Bicycle accidents happen every day on South Carolina's roadways - often due to the negligence or recklessness of motor vehicle drivers. In 2000, one of my family's dear friends was killed in a bicycle crash in Columbia, SC. The at-fault driver never stopped and was not caught until months later. Since becoming an attorney, I have met with other individuals and families who have dealt with the aftermath of such accidents. From broken bones, to surgeries, to extensive time missed from work or school, bicycle collisions caused by negligent drivers in South Carolina often have severe consequences.
No matter the level of harm or injury caused by your biking accident, you likely have questions regarding insurance and medical bills that may be best answered by an attorney. Therefore, I offer the following points that every South Carolinian should be aware of after a bicycle crash.
1. Bicyclists are often wrongly placed at fault.
Police officers frequently place the bicyclist at fault. Why? The most common reason is that the driver of the car will claim the bicyclist either pulled out or swerved in front of them. Because the bicyclist is usually on the way to the hospital by the time the police officer begins taking statements, the driver’s version of events is the only one the cop ever hears.
2. The police report is not admissible in court.
Rest assured that the police report is inadmissible, and that the cop is only allowed to testify as to things he personally witnessed or heard. His opinion as to fault has absolutely no bearing should the case go to trial. In fact, if our investigation proves that the at-fault driver lied to the officer about how the accident occurred, the driver’s lies will only benefit your case by showing that he/she is just one more person trying to avoid taking responsibility for their actions.
3. File all medical bills with your health insurance provider.
The primary focus after any bike accident is to obtain proper medical treatment. Please know that if you have health insurance coverage, your medical providers must accept it, even if your injuries were caused by a negligent driver.
4. You can seek a full and fair recovery from multiple insurance policies.
When it comes to liability insurance to compensate you for medical bills, lost wages, pain, and lost quality of life, we will start with the person who hit you. We first determine how much coverage they have on their car. We then check whether they have any excess or umbrella policies depending on the severity of the harm they caused. And if all these types of insurance coverage still fail to adequately compensate a bicyclist or their family, we investigate whether the driver has the ability to provide compensation by way of personal assets.
5. Your auto insurance policy may be able to help you after a bicycle accident.
If the driver who injured you was either uninsured or lacked sufficient coverage to adequately compensate you, the law gives you the right to seek money from the largest of your own auto insurance policies. For instance, if the negligent driver only has $50,000.00 in insurance coverage, but your medical bills alone are $250,000.00, you could receive compensation from your insurance company through what is known as "underinsured motorist coverage."
6. The negligent driver's insurance company may try to blame you in part for the accident.
Injured bike riders and their families are often told the cyclist is in some way at fault for his injuries. You may hear things like, "Well, he wasn't wearing a helmet;" or "We have reason to believe he was too far out in the roadway." Insurance adjusters and their attorneys are trained to pay you as little as possible, and they will go to almost any length to achieve their goal of a minimal payout.
7. You should see a specialist if you suspect you suffered a TBI.
Along with assaults, vehicle accidents and falls are leading causes of traumatic brain injury (TBI). When a car hits a bicycle, it essentially combines all these causes into one violent act. Any cyclist who continues to experience headaches, memory loss, dizziness, blurred vision, fatigue, emotional imbalance, or attentional issues more than 2 weeks after a crash should ask to be evaluated by a neurologist or other specialist familiar with TBI. A helmet may reduce, but not eliminate the risk of trauma ranging from skull fracture to subdural hematoma to concussion. In some cases, helmet manufacturers have been found liable for providing defective products that failed to adequately protect cyclists. Thus, you may be able to recover fair compensation from the helmet manufacturer in addition to the negligent driver.
8. You can file a legal claim for a bicycle accident head injury even if you weren’t wearing a helmet.
South Carolina’s bicycle helmet laws do not require cyclists to wear protective gear. Nor does the law prevent someone without a helmet from filing a legal claim involving a head injury from a bike accident. An insurance company might claim that you contributed to the wreck, or that you may only receive payment for 50% of your medical bills because you were not wearing a helmet. If an insurance adjuster is arguing that your financial recovery is reduced by “comparative negligence,” I strongly encourage you to at least speak with an injury attorney before signing any papers.
9. A bike accident lawyer can help you take on the insurance company.
We know that injured bike riders and their families are most concerned with a full physical recovery. The last thing they want to worry about is dealing with insurance adjusters. While the individual and his/her family concentrate on getting well, an experienced personal injury attorney can help evaluate fault, correspond with the various insurance carriers and medical providers, protect the injured person’s legal rights, and help determine the amount of compensation that should be allowed. Additionally, if the defendant is found to have been particularly malicious or reckless in causing the collision, the cyclist may also be due punitive damages. At the Law Office of Kenneth Berger, we know how to treat clients and build a strong case to ensure a full and fair recovery.
Contact A Trusted Columbia, SC Bicycle Accident Lawyer
Everyone who gets atop a bike in South Carolina has a right to safety. When that right is violated, the driver and his insurance company must take full responsibility. Lawyers at my firm take bicycle accidents seriously and want to ensure you are treated fairly and respectfully.
I have represented a number of bicyclists hit by cars in South Carolina and am glad to answer any additional questions you may have. Taking on insurance companies while also trying to recover from an accident can be a heavy burden. Allow me to relieve some stress and lighten the burden by setting up a free consultation. You can reach me at 803-790-2800, or you can start a live chat with us right now.