Bicycle accident statistics
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that 840 bicyclists were killed in accidents in 2016, which represented 2.2% of all traffic fatalities that happened during the year. In South Carolina, 25 bicyclists were killed, representing 2.5% of all traffic fatalities that occurred in the state. The NHTSA reports that the greatest number of bicycle deaths occurred between 6 pm and 9 pm. The South Carolina Department of Public Safety reports that 501 people suffered injuries in bicycle crashes in the state in 2016.
Causes of bicycle accidents
Bicyclists and motorists frequently blame each other for failing to share the road. Under South Carolina law, bicyclists have the same responsibilities and rights as motorists do under S.C. Code Ann. § 56-5-3420. Like motorists, bicyclists are responsible for obeying traffic control devices in the same manner that they would do when they are driving their cars. Motorists have a duty to provide bicyclists with a reasonable amount of distance and to yield to them when it is appropriate.
Bicycle accidents can be caused by many different factors. Some of the most common factors that cause bicycle crashes include the following:
- Motorists not giving enough room to bicyclists
- Failing to yield the right of way
- Opening car doors in the path of oncoming bicyclists
- Bicyclists or motorists failing to stop at traffic lights or stop signs
- Motorists failing to see bicyclists in their paths when they turn
- Aggressive driving
- Distracted driving
- Poor visibility of the bicyclists
- Drunk driving or cycling
- Debris in the road
Many people have the misconception that bicyclists are not allowed to ride on the streets or roads. Bicyclists are supposed to use bicycle lanes when they are available. If there are no bicycle lanes, bicyclists may ride their bicycles on the roads. Under S.C. Code Ann. § 56-5-3430, bicyclists should ride as far to the right of the righthand lane as they can. They are allowed to ride in other lanes if doing so is necessary for them to reach their destinations. Motorists are supposed to give bicyclists a reasonable amount of room when they are sharing the road with them.
Common injuries in bicycle accidents
When vehicles collide with bicycles, cyclists may suffer serious injuries. Some of the common types of injuries that can happen in bicycle accidents include the following:
- Road rash
- Traumatic brain injury or TBI
- Spinal cord injuries
- Organ damage
- Head, face, and neck injuries
- Scarring and disfigurement
People who suffer a head injury in a bicycle accident may have a traumatic brain injury or TBI. These can result in permanent disabilities such as difficulties with motor skills, personality changes, cognitive limitations, and speech problems. A serious head injury may require lifelong care and may be financially and emotionally devastating for the cyclist’s family.
Wearing a helmet can provide some protection against head injuries. However, South Carolina does not require bicyclists to wear helmets. Despite the lack of a mandate, it is important for bicyclists to wear a helmet every time that they ride, and parents should make certain that their children wear them as well.
Liability issues in bicycle accidents
Both drivers and bicyclists must responsibly share the road with each other. Bicycle accidents may result because of the negligence of a motorist, the cyclist’s own negligence, or both. Accidents may also be caused by poorly maintained roads and road debris.
When a bicycle injury results from an accident that was caused by the negligence of a motorist, the injured victim can file a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance policy. Under S.C. Code Ann. § 38-77-140, drivers in South Carolina are required to have insurance that meets at least the minimum liability requirements, which are $25,000 for the bodily injury to a person, $50,000 for bodily injury to two or more people, and $25,000 for property damage. Because a bicycle injury accident can cause serious injuries, these minimum amounts may be insufficient to fully compensate a victim for his or her financial losses.
Insurance companies in South Carolina are required to offer uninsured motorist and underinsured motorist coverage in addition to the minimum liability coverage as an endorsement on an insurance policy under S.C. Code Ann. § 38-77-160. This type of coverage is important because of the low minimum liability limits and the number of drivers who are uninsured. If you have UIM insurance and are injured in a bicycle accident with an uninsured or underinsured motorist, you can file a claim with your insurance company under your UIM insurance. If the at-fault driver was underinsured, your policy will pay the difference between the amount of coverage that he or she had to pay for your losses up to your UIM policy limits.
When cyclists share fault with motorists for their accidents, they may still be able to recover compensation. South Carolina follows a comparative negligence rule. Under this law, a jury will determine the percentage of fault that the cyclist and the motorist had in the accident. If the cyclist was less than 50% at fault, he or she can still recover compensation. However, the total award will be reduced by his or her percentage of fault.
If you are injured in a bicycle accident because of poorly maintained roads, the local government or company responsible for maintaining the roads may be liable. For a city to be liable, however, it must have known about the problem or should have reasonably known about its existence. For example, if a pothole has existed for a long period of time, and the city failed to fix it, the city might be liable for a resulting bicycle accident.
The statute of limitations for bicycle accidents
South Carolina has a statute of limitations for filing a lawsuit after you have been injured in an accident because of the negligence of others. Under S.C. Code Ann. § 15-3-530, you must file a lawsuit within three years of the date that you were injured. If you don’t file your claim within the limitations period, you will be barred from seeking to recover damages for your losses.
Under the South Carolina Tort Claims Act, the statute of limitations for filing a claim with the responsible agency is two years from the date of your injury. The agency will then have 180 days to either deny your claim or to pay it.
Get help from a Myrtle Beach bicycle accident attorney
If you have been injured in a bicycle accident, you may be left with injuries such as road rash, fractures, paralysis, and others. You might also be unable to return to your job while simultaneously dealing with mounting expenses. An experienced Myrtle Beach bicycle accident lawyer may help you to understand the legal remedies that might be available to you. Contact us today to learn about your rights and to schedule a consultation.