Have you recently been injured in a bicycle accident involving a motor vehicle in New Orleans or the surrounding areas?
As an experienced New Orleans bicycle accident lawyer, Mike Mahone understands the confusion, anxiety, and frustration you are experiencing after your injury.
It is important to know what to do during the medical treatment phase of your claim to ensure your rights are protected and that you receive the best medical treatment possible.
Making the Streets Safer for New Orleans Bicycle Riders
In addition to biking for recreation, many people in New Orleans ride their bikes as their primary means of transportation.
For them, a bicycle is more than a hobby; it’s a lifeline. The city spent millions of dollars installing and maintaining the 37 miles of bike lanes to make cycling more accessible and safer.
In addition to bike lanes, Louisiana law protects cyclists when they are on the road. These lanes make clear to motorists that cyclists are entitled to full use of the lane.
Bike lanes help minimize the inevitable issues that arise with sharing lanes between vehicle drivers and cyclists.
After the tragic death of Dr. Colin Goodier in 2009, the Colin Goodier Protection Act (La. Rev. Stat. 32:76.1) was passed.
This statute requires motorists to leave three feet between their vehicles and bike riders when passing and maintain that distance until they have safely passed the bike riders.
The Act also forbids motorists from passing bike riders in no-passing zones unless it is safe. Motorists are also prohibited from driving in bike lanes, except in limited circumstances.
While the state of Louisiana has taken as many legislative steps as possible to protect the rights and safety of cyclists, accidents can — and do — happen.
Violation of these statutes and other Louisiana traffic laws may constitute substantial evidence of negligence. This often means that the negligent driver should be held liable for the bicyclist’s injuries.
Call a New Orleans bicycle accident lawyer immediately if you’re in this situation.
Injuries happen when vehicle drivers aren’t paying attention to bike riders. They can be intoxicated, driving irresponsibly, or actively ignoring the laws that protect cyclists from a bike accident.
Whatever the cause, bike injuries can be severe. The New Orleans bicycle accident lawyer at The Mahone Firm can help if you’ve been injured in a bicycle accident.
What to Do After a Louisiana Bicycle Accident
Following the Louisiana bicycle laws will keep you safe, but it won’t completely eliminate the risk of bike accidents in New Orleans.
Bike accidents involving cars or trucks can happen at any time, especially when motor vehicle drivers are negligent and ignore cyclists’ rights.
Knowing what to do after the collision is important if you’re a bike accident victim. Your response to the accident will significantly affect the outcome of your claim and the amount you may be able to recover for damages.
Here are the most important things to keep in mind:
1) Do Not Leave the Accident Scene until the Police Arrive
Immediately after an accident, the first thing you should do is call the police and report the accident. The police department will then dispatch an officer to the scene to investigate the accident.
Even though it may take a little while for an officer to arrive, you should always wait to meet with the police to report the accident.
The police officer will do the following:
- document the condition of the accident
- identify potential witnesses to the accident
- take statements from all involved parties
His procedure will capture exactly what happened. This is incredibly valuable in your case, particularly if the other driver attempts to change their story after the fact.
Having a police report can mean the difference between an insurance company accepting liability for a claim or simply denying it outright.
On the other hand, if you are seriously hurt, do not move. Instead, wait for first responders and the police to arrive. This is particularly important with serious injuries to your neck or back. Following such an injury, attempting to move around can cause you even more damage.
If you are not seriously hurt, leave your bicycle where it is. This will allow the investigating officer to thoroughly understand how the accident occurred.
2) Avoid Entering into Discussions with the Driver
It’s in our nature to care for others. So in the aftermath of a bicycle-related accident, most people want to talk with the other party involved.
Most drivers who are at fault for an accident will often apologize and accept blame. Even if you weren’t the party at fault, it’s in our nature to apologize after a traumatic event. In doing so, however, you may open yourself up to unintended liability if you say too much.
Unfortunately, the driver can deny their negligence later. Some may even go as far as denying being present when the bicycle accident occurred.
Be courteous, but only discuss what happened with the police officer. If you do this, only a neutral party will have your version of what occurred and will be able to make a record of it.
You should also consider this: too much communication with the other party can distract you during the critical moments after the accident.
You should instead focus on the following:
- document the accident scene
- ask any potential witnesses to stay until the police arrive
- make sure that you are not seriously injured
3) Collect Evidence
Memory can be unreliable, especially memory of traumatic events. In some cases, you might encounter an at-fault party who’s unscrupulous.
So hard, first-hand evidence is your best possible recourse for any negotiations that might ensue with your insurance company or if your case goes to court.
Take photos of your bike and any damaged property at the scene of the accident.
4) Get the Contact Information of the Driver and any Witnesses
It’s a good idea to obtain the following information from the driver:
- phone number
- vehicle license number
- driver’s license number
- Insurance information
Don’t just exchange information with the other party involved. If there’s anyone who witnessed the accident, request their contact information as well.
Their contact information is one of the most important things you can have after a bicycle accident.
Even if the witness does not stay around until the police arrive, you can then provide their contact information to the officer. That way, he or she can reach out to the witness to include their statements in the police report.
5) Seek Medical Attention
Medical records will be used as proof to ascertain the extent of your injuries. Sometimes you may not realize you’ve been injured until several days later.
These minor injuries might also develop into permanent conditions over time. It is always wise to seek medical attention even if you don’t think you need it.
That way, you have an established health record for both insurance claims and legal proceedings that may come as a result of your accident.
6) Preserve Your Evidence
Fixing your bike or washing your clothing, for example, will spoil the evidence.
Take steps to preserve as much evidence as possible for the following:
- the attending police report
- the car insurance company
- your attorney, who should inspect the evidence first-hand if possible.
This brings us to our next step: contacting New Orleans bicycle accident lawyers.
7) Seek Professional Advice
A New Orleans bicycle accident case involves complex legal issues that require experienced personal injury lawyers
New Orleans bike accident lawyers familiar with Louisiana state bicycle laws can help you make a strong case and get the compensation you deserve.
Once you are safe, secure, and out of harm’s way, calling a well-qualified New Orleans bicycle accident attorney should be your top priority.
Damages Recoverable in Louisiana Bicycle Accidents
Bicycle accidents can result in serious injuries that are compensable like any other automobile accident.
Here are some examples of damages that can be recovered:
Lost Wages for Louisiana Bicycle Accidents
Getting in a bicycle accident can lead to serious injuries, particularly to the neck and back.
Depending upon what you do, you may be out of work for an extended period of time because of your injuries.
Then, even if you are able to recover from the accident, you may be left with long-term limitations because of your bicycle accident case.
Proving your entitlement to these damages is a complicated process that requires a combination of medical evidence, expert testimony, and legal arguments.
Medical Bills for Louisiana Bicycle Accidents
If you are involved in a bicycle accident, you will likely have some physical injuries. Your recovery will likely require medical treatment.
These expenses can be recovered just like your lost wages. It may even be that you need additional medical treatment in the future.
Both your past and future medical expenses are compensable items of damage in bicycle accident cases.
General Damages for Louisiana Bicycle Accidents
In addition to “special damages” (such as lost wages and medical bills), injured bicyclists may be able to recover what is called “general” damages.
General damages include things like:
- pain and suffering
- loss of enjoyment of life
- mental anguish
- loss of consortium (if you are married)
Unlike special damages, these general damages are left to the discretion of the judge or jury to set the amount. Having an experienced bicycle accident lawyer will put you in the best position to maximize your recovery.
Punitive Damages for Louisiana Bicycle Accidents
Although they are only available in limited circumstances, a bicycle accident may also give rise to a claim for punitive damages.
Specifically, if your injury is caused by another driver’s intoxication (whether because of drugs or alcohol), you may have a claim for punitive damages under Louisiana Civil Code Article 2315.4.
Louisiana Bicycle Accident Case Process
Much like car and truck accidents, the bicycle cases in Louisiana tend to follow the same process.
First, the accident is documented at the scene and then reported to the insurance company. The insurance company will then open a new claim file and assign the case to an adjuster.
Next, the injured cyclist will begin receiving medical treatment. It may well be that the injuries are fairly minor, and the claim can be resolved without ever having to file a lawsuit.
On the other hand, it may be that either:
- (a) the injuries or severe and will require an extended recovery period with long-term consequences
- (b) the insurance company is unwilling to pay for the case because they do not believe they are liable for it. Or because they do not believe the injuries are significant enough to warrant fair compensation.
If the insurance company is unwilling to settle without litigation, the only choice is to file a lawsuit. That process will entail both sides learning about the case through the discovery process.
Among other things, the discovery process involves:
- exchanging documents
- answering written questions called “interrogatories”
- hiring experts to support your position
- taking depositions to learn the case facts from witnesses
Most cases settle once they are in litigation, but if they do not, the only option is to try your case and have a judge or jury decide it and make a decision on the compensation you should be awarded.
As you can see, this process is far from simple and all but requires the assistance of a bicycle accident lawyer to help you navigate it. Don’t attempt to do it on your own.
Being represented will ensure that your rights are protected throughout the process, and you are in the best position to be fully and fairly compensated for your losses.
Motorized Bicycle Laws in Louisiana
So far, we have covered accidents involving traditional bicycles, but where do motorized bicycles (not to be confused with motorcycles) fit into the grand scheme of things?
The laws for motorized or electric bikes are pretty restrictive in most states.
Under Louisiana law, a bicycle that falls into this class must meet the following requirements:
- Engine capacity must not exceed 50 cc
- Maximum speed must not exceed 25 mph
- Engine horsepower rating must not exceed 1.5 hp
- Has an automatic transmission
You are legally allowed to operate a motorized bicycle if:
- You are at least 15 years old.
- You have a driver’s license with a motorcycle endorsement.
However, a motorized bicycle is considered the same as any other vehicle under Louisiana law. Therefore, laws such as the Goodier Protection Act apply in this case.
Motorized Bicycle Helmet Laws in Louisiana
The bicycle helmet laws in Louisiana require that an operator under 18 years of age wear a helmet with lining, visor, padding, and chin strap
Anyone above 18 years can decide to forgo this protective gear if they have health insurance coverage with medical benefits equal to or exceeding $10,000 in total.
A motorized bicycle must also have:
- At least one reflector
- At least one brake (foot or hand-operated)
- At least one headlamp but not more than two
Regardless of the bicycle type (motorized or traditional), helmet use is a safety feature that can mean the difference between a few cuts and scrapes and more severe and pervasive injury.
Calling a New Orleans Bicycle Accident Lawyer for Assistance
Dealing with a bicycle accident can be a traumatic experience for bicycle accident victims, especially if any party has sustained serious injuries.
If you find yourself in the aftermath of an accident, it’s essential to remain calm and follow the steps outlined above to ensure your physical safety and financial security. It can be a confusing time, but you don’t have to go it alone.
Bicycle accidents happen. If you have been injured in a New Orleans bicycle accident, call (504) 564-7342 today, so you can talk to a New Orleans bicycle accident lawyer who understands the laws that protect cyclists.
Contact Mike Mahone for a free consultation, or click here for answers to questions commonly asked of New Orleans, personal injury attorneys.