As the summer months approach and warmer weather enters the Carolina’s, more people are traveling the streets by way of a bicycle. In Charlotte, there is a tremendous increase in commuters using LimeBike, Bcycling, or personal bicycles as a means of transportation during the summer season. However, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation, each year in North Carolina approximately 1,000 bicyclists are involved in police-reported crashes with motor vehicles. On average, around twenty (20) are killed, and an additional sixty (60) are seriously injured; and children and young adults being the most frequent victims. Charlotte and Raleigh, in particular, are overwhelmed with bicycle-motor vehicle related crashes and injuries. Without the protection of being in a car, it comes as no surprise that bicyclists can easily suffer devastating injuries in a collision.
Oftentimes, motorist refuse to pay attention to bicyclists, let alone share the roads with them. Many members of the bicycling community even contend that some motorists, irate at having to share the road with bicyclists, aggressively bully bicyclists. In the majority of cases, however, the motorists simply fail to notice the biker and subsequently, fail to avoid a collision, especially at street intersections. To be sure, there are other factors that contribute to bicycle-motor vehicle accidents, and quite often, motorists ignore traffic laws that are applicable to bicyclists. In addition, other possible circumstances include dangerous road conditions that create unavoidable collisions, opening a car door in a bicyclist’s path, or failing to stop at a safe distance to prevent driving into a bicyclist. Instances such as these create potentially dangerous conditions for bicyclists traveling the public roads.
Generally, motorists have a duty to exercise ordinary or reasonable care to avoid collisions with bicyclist since, under North Carolina law, they constitute a vehicle and consequently, are appropriate for use on public streets and highways. Likewise, bicyclists are required to exercise ordinary or reasonable care for their own safety. However, although both motorists and bicyclists are under a duty of ordinary care, motorists are required to exercise a higher duty given the physical discrepancies between a motor vehicle and a bicycle, and the likelihood of injury associated with them. As such, the reasonable care required of a motorist depends on the place, circumstances, conditions, and surroundings. Therefore, motorists must drive at a reasonable rate of speed, maintain an adequate lookout, and keep his or her vehicle under control as to avoid striking a bicyclist.
For example, many motorists claim that bicycles are less visible than other motor vehicles. However, if a motorist claims he did not see a bicyclist before he struck him or her, the motorist will likely be charged with knowledge of the bicycle on the street or highway in plain view. Accordingly, the motorist will be deemed to have seen what he could have seen had a prudent and vigilant driver, maintaining ordinary care, saw in a similar circumstance. As a result, the motorist would be considered negligent toward the bicyclists for failing to see him or her.
On the other hand, in the unfortunate event that a bicyclist suffered personal injuries or property damage related to a motor vehicle collision, filing a claim against the driver’s insurance company could also be a headache. Insurance companies are reluctant to offer much help, and instead, they will likely consider every detail of the situation surrounding the collision to deny your claim.
North Carolina is a “contributory negligent” state, meaning that a person may be barred from recovering any compensation for his or her injuries if it is determined that he or she was even one percent (1%) responsible for causing their own injuries. This doctrine prevents recovery despite any degree of negligence on behalf of the opposing party, even if they had an even greater contribution to the injuries suffered. Therefore, improper maintenance of your bicycle that leads to a bicycle-motor vehicle related accidents may prevent you from recovering for resulting injuries. For bicycle-related injuries, it is especially important to have a competent legal team to assist you in the complex process of determining fault. Effective counsel may be able to help you receive compensation for the following:
- Pain and suffering
- Wrongful death
- Emergency services
- Medical bills
- Lost income and/or loss of earning potential
Contact the experienced attorneys at Rosensteel Fleishman, PLLC to review your case and help you seek compensation. Keep in mind, bicycle-related injury claims must be filed within three (3) years of the accident date, according to North Carolina’s statute of limitations.
To reduce your chances of being injured in a motor vehicle-bicycle related accident, or to strengthen your claim and quash possible assertion of contributory negligence, it may be useful to know North Carolina laws that govern bicycles. Under N.C. Gen. Stat. §20, a bicycle is a vehicle that is subject to vehicle traffic laws. Accordingly, we encourage bicyclists to review N.C.G.S. §20 in full detail. Below, however, are a few provisions that apply to bicyclists:
- Bicycles are required to be equipped with reflective or lighted lamps on the front and rear of the bicycle.
- Bicyclists must obey all stop lights or stop signs.
- Bicyclists are prohibited from operating the bicycle upon any highway, street, or public area while under the influence of an impairing substance or alcohol.
must ride on the right side of the road at all times, unless:
- The bicyclist is overtaking and passing another vehicle traveling in the same direction.
- The bicyclist is avoiding a dangerous obstruction
- The bicyclist is preparing for a left turn.
- Bicyclists must signal a turn by mechanical or electrical device, or if by hand and arm, plainly visible movements in accordance to N.C.G.S. §20-154.
- Bicyclists must yield to pedestrians who are walking in a roadway, sidewalk, or crosswalk.
Aside from knowing specific North Carolina laws, bicyclists in Charlotte should become familiar with Charlotte City Code §14 to understand local laws that may apply. The following are highlighted provisions from the Charlotte city code:
- Bicyclists are prohibited from riding on, or carrying another person, upon the handle bars.
- Bicyclists are prohibited from operating a bicycle that is not equipped with a braking system sufficient to control and stop the bike’s movement.
- Bicyclists are required to travel in a single file when two (2) or more bicycles are operating in a group.
- Bicyclists are prohibited from leaving the bicycle on the ground, pavement, or against trees, or any place where a pedestrian may trip over it and be injured.
- Bicyclists are prohibited from riding along the right-of-way of any railroad track at any time within the City.
Contact Rosensteel Fleishman, PLLC if you believe you are entitled to compensation for a motor vehicle-bicycle related injury.