Bike Accident Settlements: How They Work and What to Expect
If you’ve been hit by a car while riding your bike, you may have heard that you can pursue a legal case in order to recoup some or all of the losses you incurred as a result of the crash. And if you’re like most people, you’ve probably wondered if it’s actually worth it.
For most people, pursuing a case like this may very well be the only time they are ever involved in an insurance claim, a formal negotiation, and/or a court case. And that can be intimidating. Many cyclists doubt whether their case or injuries are “serious” enough for a lawyer to help them with. Others wonder if it would just be too expensive.
It can be hard to know whether pursuing a case is worth it or not if you don’t know what to expect.
So in this post, we wanted to share a little bit about how bike accident settlements work and what you can expect if you decide to pursue a claim for your bike crash.
If you have specific questions about your bike accident or legal case, please get in touch with us anytime! You can call 415-466-8717, or use our contact form to reach out.
What bike accident settlements cover
The money you receive in a bike accident settlement is coverage for what are called “damages”. Damages are the costs that you have paid, or the losses you have incurred, as a result of the crash.
There are two primary kinds of damages: economic and non-economic.
Economic damages are obvious: if you have $10,000 in medical bills, then that amount is counted in your economic damages. Likewise, if you missed out on getting paid $10,000 for a job you couldn’t do because of your injuries, then that amount would also count towards economic damages.
Non-economic damages are a little bit more complicated. While it may be straightforward to see the money lost by not being able to work, what about the fear you now feel every time you get on your bike? What about the lack of independence caused by injuries preventing you from doing normal household and/or other activities?
These are just as real as dollars and cents, but much harder to quantify.
Figuring out your damages — the total combination of your financial losses as well as your emotional ones — is something that a trained attorney can help you do. So many people underestimate the value of their damages, or forget to include significant costs, that it can be extremely valuable to have an experienced attorney on your side helping you to know what to ask for and get everything that you are owed.
How bike accident settlements are determined
When you pursue a bike accident settlement, one of the first and most important things that you and your attorney will do is to collect evidence.
Evidence is what will support your claims for the amount of the settlement you are asking for, as well as the extent to which you were at fault for the accident (if at all) versus the driver.
Some evidence is fairly straightforward to collect: you’ll need your medical bills, repair bills, records of lost wages, receipts for prepaid things like concerts or vacations that you could not attend, and more.
However, other evidence will be just as valuable, especially for helping to determine your non-economic damages.
A great piece of evidence that you can keep is a post-crash diary. As soon after the crash as you can, start recording everything can are experiencing, as well as what you can remember from the crash. The more details the better — you never know what will be important in determining the success of your case.
In addition to creating a written record of how the crash occurred — which sheds light on who was at fault and to what extent — this is also an important place to document how your life has been changed by the crash.
You can write about how you feel. Do you feel stressed? Anxious? Afraid? Worried about the future, like how you’ll support your family or if you’ll ever feel comfortable riding your bike again? Write these things down, since they will provide a basis for you to determine the non-economic damages you need to seek compensation for.
Once you and your attorney have figured out the settlement amount that will be adequate to cover your damages, your attorney will begin negotiating with the driver’s insurance company on your behalf.
(If you opt not to hire an attorney, you can always pursue these negotiations yourself. However, the insurance company is likely to take you less seriously and try to offer you a too-low settlement; they will also be looking for you to accidentally admit fault or change your story so that they can accuse you of fabricating and avoid paying you at all. An experienced attorney will know the tricks to look out for and will usually be able to negotiate more effectively than you could on your own.)
The amount of your settlement will depend on these negotiations — how effectively your requests are supported by the evidence and how much you are found to be at fault for the crash — as well as the at-fault driver’s insurance coverage.
If their policy maxes out at $50,000, then the maximum amount that you can expect to receive is $50,000. This is not the case 100% of the time (and thus, you should always consult with an attorney regarding the specifics of your case), but in general, this is the rule.
What happens after your bike accident settlement is determined?
Once you and the driver’s insurance company have reached a settlement amount that is agreeable to both of you, the process of transferring the settlement funds to you will begin.
If you have hired an attorney, the insurance company will most likely send a check that is made out to them. That is because they have been acting on your behalf in the case, and will take their fee from that amount before transferring it to you. Most attorneys take 1/3 of the settlement amount as their fee.
They will also use the settlement funds to pay off any liens or other financial obligations you have as a result of the case.
Once the required payments have been made, then your attorney will give the remaining funds to you. At that point, your case is essentially closed and you can begin to move on with your life.
It’s important to note that once you receive a settlement, that is it. You cannot go back and ask for more later, so you must be sure that you are asking for the right amount when you do ask.
This is why many attorneys advise you to wait until your injuries are fully healed (or as healed as they’ll ever get) before you approach the insurance company with a settlement demand. You want to know exactly how much you need to be compensated for (for example, you want to know if you’ll need life-long care or if/when you’ll be able to work again) before you ask.
Call Bay Area Bicycle Law today
If you are ready to pursue a bike accident settlement, or just want to discuss your case with an experienced attorney, call Bay Area Bicycle Law now for a free consultation. 415-466-8717.