As a bicyclist in California, when hit, you are likely to be thrown from your bike. Since a bicycle does not come with much protection like a car, you are likely to suffer injuries. Due to the permanence and seriousness of the injuries, you should contact a reliable law firm like The Personal Injury Law Firm. Although filing a claim will not heal your injuries, it will help you recover medical expenses, among other damages originating from the accident.
What are the Most Common Bicycle Accident Injuries in California?
Two types of bicycle accidents stem from negligence outside the cyclist's control: product defects and motor vehicles. Both situations can lead to severe personal injuries. In most cases, these injuries are fatal, permanent, or life-threatening. They include:
Traumatic Brain Injury
Every cyclist below 18 years of age in California is required by law to wear a helmet. Even if a cyclist is in a helmet, they can sustain a TBI in a bicycle accident. This is because a helmet only reduces the possibility of a severe brain injury by approximately forty percent. The American Journal of Surgery reports that more than fifty percent of all cyclists have sustained a TBI following a bicycle accident. Another study conducted by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration reports that people riding a bike in an urban area or at night are more likely to suffer a TBI.
Traumatic Brain Injury Does Not Need a Blow to the Head
When a car is involved in an accident, you can be thrown from the bicycle to the street. You could even bump into a stationary substance or another car. Although, in most cases, a TBI involves a blow to the head, your head does not require hitting anything at all to sustain the injury. The force of the car impacting you or your bicycle can make your brain crash in the hard interior of the skull hence damaging your brain. A helmet could serve its purpose once you land on the road, but a serious brain injury could have happened a couple of seconds earlier.
What are the Symptoms of a TBI?
Traumatic brain injury has profound consequences that can be permanent. They include (but not limited to):
- Challenges in cognitive functions such as memory and concentration,
- Difficulties in speech,
- Challenges in bowel and bladder regulation,
- Emotional instability,
- Blurred vision, double vision, and impaired depth perception, and
- Sensory issues when it comes to touch, coordination, posture, and temperature variations
Spinal Cord Injury (SCI)
Another common type of injury stemming from bicycle accidents is spinal cord injuries. Usually, an SCI is a result of a blow to the spine, which breaks your vertebrae resulting in bone fragments to tear to spinal cord tissues. While there are SCIs that will heal, others will lead to paralysis.
A person with spinal cord injuries requires not only immediate attention but also faces long-term consequences. The patient may need long-term nursing care, physical therapy, and modifications to their vehicle and home. Others may not be in a position to perform their regular job responsibilities hence reduced earning capacity. All this could result in significant expenses to both the accident victim and their family.
According to the National Institutes of Health, there is a wide range of paralysis injuries that doctors measure using the American Spinal Injury Association (ASIA) impairment scale. The scale has five (5) levels which include:
- Complete impairment without sensory function below the injury level
- Complete impairment with sensory function but without motor function
- Incomplete impairment with a few motor functions
- Incomplete impairment with motor function but a loss of muscle strength
- Normal motor function
It is worth noting that the injury's location is a significant factor as far as whether paralysis will happen or not and its seriousness.
If the neck is injured, you could suffer quadriplegia. Quadriplegia (paralysis affecting legs and arms) has been linked with complications like respiratory challenges, bowel, and bladder dysfunction.
Paralysis of the legs (paraplegia), on the other hand, is caused by the trauma of the lower back. It can cause bedsores and blood clots since the victim will use a wheelchair for long.
When you get involved in an accident and sustain an injury that results in the loss of a limb, this is called a traumatic amputation injury. In other words, amputation is the loss of a body part, which can be a toe, arm, leg, or finger that occurs after an accident.
The seriousness and recovery from an amputation injury vary depending on the injury's site.
In case of a complete amputation where a body part is severely injured, a doctor can reattach the limb. In other instances, a victim could have suffered a partial amputation (where soft-tissue connection remains). Depending on the injury's nature, your physician may be in a position to reattach the limb. Unfortunately, for most victims with traumatic amputation, limbs can't be reattached.
Moreover, there are severe complications that come with amputation. They include infection, shock, and bleeding.
The medical expenses linked with an amputation can be overwhelming. More often than not, you will spend several days or even months in a hospital. You may also require artificial limbs or prosthetics. The prosthetics are expensive; they cost tens of thousands of dollars and should be replaced every 2 to 5 years. You will also be required to make modifications to your home to make it more functional and accessible.
Additional, you may require future medical expenses for ongoing therapy and rehabilitation that can continue for the rest of your life.
You may also suffer a loss of income. This is because you may not be able to perform the same job responsibilities as before the bicycle accident. In that case, you may need vocational training to get lucrative job opportunities.
A bone fracture means your bone has broken. Bone fractures are a result of trauma to your bone like force or undue pressure.
Bone fractures cause pain. It may require surgery, physical therapy, prolonged time in immobility devices, and frequent medical appointments. You may also lose time off your work or even be unable to work.
Any bone can be broken and could be fatal in some body parts. For instance, it can cause skin damage, nerve damage, or internal bleeding.
If the bone is not properly set or fails to heal well, it could result in long-term disability. You may never be in a position to regain the function of the injured part. Likewise, the fractured bone can be infected. Infection can result in severe illness or even fatality.
A fractured bone is extremely painful. Nevertheless, most people with a broken bone don't realize that the fracture causes the pain they feel. This could be because they have been injured in other body parts as well.
A bone fracture is a medical emergency. Therefore, if you have suffered a bicycle accident, you should visit a doctor straight away to be checked for broken bones.
Without teeth, it is almost impossible for you to eat and properly digest food. A dental injury can also result in emotional and physical issues.
Most dental injuries from bike accidents stem from an impact with an object, ground, or both. Usually, they happen when the impact of a sudden change of speed propels a cyclist over the bicycle's handlebars. Since a helmet does not cover the mouth and chin fully, these parts are prone to injuries when a cyclist is thrown forward. The injuries can be serious, particularly to the front teeth.
Blunt force trauma with objects such as pavements can lead to several dental injuries, including:
- Displaced teeth which have been forced out of their natural positions,
- Fractured teeth, and
- Partial or complete loss of teeth
Dental work is high-end. If you have sustained a dental injury, you are going to be seeing an oral surgeon or dentist regularly. Fortunately, if a negligent person caused your injury, you can file a personal injury claim for medical bills.
A bicycle accident is likely to push you off your bike to the asphalt roadway or concrete and cause you to slide. You could even be dragged by a car. Road surfaces are coarse, and friction can cause severe skin damage. Usually, that damage comes as scrapes, which are known as road rash. Insects, rocks, dust, dirt, and motor oil is likely to enter your body through the wounds.
Common parts of the body that are affected include hands, shoulders, arms, face, chin, nose, thighs, and legs.
There are three main levels of road rash injuries:
- First Degree
These are minor injuries that don't necessarily require professional medical attention. The affected skin areas look like sunburns and are reddish.
- Second Degree
Here the skin is broken, and foreign bodies can enter the wound easily. To prevent infection, you should seek emergency treatment to flush and remove the foreign body.
- Third Degree
Third-degree is the most severe type of road rash. This is because the abrasion penetrates all skin layers. It can be intense such that bone and muscles are visible. As a result of contaminants on the road, infection is likely. This could result in skin, nerve, and muscle damage that can affect a victim for life.
You will require immediate treatment, and the possibility of undergoing skin grafting as well as reconstructive surgery is high.
Another common injury suffered by bicyclists in California is nerve damage. In the beginning, you may not realize that you have suffered nerve damage. This is because the nerve damage may not appear immediately, and it might be hard to tell where it is originating from.
Various types of injuries affect the victim in multiple ways. Typical nerve damage originating from a severe accident affects the cyclist's hands, fingers, and arm after they extend their arms when trying to stop a fall.
If the injury is in the neck, you will experience severe pain in your neck, along with pain and numbness that is tingling down to your arms, fingers, and hands. If the lower spine was injured, you will experience discomfort and pain in your legs, toes, feet, hips, and buttocks. Other debilitating symptoms include:
- Prickling sensations,
- Twitching and uncontrolled muscle movements,
- Tingling or numb limbs or skin,
- Skin sensitivity to warmer or colder temperatures,
- Muscle weakness or pain and
- Complete or partial paralysis of toes, fingers, legs, or arms
If you experience any of the above symptoms, you should be checked by a physician straight away. The physician will document your condition and can refer you to an orthopedist or a neurologist. Make sure you adhere to all recommendations issued by your doctors. Otherwise, you will give the at-fault party's insurer a reason to argue that you are malingering or were not severely injured as you claim.
The specific treatment for nerve damage depends mainly on the seriousness and type of injury. For minor injuries, physical therapy can also assist you in getting back to your full level of functionality. Severe injuries like lacerations, on the other hand, require surgery.
A joint dislocation occurs when a joint is forcefully displaced from its position to another location in the body. Common dislocations in bicycle accidents in California involve:
A shoulder dislocation occurs when the humerus end near the collarbone is dislocated from a victim's shoulder socket. Typically, it happens when a bicyclist attempts to break a fall using their hands and arms.
An elbow is another part of the body that is dislocated by you try to prevent yourself from falling. An elbow is a hinge joint that can be put back without surgery. This is achieved by a doctor making quick movements with your forearm. However, if the ligament or bones are injured, surgery will be needed to restore, align, function, and range of motion. Your arm will be immobilized before commencing physical therapy.
A finger dislocation is one of the most common types of dislocation. The finger will be swollen, crooked, and pointed in the opposite direction. It bears repeating that you should visit a medical practitioner immediately, particularly if a thumb is involved.
A hip dislocation goes hand in hand with a femur fracture. More often than not, the hip joint ball pops out of its socket backward. In case, they are no other major injuries, your physician should be able to work to return the joint to its socket. It will take appropriately three (3) months for you to recover.
Although knee dislocations are rare, they can be fatal due to the likelihood of neurovascular damage. Most dislocations involve kneecap (patella). Treatment involves quadriceps strengthening and immobilization that assist stabilize the knee. A victim may undergo surgery if the dislocation is linked to cartilage damage and fractures.
It does not require a lot of impact from a car for a bicyclist to sustain severe neck injuries. The impact will make your head get tossed forward and backward or from one side to the other. You are likely to suffer even more trauma on your cervical spine (neck) if you get another impact that comes from a vehicle, a stationary object, or the ground. If the impact is violent, you risk having your tendons, muscles, bones, nerves, discs, and ligaments injured.
Neck injuries symptoms are deceiving. Usually, they appear days after the accident. Common symptoms include:
- Neck stiffness and pain,
- Increased pain when moving the neck,
- Numbness or tingling in arms,
- Blurred vision,
- Fatigue and dizziness,
- Memory loss,
- Depression, and
Steps to Take After Sustaining Injuries Caused by a Bicycle Accident
Most accidents are caused by careless drivers who don't see cyclists on the road. Taking the correct steps after suffering injuries in a bicycle accident makes the difference in how much you are compensated for the injuries. Here are the steps to take:
Wait for Law Enforcers to Arrive
Even if you think you aren't injured, it is important to wait for law enforcers to reach the scene of the accident. The police will prepare a report. When you leave the scene, you might never identify the liable party.
Additionally, do not try negotiating with the motorist. Most motorists will first apologize and agree to take liability, only to deny their carelessness or even deny their presence at the time of the accident.
Moreover, the police could ticket the motorist. This may be instrumental during the settlement with the insurer.
Make Sure Your Side of the Story is in the Police Report
Occasionally, the law enforcer will take the driver's statement and fail to speak with the rider. Do everything possible to have your version of events in the report. Make sure you report all injuries sustained, however minor. Note a minor injury can later become more severe.
If the law enforcer refuses to have your statement in their report, you could have the police report amended later.
Get Witness and Driver Contact Information
Make sure you obtain the name, phone number, address, vehicle license number, driver's license number, and insurance details of the at-fault party. Also, get the names as well as the contact information of witnesses. Do not assume the police will include this information in their report.
If you're too injured to collect this information, ask another person to do it on your behalf.
Document What Occurred
If possible, write down notes about the bicycle accident: what occurred, how it occurred, where it happened, road, traffic, weather conditions, and when it happened.
Document your Injury
Be sure you seek medical care immediately, even if your injuries are minor. While seeking medical care functions as evidence that you sustained injuries, medical records will take into account the seriousness of the injuries.
Remember to take a few photographs of the injuries immediately after a bicycle accident.
Also, keep a journal of the symptoms for a couple of days.
Preserve Your Evidence
Leave the bicycle and all damaged assets in the same condition as after a bicycle accident. Do not wash your clothes or fix anything. Also, do not send your bicycle or helmet to any person other than your personal injury lawyer.
Seek Legal Advice
Most accidents between motor vehicles and bicycles involve complicated legal issues. As a result, it is wise to consult an experienced attorney who can:
- Guide you on the way forward,
- File a bicycle accident lawsuit, and
- Negotiate with the insurer on your behalf
Do not speak with the insurers before consulting a lawyer. This is because anything you say can be used against you. Sometimes, a letter from your lawyer to the insurer will resolve all the issues without going to trial.
Damages Awarded in a Bicycle Accident
If injured by a negligent driver, you are entitled to a wide range of compensation. Under the law, a person is liable for the accident if they acted:
- Negligently by breached a duty of care that they legally owed you, or
- Intentionally and carelessly in causing injury to you.
The purpose of personal injury law is to make you whole again by compensating you for injuries sustained. Compensatory damages are categorized into two:
Economic damages are the financial losses you have incurred. Typically, they are documented using receipts, bills, and wage records. They include:
- Both current and future medical expenses,
- Lost income,
- Lost earning capacity and
- Loss of personal assets
When a person suffers severe bicycle accident injuries, the most deliberating consequences are not the injuries themselves but the consequential mental and physical anguish. These intangible losses are called non-economic damages. These damages cannot be quantified easily and vary depending on the seriousness of the injury. They seek to compensate:
- Loss of life enjoyment,
- Emotional distress,
- Pain and suffering and
- Loss of consortium
Find an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer Near Me
Bicycles offer a pocket-friendly means of exercise and transport. They are an alternative for getting around town. However, like a motorcycle, as a cyclist, you are likely to suffer severe injuries should an accident occur. This is because most motorists do not pay attention to cyclists. Besides, it does not take a car or truck to cause a bicycle accident; the cause can be construction work done by a road crew, sinkhole, or pothole. The Personal Injury Law Firm is a personal injury law firm that has been representing cyclists in California for many years. Our well-able attorneys have all it takes to offer services that will meet your compensation needs. If you or your loved one has been injured, contact us today at 619-625-8707 to set your initial consultation.