Bicycling is becoming increasingly popular in Wisconsin, with more than 80 trails in the rails-to-trails system (including the Elroy-Sparta Trail), plus hundreds of more miles along quiet country roads. There are also many people opting to bike-to-work or school, primarily in the warmer months, and a growing number of city cycle clubs are cropping up in communities like Madison and Milwaukee.
However, when motorists aren’t watching out for this influx of cyclists, it results in more bicycle accidents each summer.
At Lein Law Offices, our bicycle accident attorneys in Hayward and Winter are committed to helping cyclists injured in collisions with motor vehicles examine their legal options and determine the best course of action.
WI. Stats. § 340.01(5), 346.02(4)(a) and 346.80(2)(a) define bicycle laws, under which bicycles are considered “vehicles.” That means cyclists are expected to abide the rules of the road – just like any other person operating a vehicle. It also means all other road users must treat them as equals. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen, which is why bicyclists are considered “vulnerable road users.”
Wisconsin Bicycle Accident Statistics
Like most crashes, bicycle accidents can – and should be prevented. The Wisconsin Department of Transportation identifies operator errors as the No. 1 cause of bicycle accidents.
When children are involved, the agency reports, child error is responsible for 9 in 10 bike crashes. However, when adults are involved, the majority is the result of motorist error – most commonly a left turn across the path of an oncoming bicycle.
Wrong-way bicycle riding – for both adults and children – accounts for approximately one-third of all Wisconsin bicycle accidents. Other common child bicyclist errors include driveway ride-out (not looking for traffic at the end of a driveway or curb before entering the street) and stop sign ride-out (not stopping or looking before riding into an intersection). Children are also prone to swerving in front of motor vehicles.
However, it should be noted that children generally are not considered capable of contributory negligence, which means there may still be grounds for a lawsuit against the driver in these cases. An experienced injury attorney will be able to shed more light on your rights under the law.
A few other fast facts about Wisconsin bicycle crashes:
- One bicyclist is injured or killed every 10.2 hours in Wisconsin;
- In the estimated 920 bicycle crashes in a single recent year in Wisconsin, 11 were killed and nearly 850 injured;
- Bicyclists are almost ALWAYS injured in a collision involving a motor vehicle (because cyclists are not heavily protected from direct impact from the car, pavement or other fixed objects).
Although bicycle fatalities and injuries have decreased in Wisconsin over the last two decades, there continues to be annual fluctuations.
Establishing Negligence in Bicycle Injury Cases
As with any personal injury lawsuit, the legal theory upon which these cases are built is negligence. Negligence can be established when:
- Defendant owes plaintiff a duty of care;
- Defendant breaches that duty;
- Breach causes plaintiff injury;
- Injury results in damages (economic and non-economic).
In a Wisconsin bicycle accident case, we establish that the driver owed the bicyclist a duty to use ordinary care in operating the motor vehicle by obeying all traffic laws and using adequate caution for cyclists who are near or approaching. We also show a violation of law or lack of care caused the crash which resulted in cyclist’s injuries, and then also establish the nature and extent of injuries, typically through medical records, forensic accounting and witness testimony.
A common defense in these cases is contributory negligence, which is the assertion that plaintiff/ bicyclist was wholly or at least partially to blame for the crash.
As noted in WI Stat. 895.045, a finding of contributory negligence can proportionately reduce one’s overall damage award. For instance, if you are awarded $100,000, but the jury finds you are 30 percent contributorily negligent, your damage award will be reduced by 30 percent, so you would receive $70,000.
However, as a modified comparative fault state with a 51 percent bar, Wisconsin law prohibits any recovery for claims wherein plaintiff is more than 50 percent liable.
WDOT opines that roadway design, speed, better lighting and improved pedestrian/ bicycle facilities (i.e., bicycle lanes, paved shoulders, etc.) can help continue to reduce the number of bicycle accidents in Wisconsin.
Motorists can help keep this number low by:
- Giving cyclists a minimum of 3 feet clearance when passing;
- Checking back to their left (while parked) before opening the car door into traffic;
- Watch and yield for oncoming bicyclists while turning left;
- Yield for bicyclists traveling on your right when turning right;
- Use great caution when younger cyclists are present.
Our Hayward bicycle accident attorneys can assist bike crash victims determining the best course of legal action to help you recover financially.
Contact Lein Law Offices for information about your bicycle accident in Hayward, Winter or elsewhere in Sawyer County or Wisconsin by calling toll-free at 877-712-4023.