Bicycle Accidents Involving Children & Related Legal Claims
Children use bikes as a source of recreation and exercise, and sometimes they go to school or visit friends on their bikes. Each year, unfortunately, hundreds of thousands of children suffer injuries in bicycle accidents. The lack of structural protection against a car may result in especially serious harm, such as brain trauma, spinal cord injuries, broken bones, and facial injuries that may cause scarring and disfigurement. In the most tragic cases, a child may suffer permanent disabilities or even lose their life in a bicycle accident.
Although wearing a helmet does not prevent an accident, it can help reduce the risk of serious head injuries or death if an accident happens. Federal law does not require children to wear bicycle helmets. Many states and cities have sought to fill this gap by requiring children (and sometimes all cyclists) to wear helmets. Regardless of whether it is legally required, parents should make sure that their child wears a helmet every time that they ride a bicycle. They also should get a bike appropriate for the size and skill level of their child, and they should check regularly to make sure that it remains in good repair. A child should thoroughly understand the rules of the road before venturing out among vehicles.
Night Riding and Visibility
The risk of accidents increases greatly after dark, when it becomes harder for drivers to see a bicycle. A parent should try to prevent their child from riding their bike at night, and they should use reflectors and lights if they need to ride during twilight.
Claims Based on Bicycle Accidents
When a car strikes a child riding a bicycle, parents often have a claim against the driver of the car. They would need to show that the driver was negligent, which means that they did not use the level of care that they should have used behind the wheel in that situation. For example, the driver might have failed to yield at an intersection, violated the speed limit in a neighborhood or school zone, or gotten distracted by using their cell phone. Drivers should be especially careful when they spot a child or in areas where they know or should know that children are likely to be present. Even if a driver did not strike a bicycle directly, they may bear responsibility for an accident if the child swerved to avoid them and struck something else. A thorough investigation sometimes uncovers reasons for an accident that were not immediately obvious.
Although the first priority after a bicycle accident is getting medical attention for any injuries, parents should try to gather materials for an eventual claim. These may include the identifying information of the driver, photos of the accident scene and the injuries, and the statements and contact information of witnesses. A copy of the police report on the accident can help support a claim as well.
If parents can show that their child was injured because a driver acted unsafely, they can recover compensation for economic and non-economic harm. This includes medical bills and any costs of future treatment, which may be substantial in bicycle accident cases because the injuries tend to be relatively serious. Non-economic damages may cover items such as pain and suffering and lost enjoyment of life.
Defective Bicycles or Helmets
If a child rides a bicycle or wears a helmet that contains a defect, this may cause or exacerbate their injuries. They may have a claim against the manufacturer of the bicycle or helmet in this situation, in addition to any claim against a driver. Products liability claims often only require proving that a defect existed and caused the victim’s injuries.
While most bicycle accident cases result in settlements, parents might not always want to take the first settlement offer that they receive, especially when their child has suffered serious and potentially permanent injuries. As part of accepting a settlement, a victim generally agrees to waive any claims related to the accident, which means that they cannot get more compensation later if the amount proves to be inadequate. Before accepting an offer, therefore, parents may want to consult an attorney. Most personal injury lawyers offer free consultations to discuss issues such as the strength of a legal claim and the compensation that may be available.