Bicycling around Kansas City is a fuel-efficient way to travel short to moderate distances, plus the physical mode of transportation offers health and financial benefits, as well as perks for the environment. Unfortunately, an average of 38 serious injuries involving bicyclists and around four deaths occur in the KC region every year. Kansas City aims to increase the safety of bicyclists through education programs, dedicated bike lanes, and traffic laws to protect these special road users. Cyclists who have suffered injuries in the area can come to the Kansas City personal injury lawyers at Wendt Law Firm P.C. for advice on how to pursue coverage for medical bills, missed work, and other damages. Our Kansas City bike accident lawyers have decades of experience and a proven track record of success!
Between 2014 and 2016, there were 23 fatalities from bicycle accidents in Missouri. The highest mortality rate was among the 50 to 55 age group, followed by the 26 to 30 age group. Bicycle accidents are more common, and more deadly, in urban areas like Kansas City. Despite these apparently low numbers, it’s important to remember that nonfatal bicycle accidents can still cause devastating injuries and expensive damages.
Bicycle Laws in Kansas and Missouri
In Kansas City, bicycles are “vehicles” by law. They, therefore, have all the same rights and responsibilities as motor vehicles. Bicyclists may use the roadway to travel when bike lanes do not exist. They may not ride on sidewalks in downtown KC unless they are 12 years old or younger. Motorists in Missouri must maintain safe traveling distances around bicycles – a minimum of three feet at all times. Most counties in Missouri and Kansas require those under 18 to wear helmets while cycling. Breaking any of the bicycle laws in KC can increase the risks of collisions and serious injuries.
The majority of bike accidents occur because someone broke the law. Roadway laws are in place for the safety of motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians. Breaking the rules opens the door to collisions. When motorists enter crosswalks without the right of way, speed, or engage in unsafe practices such as texting and driving, they risk the lives of everyone else on the roadway. Bicyclists are particularly at risk as vulnerable road users. A collision may cause minor vehicle damage to the motorist but can end the life of the cyclist. It is up to motorists to acknowledge the rights of bicyclists in Kansas and Missouri and to obey the laws.
If a motor vehicle driver breaks the law in any way, resulting in a bicycle collision, he or she may be guilty of negligence per se. In a typical negligence case, the plaintiff has to prove negligence by showing that a reasonable and prudent party would not have done the same thing as the defendant in similar circumstances. In a negligence per se case, the defendant’s negligence is obvious because he or she broke the law. Negligence per se claims is easier to win than typical negligence cases. A Kansas City bike accident lawyer can improve your odds of compensation in either type of claim.
Riding a Bicycle Versus Operating a Motor Vehicle
Riding a bike and driving a motor vehicle may seem like vastly different practices, but they have many similarities in the eyes of the law. Both drivers and bicyclists have an obligation to share the road under the laws in the state of Missouri. This means bicyclists have many of the same obligations as other drivers. Under Missouri law:
Bicyclists must ride with traffic, never against it.
Bicyclists should ride as close to the side of the road as possible (allowing for safety).
A bicyclist may move toward the middle or left of a lane as appropriate, including while making a left turn, to avoid a hazard, and when the lane is too narrow to share with a motor vehicle.
Bicyclists must check traffic and signal their intent to change lanes or a position within a lane.
Motorists also have certain obligations when sharing the road with bicyclists. These include:
Changing speed and providing care around a bicyclist, especially with poor road conditions.
Giving a full lane to bicyclists when passing, if possible.
Yielding to a cyclist when making a right turn.
Yielding to an oncoming cyclist when making a left turn.
Checking for bicycle traffic before opening a car door in a downtown or urban area.
Yielding to bicyclists in a bike lane.
Common Causes of Bike Accidents and How to Avoid Them
Motorists have an obligation to share the road with bicyclists and pedestrians, but some do not exercise the necessary care. The most common cause of bike accidents involving motor vehicles include:
Failing to yield the right of way. Many motorists do not realize the speed of oncoming bicycles and turn left into them, or they may turn right into a cyclist when the bike is in his or her blind spot. Bicyclists can do their part to prevent these types of accidents by signaling a desire to turn and wearing bright or reflective clothing.
Opening a door into oncoming traffic.This type of accident is common in busy downtown areas and occurs when a parallel-parked motorist fails to look for bicycles before opening a car door. Cyclists can help prevent this type of injury-causing accident by moving to the center of a lane and leaving enough space between them and an opening car door.
Most Common Injuries Sustained in a Bike Accident
Some of the most common injuries in bicycle accidents include bone fractures, traumatic brain injuries, spinal damage, lacerations, and contusions. While some injuries may heal quickly and cause minimal discomfort, others can take longer to heal or even result in permanent disability or death. Head injuries are responsible for 60% of deaths caused by bicycle accidents. Missouri has no mandated law for bicycle helmet use, but it is a good idea to wear one whenever you ride in Kansas City.
When a driver or another person causes a bicycle accident, it’s vital to know your rights to hold them accountable for their negligence. If your bicycle accident happened due to poor road maintenance or other road hazards, you may be able to file a claim against the local government or municipality in charge of maintaining the road. There are many possible causes of bicycle accidents in Kansas and Missouri, and an experienced personal injury lawyer in Kansas City can be a tremendous asset in any event.
Understanding Liability and Damages in a Bike Accident
Liability with bike accidents works similarly to that of car accidents. When a bicyclist gets into an accident with another vehicle and the driver is at fault, he or she may pursue damages against the driver to compensate for medical bills and other damages.
Determining fault in a bike accident is no simple task, but it generally requires proof of the following elements:
The driver owed the bicyclist a duty of care.
The driver violated that duty by committing negligence. A driver usually commits negligence by breaking a traffic law.
The driver’s negligence directly resulted in the bicyclist’s injuries.
The bicyclist suffered harm because of the accident.
An injured bicyclist may have grounds for a valid personal injury claim, assuming the preceding elements are true. An injured party may collect the following types of damages after an accident under Missouri’s state laws:
Economic damages, which compensate for the tangible harms a bicyclist suffers in an accident. Examples include medical bills, lost wages, and the costs of future care.
Noneconomic damages such as physical pain, suffering, emotional anguish, or loss in quality of life.
Bicycle accident victims may be able to gain valuable reimbursement for their injuries when they result from a negligent driver. To learn more about your possible legal options, contact us, and schedule a free case evaluation with our Kansas City personal injury lawyers.
When to Contact a Kansas City Bike Accident Lawyer
More often than not, bike accidents result in serious injuries. Bicyclists can suffer concussions, traumatic brain damage, crush injuries, internal damage, spinal cord injuries, and broken bones. Some injuries may result in permanent disability. Injured bicyclists should not accept insurance settlement offers without first speaking to a qualified personal injury attorney. The driver’s insurance company is likely offering less than the case is actually worth. A personal injury claim against the driver, on the other hand, can result in maximum recovery. A bike accident lawyer can help with insurance settlement negotiations or a civil claim after a harmful bike collision in KC.
Filing a Lawsuit for a Bike Accident in Kansas City
If you or a loved one suffered injuries in a bicycle accident in Missouri, it’s crucial to meet with an experienced bicycle accident attorney in Kansas City as soon as possible. Bicycle accidents happen for many reasons, and your attorney will review the details of your situation to determine whether or not negligence caused your accident. If another driver ran a stop sign and hit your bike, swerved into the bicycle lane and hit you from behind, or swung a door open in front of you while you were in the bike lane, you may have grounds for legal action.
The plaintiff in a bicycle accident case will need to prove that the defendant was negligent, and his or her negligence directly resulted in the plaintiff’s damages. He or she must show that the defendant was present for the given situation and owed a duty of care to the plaintiff, but failed to meet this duty. The plaintiff must also provide evidence that his or her damages were the direct result of the defendant’s negligence and not some other cause.
If successful, a plaintiff in a bicycle accident lawsuit can secure compensation for medical expenses resulting from the accident and any other out-of-pocket expenses resulting from the defendant’s negligence. This can include the costs of replacing or repairing the bicycle and other personal belongings, lost wages from missed time at work, and transportation costs following the accident. Plaintiffs may also receive compensation for their pain and suffering, but you’ll need an experienced personal injury attorney to represent your case. Contact the Wendt Law Firm team today to schedule a free consultation with one of our Kansas City bike accident attorneys about your bicycle accident case.