Common Causes of Florida Bicycle Accidents

While about 2 percent of the nation’s traffic fatalities are bicyclists, Florida’s rate is more than double that. Not all roadway safety experts agree on the reasons for that, but there are numerous factors that almost certainly play a role.

At The Ansara Law Firm, our Fort Lauderdale bicycle accident lawyers know that while bicycle accidents on the whole are underreported, of those that are and involve motor vehicles, it’s often the driver who is at-fault for many of the common causes of Florida bicycle accidents.

Although the federal government does not keep statistics of fault in bicycle accidents, we do have some data supporting what we know to be true anecdotally in the decades of our own experience handling these cases.

For example, one newspaper in South Florida examined bicycle accidents in that region and throughout the state. The News-Press reported motorists were more than twice as likely to be the main cause of bicycle accidents – usually because they failed to yield – as compared to bicyclists. Most accidents occurred at angles at intersections. Of those cases where fault was attributed in police reports, the top five causes (in order) were:

  • Failure to yield;
  • Careless Driving;
  • Other actions;
  • Ran stop sign.

Some other common causes of Florida bicycle accidents we have noticed are:

  • Swerving into bicyclists;
  • Turning in front of oncoming bicycles;
  • Jumping the curb onto the sidewalk.

Of course, this is not to say bicyclists are never at fault, at least partially. However, we should point out that Florida operates under a system of pure comparative fault. What this means, as spelled out in F.S. 768.81, is that just because an injured person was partially at-fault for the accident, it will not strip that person of the right to file a claim against another liable party. However, the percentage of the victim/ plaintiff’s fault will proportionately diminish the final damages awarded.

So for example, if you are in a bicycle accident and the court finds you are 30 percent liable while the driver was 70 percent liable, you will only be awarded 70 percent of your damages. This holds even if you are 99 percent liable for your own injuries – you can still collect on that remaining 1 percent. Of course, your attorney will have to help you examine whether such a case would still be worthwhile to pursue, but know that the law is generally in your favor in this regard.

Bicyclist rights and responsibilities on the road are outlined in F.S. 316.2065.

Traffic Volumes

It’s true that the number of bicyclists on the road has increased in recent years. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports a 65 percent increase in the number of bicycling commuters nationally in just a dozen years. It’s also correct that in recent years, overall traffic volumes have risen, and more cars on the road inevitably equals more crashes.

However, motor vehicles are, by all accounts, getting safer. More automated features include:

  • Forward collision warning
  • Autobrake
  • Lane departure warning
  • Lane departure prevention
  • Adaptive headlights
  • Blind spot detection
  • Improved airbags

Yet the number of bicycle accidents and traffic accidents overall are on the rise.

Traffic safety experts have several theories for this, one of the most plausible being increasing driver distraction.

Distraction

In of the largest distracted driving studies ever conducted, Zendrive tracked 3 million anonymous drivers over the course of 570 million trips spanning 5.6 billion miles. What they discovered was that motorists used their phones during 88 out of 100 trips. On average for every hour of driving, motorists were using their phones for a full three minutes.

Considering that just two seconds of distraction is long enough to pass an entire football field at 55 mph, the idea of every driver operating blind for three minutes is terrifying – especially if you encounter one while on a bicycle. Drivers have a hard enough time spotting bicyclists as it is, let alone when they literally aren’t even looking.

The NHTSA reports some 3,500 people are killed and more than 390,000 injured in distracted driving accidents each year. We don’t know what percentage of those involve bicyclists, but we do know that’s likely a low estimate because not all instances of distracted driving are reported. We also know bicyclists are disproportionately more at risk of serious injury or death in a crash.

Impairment

Alcohol is one of the common causes of Florida bicycle accidents – particularly those that are fatal.

Federal safety officials say alcohol involvement – either for the motor vehicle operator or the bicyclist – was reported in 37 percent of all deadly bicycle crashes in 2015.

Increasingly, cyclists are dealing with the added threat of drivers impaired by prescription drugs and marijuana – legal and otherwise. Driving while on drugs was associated with more deaths than driving with alcohol in one’s system in 2015, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association. Still, that doesn’t tell us the drugs caused the accident, only that drugs were present in drivers’ systems. In some civil cases, it may be up to your attorney to prove the driver was in fact impaired. This could open the door for punitive damages, as set forth in F.S. 768.72.

Engineering

By-and-large, Florida roads were not engineered with bicyclists in mind.

As noted in Smart Growth America’s Dangerous By Design report, roads in the south are built with motor vehicle traffic in mind. That means lanes are wider, speed limits are higher and there are few accommodations, such as bicycle lanes or crosswalks, to ensure cycling is safe.

Many communities, including Fort Lauderdale, are working to change that. But it won’t happen overnight.

In some cases, if poor road design was a factor in a collision, the government agency that oversees maintenance of that site may be liable. However, cases against government entities are far more complex than those against individuals or businesses. First one must overcome assertions of sovereign immunity with various statutory waivers, as set forth in F.S. 768.28. Then there are more stringent notice requirements and you may be limited to a damage cap of $200,000 per person and $300,000 per accident.

That doesn’t mean such claims aren’t viable. They certainly can be. However, those consulting with a bicycle accident attorney serving Fort Lauderdale will give you a better sense of your odds of success.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a Fort Lauderdale bicycle accident, contact the personal injury attorneys at The Ansara Law Firm by calling (954) 761-4011 or toll-free at (888) ANSARA-8.

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