Bicycle Accidents in Seattle and Washington State
Bicycle crashes are no accident they are serious business. There are no seat belts, no headrests, and no soft landings. The reality is that impact, gravity, and hard surfaces will do more than just spoil your ride.
Bicycle injuries can be disabling, catastrophic, and even deadly.
Don’t let a bad situation get worse. Learn about Washington bicycle accident law. Get informed and make smart decisions about how to handle your case.
What Makes a Bicycle Crash Case a Winner?
The Rider Recovery Program
- Good Facts (liability and fault)
- Injuries of some significance (damages)
- Responsible defendant (with insurance or money)
- Timely Action. You must settle or file a lawsuit before the Statute of Limitation (SOL) runs.
1. Good Facts Win Cases
Who is How Much at Fault?
This is the essential question that your Seattle bicycle accident lawyer will help determine and fight to prove.
Good facts are very important in bicycle accident cases. Good facts help win cases.
A negligent automobile driver, a hazardous road condition, driver inattention, inadequate signage, doors flung open, and the car or truck driver’s defective equipment make for good facts.
These facts influence liability and in effect determine who is at fault.
What are the facts of your case? Are they good? Can they be proven? Will they be disputed?
How Do Seattle Bicycle Crash Lawyers Determine Facts of the Case?
Your bicycle accident attorney in Seattle will help uncover the facts and use those facts to prove liability.
- Obtain witness statements
- Gather police reports
- Speak with the vehicle driver, and
- Talk with and listen to you, the rider.
Types of Evidence in Bicycle Accident Cases
The facts become evidence when they are introduced and admitted in the courtroom. Evidence can be
- Direct (other driver admits fault) or
- Circumstantial (other driver was on his cell phone at the time therefore was inattentive).
Work hard to gather important facts. Look everywhere. Get reports. Interview witness. Revisit the scene of the accident. Obtain cell phone records. Keep in mind that memories fade, witnesses disappear, and the police don’t come unless called. Prove your case. Get help if you need it.
2. Injuries of Significance Improve Case Value
Injuries Must be Documented in the Medical Records
Serious injuries are bad for the bike rider; but they are good for the case. Said another way, the worse you are hurt, the more your case may be worth.
How to Determine Severity of Bicycle Accident Injuries
Very important to your case is the proof of how badly you are hurt. You may not want to hear this but it’s better you hear it now than later learn it the hard way. In a court of law, you are not an expert as to how badly you are hurt. That’s right, you are only a witness. The doctor is the expert. His or her testimony and medical records will make a difference. The following will be used to determine the significance of your injuries in settlement discussions with the insurance adjuster, with a trial judge or with a jury.
- Medical bills
- Chart notes and
- The doctor’s opinion
How to Help Your Case
Want a fair money recovery? Get plenty of appropriate medical care from the medical doctor(s) and therapists. If you hurt, tell your doctor and everyone who treats you and be sure he/she gets it in the medical records.
3. Responsible Defendants Have Insurance
Insurance is both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because it can provide the money to reimburse you for your losses. A curse because insurance adjusters are trained and skilled at paying less than you deserve. Be careful in your dealings with insurance companies. They pride themselves every time they can get you to settle cheap.
Determining Who the Defendant Is
In a bicycle-only accident, the circumstances decide who the defendant may be. For example the municipality who should have better maintained the dangerous roadway could be the defendant.
In a multi-vehicle accident the defendant is the other person, the at fault driver who injured you. Others may also be at fault.
Either way, a responsible defendant is a person who has adequate insurance and/or enough money to compensate you for your losses.
Be Careful in Your Discussions With Insurance Adjusters
It is their job to minimize payments to you.
Here’s an example of how insurance adjusters do just that. This is a phone conversation with an insurance adjuster:
“Hello, it’s me, the injured person.”
“Hi, it’s your friendly insurance adjuster calling. How are you?”
“I’m fine, how are you?”
“Glad to hear that you’re fine. Thank you for telling me that. I guess we can close your file now. Thanks for taking my call. Goodbye.”
Insurance adjusters work hard, but not for you. They have performed this and other tricks hundreds of times. They may be calling you soon. Be careful and choose your words wisely.
4. Timely Action
Take Timely Action and Do Not Miss Your Statute of Limitations
Injured persons have a right to make a claim for their losses. This claim has a time deadline, called the statute of limitations (SOL). Said another way, you need to properly and timely make your bicycle accident claim or the SOL will run and you will lose your right to make a claim.
What is the Statute of Limitation for a Seattle Bicycle Accident Claim?
The statute of limitations for a liability claim in Seattle is usually 3 years. You can comply with this SOL requirement by settling your claim or filing a lawsuit within 3 years of the accident. The SOL for certain administrative filings could be much shorter. Don’t waste time; take appropriate action. Get advice if you need it.
The statute of limitations for a claim against your own UIM policy may be as long as 6 years, but may be shorter. Read your policy for precise information on your SOL. You toll this UIM SOL by making a claim with your insurance company.
Know which type of claim you have and take appropriate action to toll the statute of limitations.
Insurance to Cover Bicycle Accident Injuries
There are many types of insurance. We will discuss 5 types.
- Liability insurance
- Uninsured motorist insurance
- Medical insurance
- Med pay and personal injury protection
- Homeowners/renters insurance
At fault drivers are required to have liability insurance to cover them for the damage caused by their negligence. In Washington State a motor vehicle driver must carry liability insurance of at least $25,000 per person / $50,000 per accident. Smart drivers will carry more, but some drivers have no insurance. Liability insurance can pay for the injured rider’s medical bills, lost wages, damaged bicycle, pain, suffering, and other losses.
If the at fault driver has no insurance (uninsured) or not enough insurance (under insured), then your own UIM policy steps in and pays you for damages not already compensated. This is the UIM insurance on your vehicle. Got a vehicle with UIM insurance? Check your policy. Use it if you need it.
Medical insurance is good for you and your case. It allows you to get medical care. It pays your doctors and keeps them happy. Medical care helps you get better. Medical treatment helps you prove the value of your losses. If you have medical insurance you can use it. It will cost you however in the form of subrogation.
Subrogation is the right of your medical insurance company to get paid back, from you, out of the money you settle for in your accident case. Be careful of subrogation, and keep it in mind when settling your case. You can and you should repay your insurance company less than they will ask for in subrogation. If you have an attorney, the medical insurer will in effect end up paying some of your attorney fees.
Med Pay and PIP
Med pay and Personal Injury Protection (PIP) provide medical bill payments, often without regard to fault. They can pay medical bills until your case settles. They also may be available to pay co-pays and deductibles on your health insurance. Check your policy.
Homeowners or Renters Insurance
These policies often provide insurance coverage similar to liability insurance to pay for damage you caused. They also often provide coverage for the theft of your bike. Check your policy.
Bicycle Accident Attorney – Legal Counsel in Washington State
Should I Talk with or Hire a Lawyer About my Seattle/Washington State Bicycle Accident?
A consultation with a Seattle bicycle accident attorney about your accident and injuries is going to be free and helpful. What’s not to like about that?
If you have questions or concerns, take advantage of that free consultation. You can make your decision about hiring an attorney after you talk with them.
Here is what you and/or your lawyer need to figure out:
- Which insurance company should pay, when and for what?
- What should I say to my doctor?
- Am I prepared to attend an insurance company medical exam by one of their doctors?
- How much money should I get for my damaged bicycle?
- How much medical care should I get for my injuries?
- How do I get the insurance adjuster to take me seriously?
- Is my medical insurance company going to demand subrogation? If so do they get 100% of the value of their services or should they take a discount?
- If I don’t have medical insurance how do I get the doctor to treat me now and get paid later?
- What about medical bills and collection companies?
- What is my case worth?
- If negotiations with the insurance company fail, are there alternatives to lawsuits?
- If I got a ticket for a bicycle accident, should I fight it?
Can I Do It Myself?
That depends on what your case looks like. If your injuries are minor, your bike damage easy to figure out, and the other side is cooperative then you should be able to DIY.
If you have serious injuries, wage loss, liability issues, or a cagey insurance adjuster on the other side, then talk to a lawyer. You don’t have to hire a lawyer to get a consultation and some free advice. After your consultation, make your best decision about DIY or a lawyer.
Serious Bicycle Accidents are Worth More with a Lawyer.
- Not because lawyers are cheap, but rather because insurance companies are cheap and don’t want to pay you for all you have lost.
- Most of a good recovery is worth more than no recovery at all.
- Contingent fees make getting a good lawyer possible.
Finding the Best Washington Bicycle Accident Lawyer or Law Firm
Doing your due diligence is worth the effort. The right bicycle accident lawyer will be local – Seattle or Washington based, experienced, helpful during your consultation, obviously knowledgeable, and understanding of your situation.
Sharpe Law Firm, PLLC has been representing and helping bicycle accident victims in Seattle and Washington for over 30 years. We are here to answer your questions and help if you need it.
How do most bicycle accidents happen?
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 30 percent of all bicycle accident injuries occur when a bicyclist is struck by a car. Drivers who are not paying attention are more likely to collide with bicyclists.
– NHTSA Bicycle Safety. See also: 15 Bicycle Safety Facts, Stats and Helpful Tips
Should I Give the Insurance Company a Recorded Statement?
Do not give a recorded statement to the other guy’s insurance company. They are not on your side and do not want to help you. Your own insurance may want a statement if they are paying your medical bills. You may wish to cooperate with your own insurance company.
What Kind of Insurance Helps with Bicycle Accidents?
- PIP – Personal Injury Protection
- Health Insurance
- Medical Payment
- UIM – Underinsured Motorist Coverage (the responsible party’s liability insurance)
- Liability Policy – of the at fault driver
Which Washington State Bicycle Laws are Important?
Bicycle helmets – State law does not require helmet use. Some cities and counties including Seattle and King County do require bicycle helmets. Localities Requiring Bicycle Helmets
Bicyclist and Traffic Laws – Bicyclist must obey traffic laws RCW 46.61.126
Pocket Guide to Washington State Bike Law – Washington Bikes provides a neatly packaged guide to bike law.
Does Seattle Have Bicycle Laws?
Bicycle law in Seattle is covered in part under the Seattle Municipal Code. These laws pertain both to riders and vehicle drivers.
Bicycles in Crosswalks – Bicycle in cross walks are treated as if they are pedestrians, except they must yield to pedestrians. SMC11.44.100
Bicycle on a Roadway – Bicycles on roadways are granted all the rights and duties of a motor vehicle driver. SMC11.44.020
For select bicycle laws see SMC 11.44
For the complete Municipal code see SMC title 11