The popularity of cycling has exploded in Canada over the past 25 years. Statistics from 2013-14 suggest that 12 million Canadians reported cycling in the previous year, and seven million rode within the previous three months. Previously considered more of a leisure or recreational activity, cycling as a mode of transportation for commuting to work almost doubled between 1996 and 2016.
With so many cyclists on the roads, it’s not a surprise that some are involved in accidents. About 7,500 people are injured in a bicycle accident each year, and approximately 0.01 percent of those injuries (74 people on average) are fatal.
While cycling accidents can occur in a variety of ways, including cyclists colliding with each other, with pedestrians, or with stationary objects, most serious cyclist injuries result from motor vehicle accidents. About 73 percent of cyclist fatalities occur in such auto accidents.
Although many cities are investing in cycling infrastructure to help make the activity safer and to reduce the chance that bikes and motor vehicles will collide, these types of accidents will continue to occur and cyclists (and others) will continue to be injured.
If you or a loved one were injured in an accident involving a bicycle, you may be eligible for accident benefits and/or compensation for the harm someone else’s negligence has caused you.
Gluckstein Personal Injury Lawyers have the knowledge, legal advice, experience and skill to help you seek what you deserve.
Common bicycle accidents.
When, where and how do these accidents occur?
Areas where cycling is common often have lower rates of bicycle-related accidents and fatalities. This is because drivers, other cyclists and pedestrians are aware that there will be cyclists on the roads. They are more likely to watch out for them. However, in areas where other road users are not used to seeing bicycles, they may not look out for them as much.
Bicycle accidents that involve motor vehicles happen most often at intersections with traffic controls (stop signs or traffic lights). Even though these intersections have features that are supposed to slow traffic down or make prompt caution, most bicycle collisions happen when someone is trying to turn.
Cities are more likely to be the site of these accidents than smaller towns or rural areas. In addition to collisions during turns at intersections, other common accidents include:
- Dooring (when a parked car opens a door that obstructs a cyclist’s path).
- Weaving (when bicyclists weave in and out of traffic).
- Lane changes (often without checking the driver’s blind spot).
- Falls off of bikes.
- Damage from roads in poor condition.
- Animals unexpectedly run out into the street.
If visibility is poor, there is a greater chance for an accident to happen. Collisions involving motor vehicles and cyclists happen most frequently during the evening rush hour (between 4pm and 8pm) when there are many vehicles on the road, and when sunlight may be dimming or absent.
Other factors which increase the risk of a cycling-related accident include:
- Driver distraction.
- Aggressive driving.
- Driving in construction zones.
- Poor weather (heavy rain/snow).
- Staying safe.
When it comes to road safety, it is important for everyone to take precautions to keep ourselves and other road users safe. Thinking of cycling in particular, some tips include:
- Anticipate traffic - for motor vehicle drivers this means checking blind spots; for cyclists it means using mirrors keeping their head up; and for pedestrians it means looking both ways before stepping out onto the road.
- Adopt the one-metre rule - giving cyclists this much space is necessary in case they must swerve to avoid hazards such as potholes, tree branches or garbage.
- Follow the rules of the road - while all road users should obey traffic laws, by driving defensively you can avoid errors made by other drivers.
- Keep equipment well maintained - Have the appropriate lights and reflectors and keep vehicles/bikes in good working order.
- Wear the proper safety equipment - wearing reflective clothing, elbow and knee pads and a helmet can reduce your risk of injury (or the severity of an injury) if you are involved in an accident.
Bicycle accident injuries.
Cycling accidents, particularly those involving collisions with motor vehicles, can result in serious injury and/or permanent disability. Common types of injuries sustained by cyclists include:
- Head trauma - from skull fractures to concussions and other debilitating traumatic brain injuries, any blunt force trauma to the head can lead to significant injury and impairment.
- Fractures - broken clavicles, scaphoids (wrist fractures), and radius and ulna bones (the forearm) are often the result of bike riders trying to brace themselves for a fall.
- Dislocated arms and shoulders.
- Nerve and spinal cord damage - deep lacerations may injure nerves, while serious spinal cord injuries can cause paralysis.
- Neck fractures.
- Internal bleeding - damage to the chest (ribs), pelvis or abdomen from a forceful impact can result in serious injury.
- Muscular strains and sprains, torn ligaments.
- Road rash - skidding on the pavement or impact from a fall can lead to cuts, scrapes, bruises, and a condition called road rash.
When you’ve been injured.
If you or a loved one has been involved in a bicycle accident, you may be in shock or so seriously injured that you are immediately transported to a hospital. If you (or someone with you) have the presence of mind and ability while at the scene of the accident, you should try to:
- Get the insurance information of any/all motor vehicle drivers involved.
- Get the contact information for any witnesses to the accident and anyone involved.
- Take photos or video of the scene of the accident and/or your injuries.
- Take notes or record a video of what you recall about the accident.
- Limit what you say about the accident to any other person involved and never admit fault.
- Seek medical attention even if you don't feel injured - you may still be in shock.
Before contacting an insurer, speak to an experienced personal injury lawyer to ensure you are aware of your rights and what kind of compensation you deserve.
Statutory accident benefits.
If a motor vehicle was involved in your bicycle accident, you may be eligible to make a claim for statutory accident benefits, also known as ("SABS"), through your motor vehicle insurance, through the insurance provider of the driver of another motor vehicle involved, or through Ontario’s Motor Vehicle Accidents Claim Fund if the accident involved an uninsured motor vehicle or if it was a hit-and-run.
SABS is no-fault insurance coverage for motor vehicle accident victims. This means even if you were fully or partially at fault for the accident, you can still receive benefits if you were injured. These benefits include:
- Income replacement benefits.
- Non-earner benefits.
- Caregiver benefits.
- Medical and rehabilitation benefits.
- Attendant care benefits.
- Housekeeping benefits.
- Death and funeral benefits.
- Other benefits.
SABS benefits are capped at certain amounts each year according to inflation. If you purchased optional motor vehicle insurance coverage, you would be entitled to receive higher amounts. However, the extent of your injuries, disabilities and personal circumstances will determine how much you will be eligible to claim.
Insurance companies must be notified within seven days of an accident that you wish to apply for SABS, and a completed Application Form must be filed within 30 days. Although SABS was designed to provide timely compensation for injured persons, insurance companies sometimes unfairly delay or deny benefits.
A bicycle accident lawyer from Gluckstein Personal Injury Lawyers can help you during the application process as you seek to get what you deserve. While we deal with insurers to access these benefits, you can focus on your recovery.
How else can a bicycle accident lawyer help me?
Even if a motor vehicle was not involved in your bicycle accident, you may be able to file a tort claim for damages if you were not at fault or only partially at fault for the accident and seriously injured. These civil lawsuits are launched against a person who caused or contributed to your injuries through their negligence. They must be commenced within two years of the accident.
Tort claims involving motor vehicles must meet a certain threshold (permanent or serious impairment or disfigurement) to receive awards for pain and suffering damages. Although this money will never truly replace all that has been lost, it can be an acknowledgement of your pain, suffering, loss of enjoyment of life in addition to pecuniary (calculable) losses.
Rated one of Canada’s top personal injury firms, Gluckstein Personal Injury Lawyers has the knowledge, skill and experience to get results for you. When you contact our bicycle accidents team, we will listen to your story with empathy, explain your various rights and options, and outline how we can help you if you choose us as your trusted legal representative.
As a firm dedicated to full-circle client care, we value our clients as people first. Gluckstein's bicycle accident lawyers in Toronto, Ottawa, Niagara, and Barrie serve clients across Ontario and are here to work with you.
Our personal injury law firm will be your fierce advocates while also supporting your healing journey with compassion and kindness. If you or a loved one have been hurt in a bicycle accident, you are not alone. Contact our team for a free consultation and to learn how we can be there for you.
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