, bicyclists are required to adhere to and follow the same "rules of the road" as drivers of standard motor vehicles. This includes - but is not limited to - signaling lane changes and turns, giving others the right of way, obeying traffic signs and signals, etc.
Bicyclists are legally considered vehicle operators and, therefore, have the same rights to the roadway as motorists do. But with this right also comes the responsibility of obeying the same laws and regulations that motorists are required to obey.
More from the City of Seattle's bike code:
"Every person operating a bicycle upon a roadway, street, alley, or any other way open to the public is subject to the same rules, laws and duties applicable to the operator of a motor vehicle, except as to the special regulation of this chapter and except as to those provisions of the Traffic Code by which their nature can have no application."
Any law enforcement officer (city, county, state) is authorized to enforce all applicable traffic codes and other laws on bicyclists just as they do on motor vehicle operators (this includes the issuing of tickets).
And yes, bicyclists are issued tickets for running red lights. It is illegal for bicyclists to drive through an intersection controlled by red lights (traffic control signals) or stops signs. Again, all the same rules as motor vehicles apply -- operate your bicycle as if you were driving a car.