Biking has become increasingly popular across the past several years, and took another significant leap in 2020. Bicycling offers many advantages. It’s less expensive than driving a car, good exercise for the rider, and better for the environment than relying on motor vehicles. But, the increase in bicycles on the road has also meant more opportunities for bicyclists to be injured or killed on the road. Between 2011 and 2020, bicyclist deaths increased by 44%.
In 2022, the surge in overall traffic fatalities around the country turned around, with a slight decline compared with the prior year. But, bicyclist and pedestrian fatalities continued to increase.
If you’ve been injured in a bicycle accident or have lost a loved one who was hit by a car while biking, you should speak with an experienced Charleston bicycle accident lawyer right away. It’s easy to make honest mistakes in the days following an accident that may hurt your case.
A report from StreetLight Data ranked South Carolina as the second-most dangerous state in the nation for bicyclists. The ranking was based on deaths per bicycle-mile ridden. One reason for the high risk is that many South Carolina roads aren’t built for bicyclists–or for pedestrians. Both the state and the Charleston-North Charleston metro have also been ranked among the five most dangerous for pedestrians.
While many of these factors are the same as those that commonly contribute to other types of motor vehicle accidents, the effects may be more serious in a bicycle accident case. For example, driving at a higher speed always makes a car accident more dangerous, since the impact will be greater. But, when a car traveling at a high rate of speed hits a bicyclist or pedestrian, the risk of severe injury or death increases dramatically.
South Carolina law requires a motor vehicle passing a bicyclist to allow “safe passing distance,” which is generally at least three feet. A car passing a bicyclist closer increases the risk not only of hitting the cyclist, but of an accident occurring if the bike rider hits a bump, slides, or falls. And, a passing vehicle can create wind that may affect the bicyclists stability.
Men are injured while bicycling more often than women, and account for the vast majority of bicycle fatalities. While children account for the largest number of non-fatal bicycle injuries, they make up a very small percentage of fatal injuries. Riders in their 50s and 60s make up the largest percentage of bicycle fatalities.
The vast majority of fatal bicycle accidents occur in urban areas, likely due to a combination of variables such as narrower roads and higher traffic levels. Most occur away from intersections, where bicycles are traveling parallel to traffic and vehicles are traveling at higher speeds and less vigilant.
A bicyclist can be hit by a car at any time, in any location. But, some times are more dangerous than others. The most common time for fatal bicycle accidents is between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m., followed by 9 p.m. to midnight. There are many possible reasons for these higher fatality rates, including lower visibility of bicyclists after dark, drivers possibly being less alert for bicyclists, higher rates of driving under the influence at night, and a higher likelihood of fatigued driving. If you must ride at night, be sure that you have a headlight, reflective lights on your bicycle, and light-colored or reflective clothing to maximize the chances that you’ll be seen by drivers sharing the road with you.
Cars and other motor vehicles are much larger, heavier, and faster than bicycles. That not only increases the risk of serious injury or death to a bicyclist hit by an automobile, but also means that the driver often has the best opportunity to avoid a collision. Still, there are steps a bicyclist can take to reduce the risk on the road.
Bicycle helmets aren’t required in South Carolina, but studies have shown that they significantly reduce the risk of serious head injury, including fatal injuries, in a bicycling accident.
To collect compensation after a bicycle accident, you must first prove that the driver who hit you was negligent. This can typically be established by showing that the driver was distracted, was driving too fast or violating another traffic safety law, or in any way failing to exercise care not to injure others on the road or damage their property.
In some cases, more than one party may be responsible. For example, if the driver who hit you swerved to avoid collision with another vehicle that cut them off, veered into their lane, or stopped abruptly in traffic, that other driver may be partially responsible. If the driver was on the job at the time of the accident, their employer may be responsible. And, the entity that is responsible for road maintenance may be partly responsible if negligent maintenance contributed to the accident.
In some cases, the injured party may also be partly responsible. When that happens, the damages available will be reduced in proportion to the injured person’s fault. If they’re more than half responsible, they won’t be able to recover damages.
The best source of information about who may be legally responsible for your injuries and what types of damages you may be entitled to is an experienced Charleston personal injury lawyer.
If you are unable to return to work after your injury or face limitations that will reduce your earning capacity, you will likely need an economic expert to establish the extent of your losses.
The sooner you get help after your injury, the better. Getting started early will allow your attorney the best opportunity to gather evidence, talk to witnesses while memories are fresh, and serve as a buffer between you and insurance company representatives who don’t have your best interests at heart.
To schedule a free consultation with The Hartman Law Firm, call 843-300-7600 right now or fill out the contact form on this page.