Washington Laws Regarding Bicyclists
Generally speaking, a bicyclist must observe the same laws as an operator of a motor vehicle, which means observing all traffic signs, signals, and other rules of the road. As for the bicycle itself, the state does have laws on the book regarding brakes, lights, and other mechanical requirements for the safe operation of a bicycle. There is no statewide bike helmet law, but individual counties have mandated them.
The NHTSA, in its analysis of bicycle accidents in the country, points to several causes that can be shared by both the driver and the cyclist, the first of which — as mentioned above — is not complying with traffic laws and roadway signs and signals. Other causes include:
- Speeding: Also as mentioned above, the higher the speed of the vehicle, the more deadly a crash with a bicyclist can be.
- Inadequate Separation: Bicyclists are safer the farther they are separated from moving vehicles. Both cyclists and drivers should be careful to maintain safe separation.
- Crossing Locations: When bicyclists try to cross in an unmarked area, the likelihood of an accident increases. Even crossing at an intersection is dangerous. Crashes at intersections represent 30% of all nationwide cyclist fatalities.
- Inadequate Conspicuity: In other words, in less well-lit areas or at night, a bicyclist faces a greater risk of being involved in an accident.
- Impairment & Distraction: Driving or cycling under the influence of drugs or alcohol increases the odds of a collision.
What to Do After a Bicycle Accident
If you are struck while out bicycling and your injuries don’t necessitate immediate medical help, there are important steps you need to take to file a claim against the driver’s insurance or even initiate a personal injury lawsuit. Concrete steps include:
- Call 911: The police will most likely investigate, but at the very least they will obtain vital information such as the name and contact information of the other party, as well as insurance company information.
- Collect Evidence: Take photos with your cell photo from every angle possible, including road signs that may have been violated. Talk to anyone who witnessed the accident and get their statement and contact information if possible.
- Seek Medical Help: Even if your injuries don’t seem that great at the time of the accident, seek immediate medical evaluation and assistance. Sometimes, you won’t feel your injuries until much later, but it’s important to make sure of your well-being. The documentation will also be important for claims and lawsuits.
- Retain All Documentation: If you can get a report from the police, keep it for your claim and/or lawsuit. The same goes for all medical documentation, including bills.
- Contact a skilled bicycle accident attorney like Pearson Law Firm, P.S.: You don’t want to go it alone against an insurance company and its adjusters. They will try to low-ball you or pin the blame on you so they don’t have to pay a penny. Rely on an experienced personal injury attorney to do the negotiating.
Filing a Claim
Washington is an “at-fault” auto insurance state, which means you can file a claim against the driver’s insurance company. This is when you will start getting calls from that insurance company’s claims adjusters. These people are trained professionals who know the tricks of the trade. They will try to get you to say or agree to something that they can use to low-ball or even deny your claim.
Don’t get involved in this insurance company ploy. Instead, let our experienced Issaquah bicycle accident attorneys handle the negotiations for you. At The Pearson Law Firm, P.S., we represent only victims, not insurance companies. We can help you pursue a personal injury lawsuit in Issaquah or surrounding areas of Washington, which can sometimes result in a much higher reward than an insurance settlement, because of the payout caps in the policy of the at-fault driver.
Another key factor is Washington’s use of a “pure comparative negligence” rule. This means that in a bicycle accident, both the bicyclist and the vehicle operator can be at fault.
Say your bicycle’s rear reflector somehow malfunctions and the tailing driver strikes you. You might be assigned 30% (or more or less) of the blame. If the total amount of compensation is $50,000 for injuries and other damages, you would only be eligible to receive 70% of that, or $35,000, representing the driver’s percentage of fault.