Whether you’re riding your bicycle to get to a destination or for recreational purposes, this mode of transportation has health benefits, is efficient, and is environmentally friendly. There are unique dangers associated with bicycles, however. When drivers aren’t aware of the dangers or intentionally choose to ignore them, serious accidents are possible. Injured cyclists deserve quality legal representation, which is why a Charleston bicycle accident lawyer from DiPiero Simmons McGinley & Bastress, PLLC is ready to take on your case today.
Charleston’s Bike Lanes and Trails
When you’re planning to bike around Charleston, it’s important to know the special systems the city has in place so that cyclists can be safe. As the city with the goal of becoming the cultural, recreational, and business capital of the Appalachian Mountains, Charleston is working toward developing bike lanes and trails that will make the infrastructure of the city more appealing. Started in 2015, the City of Charleston started a plan to make the city more bike-friendly, since the dense population and busy roadways were not conducive to cyclists in previous years.
On top of making the city easier to navigate on a bicycle for health and eco-friendly reasons, it’s also a practical and economic improvement that could help residents. Over 40 percent of Charleston residents are below the poverty line and over 30 percent of households don’t have access to a motor vehicle. Bicycles are a more cost-effective way to travel through Charleston compared to cars, which is why the city’s bicycle initiatives are so important.
According to the plans published by the city in 2015, there are four main goals aimed for the end of 2020 that Charleston are working towards regarding cycling infrastructure:
- Create a network of on- and off-street bike lanes and trails for all ages and abilities.
- Improve existing bicycling amenities.
- Increase education and enforcement programs to complement the infrastructural goals.
- Implement bike-friendliness policies in transportation and recreation departments.
While these policies and goals are helpful for bicyclists in the city, there are existing bicycle trails in the more rural part of the city that can be fun for cyclists without worrying about dodging motor vehicles. Some of the trails are in the city as well but are loops that are safe for cyclists. As one of the nation’s capitals for cycling, here are some of the local favorite bike routes, according to West Virginia Tourism:
- Kenna Loop. This 27.7-mile loop has great views that come with a 2,000-foot climb through the mountains.
- Paint Creek. As an out-and-back trail, you’ll need to be prepared for this 45.7-mile ride that winds along Paint Creek.
- Kanawha City Cycling Loop. For a flat, short, and easy ride, you can use the Kanawha City cycling loop that is 6.7 miles long and runs through Kanawha City.
- Route 60 Bike Path. This bike path is 24.3 miles long and has a climb of nearly 600 feet. It runs along the Kanawha River for most of the path.
- Jim Ridge Loop. This loop begins in the city of Charleston but runs 43.8 miles into farms and hills of rural West Virginia.
- Patrick Street Bridge Ride. For a full look at Charleston from the seat of a bike, you can cycle the 10.7 miles of the Patrick Street Bridge ride.
Whether you’re on the road or on a bike trail in the mountains, collisions on bikes can still happen and cause injuries. If you’ve been injured on your bike from someone else’s negligence, then you could use the help of our Charleston bicycle accident lawyer.
Before you hop on the trails, loops, and bike lanes in our city, you’ll need to know the special bicycle laws in our state.
Bicycle Laws in West Virginia
Bicyclists and drivers alike should understand bicycle laws. Understanding when a cyclist has the right-of-way and how vehicles are supposed to respond when a bike is nearby is crucial to preventing devastating accidents. States establish their own bicycle laws. According to Chapter 17C, Article 11 of the West Virginia Code, the following laws apply to the operation of bicycles and play vehicles:
- All bicyclists are granted and subjected to the same duties as a driver.
- Bicyclists must use a permanent and regular attached seat.
- A bicycle can only carry the number of people it is designed and equipped to carry.
- No rider is allowed to attach themselves to a vehicle on a roadway.
- Bicyclists must travel in a lane marked specifically for bicycle use or as close as possible to the right-hand curb or edge of the road unless they are passing another bicycle, preparing for a left turn, or trying to avoid a hazard like an animal, person, vehicle, or uneven road surface.
- Packages cannot be carried if they prevent the cyclist from keeping at least one hand on the handlebars.
- If operating a bike at night, the cyclist must have a lamp attached to the front that emits white light for at least five hundred feet and a red reflector on the rear.
Child Bicycle Safety Act
In order to protect children from head trauma, brain injuries, and death as a result of bicycle accidents, all children 14 and younger are required to wear a helmet while riding a bike. If a child is found without a helmet, police will hold the parents responsible. Anyone 15 or older, however, can legally ride a bicycle without a helmet. The state does not allow the lack of helmet to be used as evidence against someone in a personal injury case.
What Are the Common Causes of Bicycle Accidents?
The majority of bicycle accidents are entirely preventable when drivers are aware of their surroundings and acting responsibly. Speeding is one of the main factors in many crashes. Drivers have less time to react to their surroundings. This can be especially catastrophic for a bicyclist when either vehicle is turning. Drugs and alcohol also play a role in a number of wrecks. Bicyclists are already at a greater risk for injury because of the limited protection they have. When a drunk driver is completely unaware of a cyclist, the injuries can be fatal.
Another way that drivers cause bicycle accidents is through distracted driving. When a motorist is focusing on their radio, sending a text, or trying to eat a bagel behind the wheel, they aren’t paying attention to the road and their surroundings. Because of this, they might miss a cyclist sharing the road or attempting to cross the road on the bike trail. This can lead to serious accidents because the driver can hit a cyclist who is unsuspecting and thinks they are visible.
Even when drivers are paying attention to the road, they still might have a hard time seeing bicyclists because they’re not looking for them—they’re scanning the road for bigger vehicles, not people on bikes. Intersections are especially dangerous and when motorists might not see a cyclist turning or crossing the street and can cause a serious accident.
In addition to human error, weather and road conditions can cause bicycle accidents. Heavy rain, snow, sleet, or ice can make it impossible for a bicyclist to travel safely. Poor roadways with potholes or uneven pavements can also cause a cyclist to lose their balance.
No matter what caused your accident, our bicycle accident lawyers are here to guide you through the legal process so you can get your life back in order.
Ways Cyclists Can Prevent Bike Accidents
There are some things that bicyclists can do to try to avoid accidents with motor vehicles. Of course, not all accidents can be prevented, especially when a distracted, reckless, or drunk driver is who caused your collision. But bicyclists can take action to prevent bike accidents by:
- Always following the rules of the road.
- Using hand signals.
- Riding predictably.
- Assuming drivers can’t see you.
- Having reflectors and lights on your bike.
- Wearing bright, light, and possibly reflective clothing to increase visibility.
Even if you act carefully and follow these tips, you might still get into a wreck because of a negligent driver. One of our attorneys at DiPiero Simmons McGinley & Bastress, PLLC can help protect your rights as a cyclist after an accident that injured you.
Types of Bicycle Accidents
Before getting onto your bicycle, it’s important to know what types of bicycle accidents are possible so that you can be as aware as possible while biking on the road. The law states that cars and bicycles must share the road, but often, drivers of motor vehicles do not notice bicyclists because they are looking for other regular sized vehicles rather than motorcycles or bicycles.
On top of not noticing bicyclists on the road, sometimes drivers of motor vehicles believe they have the right of way and don’t respect that bicycles also have the right to be on the road. This can lead to serious accidents because cars are much larger and offer more protection than bicycles.
Your bicycle accident lawyer will look into what type of accident occurred to help determine who was at fault for the collision. These are some of the types of accidents that bicycles can be involved in on the road:
- Dooring. When a motorist opens their car door and hits a bicyclist, it’s called dooring. Since bike lanes usually are in the same area as where parked cars’ doors open, bikes can also be doored by parked cars unintentionally. These accidents are dangerous for a bicyclist because their bike is stopped, and they are thrown headfirst into a car door.
- Right turn. Cars and bicycles both attempting to make a right turn can be dangerous for the bicyclist. When both are waiting at a red light to make a right turn, and they both start the turn at the same time when the light turns green, the car makes the turn faster and can cut off the bicyclist and cause an accident.
- Left turn. These can be the deadliest bicycle accidents. Bicyclists need to make left turns sometimes too, but these turns can be deadly for them because motorists who aren’t vigilant can drive through an intersection and hit the unsuspecting cyclist making the left turn.
- Stop sign. Most bicycle accidents happen at intersections. Stop sign intersections can be tricky for bicyclists and motorists alike because not all intersections are a four-way stop. When a bicyclist has a stop sign, but a motorist doesn’t, it can cause an accident if the motorist is speeding or if the cyclist cannot see the car coming. If the cyclist doesn’t have a stop sign, but the motorist does and ignores the sign, they might cruise through the intersection while the cyclist is riding even though they were supposed to stop.
Any scenario that causes a bicycle accident can be devastating and can also make it hard to determine liability. Our Charleston bicycle accident lawyer will fully investigate your collision so that we can accurately determine who was at fault and hold them responsible for your injuries and any other damages you suffered from the accident.
Common Injuries From Bicycle Accidents
Bicycle accidents often cause serious injuries or even death for bicyclists because they are more exposed on their bikes compared to a motorist, so their bodies take most of the force when a car collides with them. These are some of the injuries that a bicyclist could suffer, depending on how severe the accident is:
- Bruises. Any force against a body is likely to cause bruising. Although most bruising is mild and can heal easily, sometimes deep bruising occurs that could permanently damage soft tissue and cause complications in the healing process.
- Cuts and scrapes. When you are hit and knocked off your bike, you can get cut by many different sharp objects like damaged bike parts, glass, and rocks on the road.
- Road rash and burns. Road rash is a type of burn that happens when a person slides across the pavement. This can happen when a person is thrown from their bike after a collision with a car. Other burns can occur from the heat of a car engine.
- Sprains and strains. If body parts get twisted or a bicyclist tries to catch themselves as they fall, then they could suffer from sprains and strains to their ligaments and other tissues.
- Broken bones. Similarly to sprains and strains, twisted body parts and attempts to catch yourself could cause broken bones. The force from the impact could also cause broken bones.
- Neck and back injuries. Since bicyclists’ bodies are so exposed when they get into accidents, it’s possible that their necks or backs could be injured in an accident. Depending on the size of the car and where a cyclist is hit, they could suffer from neck, back, and spinal cord injuries that could range from moderate to severe.
- Head injuries. Helmets can help prevent head and brain injuries for cyclists, but sometimes even helmets cannot prevent a traumatic brain injury from the force of a motor vehicle colliding with a person on a bicycle. Bicyclists are often thrown forward off their bikes into car doors, windshields, or onto the road, which can easily lead to head injuries.
If you’ve been injured in a bicycle accident in West Virginia and you weren’t at fault, your Charleston bicycle accident lawyer will evaluate the damages you are owed for your injuries and will examine your accident to figure out who was at fault so they will be held accountable.
Determining Who Is Liable for a Bicycle Accident in Charleston
Negligent drivers are quick to assume an errant bicyclist was the cause of an accident. Our Charleston bicycle accident lawyers understand that’s not always the case. More often than not, it’s reckless drivers who are responsible for a bicycle wreck. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to prove fault without the right evidence. When you hire an attorney, however, they’ll work to investigate your accident and gather the information needed to prove you’re owed compensation.
Because bicycle crashes often result in serious injuries for the cyclist, a police report should be made. When the police arrive at the scene, they’ll speak to the driver, the bicyclist, if possible, and any witnesses. Evidence from the scene will also be collected. Surveillance videos from nearby businesses or traffic cams are useful.
West Virginia operates under comparative negligence. This means that even if you were partly at fault for the accident, you can still receive a reduced settlement. This is typically contingent upon your percentage of fault.
No matter what the circumstances, your lawyer will be able to evaluate your claim, conduct their own investigation, and build a case that proves a negligent driver wronged you.
Get Help From an Experienced Lawyer
At DiPiero Simmons McGinley & Bastress, PLLC, we understand it can be intimidating to take legal action after you’ve been wrongfully injured. It’s important to remember that you don’t have to go at it alone. With the help of a bicycle accident lawyer, you can seek the compensation you need to cover all accident-related expenses.
Hiring an attorney is wise for a number of reasons. For one, they understand the legal process. Bicycle accident claims can be complex, and your lawyer will understand the laws and deadlines that apply to your case. They will also be able to accurately calculate how much your claim is worth. Insurance companies will try to offer you the lowest settlement possible, but your lawyers will make sure that doesn’t happen. Finally, in the unlikely event your case goes to trial, your lawyer will represent you and present a strong case on your behalf.
Hiring a Charleston bicycle accident lawyer is often in your best interests if you’re looking to recover fully from a wreck that wasn’t your fault. To learn more about how to proceed, get in touch with our attorneys today. We’ll provide you with a free case evaluation to get you started.