Resources for Pedestrian and Bicycle Accident Victims in Virginia
Pedestrians and bicyclists are particularly vulnerable to severe injuries because of the size and weight difference between them and the striking vehicle and the transfer of mass. As a pedestrian or bicyclist involved in a motor vehicle crash, there is no metal bumper, shell or steel barrier to protect you from the impact. Additionally, there are no safety protections that motor vehicle operators enjoy, such as airbag deployment or restraining belts. Thus, even where a motorist is traveling at a slow speed, the potential for catastrophic and life-threatening bodily harm is high to a pedestrian or bicyclist who is struck.
Your Rights Under Virginia Law
Where pedestrian and bicycle accidents are caused by careless acts on behalf of the adverse motorist, such cases can typically be pursued under the legal theory of liability termed “negligence.” In a claim based upon negligence, in order to prevail you must prove:
- The adverse motorist had a duty to operate the vehicle in a reasonably safe manner, (this duty generally applies to all Maryland drivers with limited exceptions);
- That person breached this legal duty through careless or reckless conduct;
- The breach of duty was a direct cause of the pedestrian or bicycle accident in which you were injured; and,
- You suffered physical, financial, and emotional losses as a result of being hurt.
To give you a better understanding of negligence in a collision involving a person on foot or a bike, some examples may be helpful. For instance, a driver may be negligent if he or she:
- Runs a red light;
- Fails to yield when you are in an intersection, crosswalk, bike lane, or other space;
- Drives while under the influence of alcohol or drugs; or,
- Makes an improper lane change.
In addition, another type of negligence has been getting media attention in recent years — texting, talking, reviewing social media, or surfing the internet while driving. Despite laws banned cell phone use behind the wheel, far too many drivers still engage in this extremely unsafe conduct. Plus, there are other forms of distracted driving that are just as risky, including grooming, eating, playing with the radio, and interacting with a GPS device.
How Compensation Works for Pedestrian and Bicycle Accidents
In most cases, as an injured pedestrian or bicyclist, you will need to seek monetary damages by filing a claim with the responsible motorist’s insurance company. Virginia’s mandatory auto insurance laws are intended to protect and provide compensation to victims of motor vehicle crashes caused by the negligence of another, including incidents involving people on foot or bicycles. That said, there can be challenges in working with an insurer, since these companies strive to protect their own interests and generally have adverse interests to the injured claimant. As such, claimants may sometimes experience that the insurance provider will offer a low amount of compensation – or may even deny the claim outright. In such a situation, you may need to file a lawsuit against the at-fault motorist in court to get the monetary damages you deserve by law.
Generally, the function of a personal injury is to seek all available compensation on your behalf. For example: you may be entitled to recover amounts for such losses as:
- Medical costs, including surgery, physical therapy, treatment from specialists, and pain medications;
- Lost income;
- Pain and suffering;
- Scarring and disfigurement;
- Emotional anguish;
- Losses based upon your personal relationships with your spouse, children, and other loved ones; and,
- Many others, depending on the facts of your case.
Beware Virginia’s Contributory Negligence Rule
Even when you have solid evidence to support a finding of fault on the part of the adverse motorist as well as your losses as an injured victim, you need to be aware of a harsh rule regarding liability in Virginia. Virginia follows the law of contributory negligence, which puts the focus on your own actions. If you contributed to the pedestrian or bicycle accident, even just slightly, you are completely barred from recovering any compensation for your losses. Virginia is one of a few states that applies the contributory negligence rule and, despite efforts to move to a rule on comparative fault, it remains the law within the state.
Examples of the contributory negligence rule might include:
- For Bicycle Riders: Failing to stay in a designated bike lane, weaving in and out of moving traffic, or, not complying with traffic signals.
- For Pedestrians: Crossing against the light or failing to obey “Don’t Walk” signage, straying outside of a designated crosswalk, crossing an intersection diagonally, or jaywalking.
Trust an Experienced Maryland Personal Injury Lawyer for Legal Help
If you were hurt in a pedestrian or bicycle accident in one of the Northern Virginia counties, contact us today for a no-cost evaluation regarding your legal options. We regularly represent clients in Fairfax, Annandale, Vienna, Arlington, Alexandria, and Prince William County. We are prepared to advocate on your behalf in dealings with an insurance company, and we are ready to take the battle to court if necessary to protect your interests.