Articles Posted in Bicycle Accidents

There is no single question that I receive more often than… “What is my case worth?”  Often, that is very tricky to answer, especially early on.  The fact is that only a verdict from a jury after trial is a final and true determination of value.  But so few cases actually go all the way to trial that your attorney must rely on his experience and skill to obtain as much for you as possible.  There are a number of factors that go into determining the value of your case.  Foremost, the severity of the injury and the extent of the treatment required.  Additionally, the value of your medical bills and lost wages (if any).  Also, are you willing to file a lawsuit and wait for more money or would you prefer to settle quickly for less.

So you see.. “What is my case worth” is a rather loaded question.

It may come as a surprise to many readers but another important factor in determining the value of your case is… which insurance company is involved?  Especially early on during initial settlement talks, the insurance company on the other side makes a big difference.  One company can value a case at 25k while another offers 12k.  How can that be you ask? If my case is worth 25k it is worth 25k.  Well, it is not so easy as that.  Several insurance companies will “low ball” your initial offer.  They want to see if your attorney is willing to file arbitration or file a lawsuit or rather just encourage you to settle for a quick payout.  In most cases, the attorney accepts these low settlement offers and insurance companies continue to get away with paying less than they should.  In Rhode Island, you have to be particularly careful of Progressive Insurance, Allstate Insurance and Liberty Mutual.  These three companies (at least in my experience) are notorious for making low, sometimes insulting, offers of settlement.  They justify this by cutting down your medical bills (claiming that treatment received was too expensive or unnecessary) and they will cut down your lost wages (suggesting you could have gone back to work earlier than you did) and they will offer you relatively little in pain and suffering.  In the end, you get an offer way below your own valuation of your injuries.

A national story printed on cnn.com discussing an investigation into bicycle accidents in New York City brings to light what is truly a nationwide dilemma. Rhode Island and Massachusetts are not without their fair share of bicycle accidents that result in serious injury and the question has to be asked whether the law does enough to protect bike riders on public streets.

Michelle Matson was struck while riding home on a bicycle by a driver who was speeding and subsequently fled the scene. She was nearly killed in this accident with serious injury to her skull and spine. She feels little effort was made to investigate the accident or apprehend the driver who nearly killed her and left the scene. As a result, Ms. Matson’s life was turned upside down and she has no legal recourse to recover for her pain and suffering and hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills. The question must be asked why no thorough investigation was conducted? The article points out that absent death or catastrophic injury, little investigation will be conducted into a bicycle accident.

There is no doubt that this problem exists in Rhode Island as well. While bicyclists have a right to use the road under the same rules as motorists, the assumption is that bicyclists merely get in the way of operators of motor vehicles. Bicycle riders must maintain the absolute care and lookout for all of their surroundings, yet the law puts little requirement on vehicle operators to take such care. Auto accidents involving pedestrians and bike riders are almost always serious because bikes offer such little protection to riders. The law must seek ways to better protect bike riders and more thoroughly investigate accidents.

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It seems the most obvious and important question and one that I am asked in every personal injury case, namely, how much is my personal injury claim worth? Regardless if resulting from an auto accident, motorcycle accident, slip and fall, or medical malpractice, all clients are curious what their case is worth.

The only easy answer to that question is to say: Your case is worth the amount a jury of your peers says that it is worth. Unfortunately, juries are wildly unpredictable and can return with a shockingly high award or an embarrassingly low judgment. Furthermore, waiting for a jury verdict requires several years of waiting and a long and expensive litigation process.

That said, experienced personal injury attorneys such as myself, consider a number of variables in determining a fair settlement value of your case. Attorneys and insurance companies consider recent jury verdicts in the State, recent settlements in the State, along with other variables to determine a fair value for the injury suffered. Therefore, attorneys and insurance adjusters will assign a value to the neck or back injury, fractured arm, or concussion. For instance, if a jury recently awarded $160,000 to a man who broke his leg in a truck accident, this may be a starting point for negotiations if you suffer a similar broken leg in an auto accident.

What are the other variables to consider? Among other things:

  • the strength of the liability case
  • cost of litigation
  • amount available through insurance
  • nature and severity of the injury

Of course, you are also entitled to lost wages and medical bills, future medical bills and permanent disability, if applicable.

If the injury you sustained is soft tissue in nature (neck and back pain) then your settlement will depend largely on the length and severity of your disability and whether there is diagnostic evidence (i.e. an MRI report showing injury) to help substantiate the claim. An experienced personal injury attorney, will know how to negotiate with an insurance company to obtain the highest value possible.

This should be understood as a shorthand version of how the value of your personal injury claim is determined. There are literally hundreds of variables that have to be considered and only a skilled and experienced attorney can use all of these variables to obtain the highest amount possible in settlement. Furthermore, the negotiating skills of an attorney are important as well as the attorney’s reputation for success.

The next time you ask your attorney: What is my case worth? do not be surprised if he or she is afraid to answer. It is because each personal injury case is so unique that it is hard to determine, especially early in the case, how much the injury is worth.

As a former insurance adjuster I have settled hundreds of personal injury cases of all levels of severity. I understand the full value of your case and how an insurance company will try to poke holes in your case to lower the final value. As a personal injury attorney, I have succeeded in obtaining excellent settlements for my clients often exceeding the amount they were hoping to receive.

Therefore, part of the answer to the question: How much is my case worth? depends on whether you hire the right attorney.

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I have written time and time again about the unique dangers faced by bicycle riders on the road. I am an avid bicyclist myself and am well aware of how dangerous it can be for bike riders to share the road with cars and trucks. Apparently, the Rhode Island General Assembly agrees. Spurred by the tragic death of Frank J. Cabral who was killed while riding a bike in Charlestown, the Rhode Island General Assembly has passed a law requiring motorists to drive a safe distance from bicyclists.

Frank Cabral’s girlfriend worked with the General Assembly to help ensure that some form of law passed. She proposed temporary loss of license, driver training, etc for anyone who hit a bicyclist on the road. The General Assembly fell far short of such severe penalties, but have now given the police authority to issue citations for $85 if they believe that a driver has endangered the safety and welfare of a bike rider.

Final approval was given to a legal requirement

that motorists may pass bicyclists only “at a safe distance,” which is defined as “sufficient to prevent contact with the person operating the bicycle if the person were to fall into the driver’s lane of traffic.”

Bicycle accidents are always incredibly dangerous because of the lack of safety equipment offered by vehicles. Fractures, head injuries, scarring, and even death, are common injuries in accidents between autos and bicycles.

Drivers must be on the look out for riders and be aware of the rules of the road. Bikers are authorized to ride in the street and should not ride on sidewalks which would be extremely dangerous for bikers and pedestrians. The fear of penalty for driving too closely to bikers may encourage drivers to maintain a proper lookout, especially in urban areas and around bike paths where bikers are likely to be prevalent.

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I was driving home today and listening to the NPR discussion about bicycling culture and growing number of bicycles on the road. As expected, a large percentage of the discussion concerned bicycle safety and preventing bicycle accidents. The situation is particularly difficult in major cities like Providence or Boston where a large number of bicyclists commute to work and bike messengers are everywhere delivering packages.

As an avid bike rider myself, I know how dangerous city streets can be. I have had my fair share of falls and close calls. Fortunately, no accident has been serious, but I remain constantly defensive on the road. Drivers are not accustomed to looking out for bicyclists and we are often lost in blind spots or completely unseen. This creates an obviously precarious environment for bikers. One commentator on the NPR show also pointed out how some drivers, particularly teenagers, find it funny to beep or yell out of windows to try and startle bikers.

Of course, any bike accident is dangerous. An unprotected biker is likely to suffer fractures, brain injuries, and even death in an accident with a 2000 pound vehicle.