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Bicycle Crashes

Being struck by a car while on a bicycle in Seattle, Kirkland, Bellingham, or Olympia, unfortunately, is a common occurrence given the number of cars and bikes that are on the road. Bicyclists have the right of way and cars, trucks, SUVs, and motorcycles should heed and yield to them, but this is not always the case. Seattle in particular has made a real effort to make Seattle bicycle-friendly, but that does not mean the streets are always safe for bicyclists.

Washington State Bicycle Accident Statistics

Of people killed in traffic accidents in Washington State, about 2.7 percent are from people on a bicycle. This is about half a percentage point higher than the national average, which is in large part because Seattle in particular is a bicycle-friendly city, with many people riding their bicycles.

Perhaps because of driver’s increase usage of, and distraction by, cell phones, the numbers of people killed while on bicycles has increased in recent years, from 60 in 2013 to over 1222 in 2017. There has been 31 percent increase in the past few years in terms of the number of people struck while on bicycles.

Interestingly, 85 percent of the crashes occurred on roads where there was a posted speed limit of at least 30 miles per hour, with most of them taking places on major streets where there are a great deal of challenges to bicyclists in terms of their ability to navigate the roads and remain free of cars and SUVs.

Washington State Bicycle Laws

In Washington State, bicyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as others on the road, such as people who drive cars and SUV’s. However, due to their direct exposure to other, more protected motorists, bicyclists are at a high risk for injury in accidents. Many accidents involving bicyclists are due to negligent or reckless driving by people in cars.

If you believe the accident was not your fault, chances are you have a strong case. There are many laws protecting bicyclists from other motorists.

For instance:

  • Motorists must remain safely to the left of bicyclists at all times.
  • Motorists must not turn abruptly immediately after passing cyclists.
  • Motorists are required to yield to oncoming bicyclists when turning left.

Seattle and Washington State have many laws that protect bicyclists because Seattle is a very bike-friendly city, with hundreds of miles of trails and paths available for use. Below is a brief rundown of some of the laws in Seattle and Washington State that apply to people who ride on bicycles.

There is no state law that requires bicycle riders to wear a helmet. While it may not seem likely, bicyclists can also get a ticket from the police in Washington State for not following the laws since they also have to abide by the rules of the road. Two people can ride their bicycles next to each other, staying side by side, but more than two side by side is a violation of the laws. If a bicyclist is riding at night, there are also laws that apply to keep the bicyclist safe. For instance, it is necessary for a bicycle to have a white front light visible for 500 feet and a red rear reflector. A bicyclist has the choice to ride on a bike lane, a path, the shoulder or the travel lane, depending on the level of safety each presents.

Common Reasons for Bicycle Accidents

Some of the most common (and serious, if not deadly) accidents occur when a bicyclist is riding on a dense, urban street in Seattle or Bellevue, close to the sides of parked cars, and someone opens their car door very suddenly without looking in their side rearview mirror to make sure no bicyclist is approaching. Seattle Code 11.58.050 makes it a law that the person in the vehicle cannot open their car door, or leave it open even, unless it is safe, and the door can only remain open for as long as it is safe to do so.

Most accidents between cars, trucks, and vans and bicycles is because people in motor vehicles are simply travelling too fast for the conditions, especially in dense urban areas where it is hard to see. It is against the law for a car to be in a bicycle lane except to make a turn, but the driver must yield to the pedestrian or bicyclist. It is also the law that the driver of a car or truck or SUV must travel to the left it wants to pass a bicyclist and must do so safely. Traffic that is going slowly must stay on the right.

Other reasons for bicycle injuries occur because a driver is drowsy, distracted because they are texting, talking on their phone, or watching their phone screen, drunk or high on marijuana, they are in a construction or hazard zone they are unfamiliar, the weather is bad, or because they are simply driving too fast and cannot control their vehicle.

What to do After a Bicycle Accident

After being in a bicycle accident, there are some things you need to do to help protect you and strengthen your case. Obviously, after an accident your health and safety are the most important things, so getting the appropriate medical care should be first and foremost in your mind. This means going to the hospital, ER, or seeing your doctor or chiropractor, depending on who you feel comfortable seeing.

After this, you are likely going to be receiving a lot of phone calls from the insurance company for the driver who hit you. Do not speak to these beyond telling them you are seeking legal counsel. Do not make a recorded statement on the phone or sign any settlement documents, or any documents at all. They might try to pressure you into signing documents so you can settle your case. Do not do this. You have plenty of time—three years from the date of your injury—to settle your case.

Notify both your car insurance and health insurance companies about your bicycle accident. If possible, it is a good idea to take photographs of your bicycle and your injuries in the immediate aftermath of the accident.

Next, you should be mindful of what you are posting on social media, including Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. It is common nowadays for insurance companies to research you online and see what information they can find about you. Be mindful of what you have posted and will be posting. While it may be best to stay off social media entirely, if you must remain on it is a good idea not to post anything that would be harmful to your case.

When you get medical care for your accident, make sure you clearly communicate to your provider that your symptoms are related to the bicycle accident. If you mention a previous injury, make sure you make it clear that this is unrelated to your current symptoms.

Finally, it is a good idea to record what you are going through because of the accident. Writing notes or a journal concerning your injuries is a good idea so you do not forget what you are going through. It may take many months, or even a few years, to settle your case, and if this is the case, you need to be able to remember what you endured in the early days, weeks, and months of your accident, given that you may forget six months or two years later what you went through.

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