If you have been injured in a bicycle accident involving another vehicle in Hawaii, you may be wondering if you have the same legal rights as drivers of cars and trucks. Bicyclists have the same legal rights and responsibilities in regard to sharing the roads of Hawaii as other vehicle operators.
Many drivers in Hawaii and its neighbor islands drive with Aloha, but some unfortunately are disrespectful of bicyclists and believe they have no right to share the road. This disregard for others’ safety may cause serious accidents. Many bicyclists ride along or near the Queen Kaahumanu Highway on the Big Island because of its breathtaking scenery. Drivers must be on the lookout for bicyclists on the road just as they must remain alert for other cars and trucks, according to the law. Experienced riders are rarely found to be at fault in a collision with a car.
Most accidents occur as a result of an error on the part of a motorist who is intoxicated or distracted and not looking out for cyclists. A motorist’s failure to respect a bicyclist’s right to ride on the road is tantamount to negligence when a serious accident results. A Honolulu bicycle accident lawyer at Leavitt Yamane & Soldner will review the facts of your accident free of charge and explain your legal options to seek compensation.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU HAVE BEEN INJURED
After an accident causing injury or property damage, notify police of the accident and remain as near the accident scene as is safe.
You should also do the following:
• Assess your own condition and that of others involved. Common injuries in bicycle accidents include scrapes, lacerations, fractures and more serious injuries, such as head trauma and spinal injuries. If you or anyone else involved in the collision has been injured, summon emergency medical responders.
• Request names, addresses, and insurance information from others involved in the accident and get contact information for any eyewitnesses to the accident.
• It is also a good idea to use your phone camera to take photos of the accident scene and your injuries. The photos may provide useful evidence for you and your attorney if you need to file an accident claim later.
HAWAII’S NO FAULT LAW
Many bicyclists including tourists visiting the islands who do not understand how Hawaii’s no-fault insurance system works and the steps you should take after an accident. All motorists in Hawaii are supposed to have their own no-fault insurance coverage to pay for medical costs. In an accident involving a car and a bicycle, Hawaii’s no-fault insurance system provides that injured bicyclists are eligible to receive up to $10,000 in medical benefits from the no-fault insurance of the motor vehicle involved in the crash, regardless of who is at fault. You do not need to show negligence on the part of the motorist to receive these benefits.
Injuries suffered in a bicycle accident are often severe and may require a long stay in the hospital. In many collisions, the forward momentum of the bicycle throws the bicyclist over the handlebars, which can result in a fracture or a serious head injury. If the medical bills for your bicycle accident injuries exceed the amount paid by the no-fault insurance, you may be entitled to make a legal claim against the at-fault driver after the no-fault insurance company has paid $5,000 of your medical bills. This can be confusing, so it is best to have an experienced bicycle accident attorney review the facts of your accident and explain your legal options.
If you let us help you, we will make sure that you receive the medical treatment you need. It is best to make sure that you have received all the medical treatment that you need and have completed your treatment and recovered from your injury before we make an injury claim against an insurance company.
Bicycle Helmet Safety
Most fatal bicycle accidents are due to head injuries, according to the Hawaii Department of Transportation. A properly fitted bicycle helmet can prevent a head injury or reduce the seriousness of a brain injury if you are involved in a bicycle accident. A study by the Institute of Medicine on sport-related concussions found that wearing a helmet reduces the risk of traumatic brain injury by nearly 70 percent. Hawaii law requires that every bicycle rider under age 16 wear a helmet when riding. Every rider should wear a helmet to reduce the risk of a head injury in an accident.
Bicyclists should also do the following:
• Select a bicycle helmet that fits as snugly as possible without being uncomfortable. With the sizing pads inserted to fine-tune the fit, the helmet should not move from side to side. The helmet should sit low on your forehead, one to two fingers above your eyebrow.
• Adjust the straps so they form a V under your ears and the strap buckle is centered under your chin, not to one side. The straps should be snug enough that opening your mouth will pull down the helmet. If the straps fit loosely, the helmet will not stay in place and protect your head in an accident.
• Look for a helmet that is Consumer Product Safety Commission certified. If you are wearing an older helmet, look for a label to make sure that the helmet meets ANSI or Snell standards.
It’s important to wear a properly fitted helmet each time you get on a bicycle. If you are wearing an improperly fitted helmet, it may not stay in place and protect your head during a crash. According to the AAA Hawai’i Guide to Safe Bicycling in Hawai’i, there are approximately 1,500 bicycle accidents a year that cause injuries or fatalities. Many of these are due to lack of visibility and motorists who did not see the bicyclist before a collision.
As a bicyclist, it is imperative to make yourself as visible to other motorists as possible for your own protection. In addition to a brightly colored helmet, wear brightly colored, reflective clothing to make yourself more visible to other motorists.
Traffic Guidelines for Safety
Riding a bicycle is a great way to see more of the stunning scenery of Hawaii and the neighboring islands. Bicyclists have a right to share the roads of Hawaii. But they do not automatically have right-of-way over other vehicles. Bicyclists have rights and responsibilities for obeying traffic safety laws as drivers of vehicles on Hawaii’s roadways.
If you are a bicyclist, you are required to know Hawaii’s traffic laws and to obey them. If you fail to follow the traffic laws and are injured in an accident, it will make it more difficult for you to collect financial compensation.
Bicyclists are required to ride in the same direction as other traffic and to ride in a single file unless using a designated bicycle lane or bicycle path. Drivers on the Big Island are more accustomed to seeing cyclists than drivers on some of the neighboring islands where bicyclists are less common. But when riding a bicycle on the road, it is important to remain alert for other motorists at all times.
According to the Hawaii Department of Transportation, bicyclists who are moving slower than cars should ride near the right edge or shoulder of the road so that faster moving vehicles can pass. There are some exceptions to this rule. Bicyclists may move away from the right shoulder to the middle of the road under certain circumstances. These circumstances include when the bicyclist is moving at normal speed, when the road is too narrow for a bicycle and motorist to travel side by side, when necessary to avoid a roadside pothole or hazard and when preparing to make a left turn.
Tips for Bicycling Safety
Use hand signals when turning. To signal a left turn, extend your left arm out from your side. To signal a right turn, extend your right arm or bend your left arm up at a right angle with your hand flat.
Look behind you before changing lanes or changing positions within a lane to make sure another vehicle is not approaching.
Other tips include:
• When making a left turn on a bicycle, you should signal your turn, move into the center of the turning lane and complete the turn. Alternatively, you may ride to a pedestrian crosswalk and walk your bicycle across the intersection.
• Drivers who are turning across a bicycle lane must yield the right-of-way to bicyclists.
Assume that other motorists do not see you and try to make eye contact with them to make sure they do see you.
• If you ride at night, Hawaii law requires that your bicycle have a front headlight that is visible at least 500 feet away, a rear red reflector visible at least 600 feet away and reflective material on both wheels.
• Bicycling support groups have cited the safety concepts embodied in Kamehameha’s Law of the Splintered Paddle to assert bicyclists right to ride safely on the roads of Hawaii.
Hawaii has adopted a vulnerable road user’s law to increase protection for bicyclists, pedestrians, and police. Bicyclists who are obeying traffic laws and acting lawfully are protected by Hawaii’s Vulnerable Users Law. The law doubles the penalties for a motorist who is operating in a negligent manner and seriously injures or fatally injures a cyclist who is riding legally on a public street or highway.
HOW DO YOU KNOW IF YOU NEED A HONOLULU BICYCLE ACCIDENT ATTORNEY?
Seeking the assistance of a trusted Honolulu bicycle accident lawyer is important for ensuring that your legal rights as a bicyclist to be on the road are respected. You should not be treated as if you were somehow to blame for an accident just because you were riding a bicycle. If you have been involved in a bicycle accident and sustained injuries requiring emergency medical treatment or hospital care, you may have thousands of dollars of medical bills.
You may have disabling injuries that will affect your ability to live independently and require ongoing medical treatment and assistance. A knowledgeable personal injury lawyer will work with life-care planners to project your future medical expenses and losses and include those as part of your claim.
You should get the medical treatment that you need and consult a bicycle accident lawyer about your legal rights to seek compensation.
How to file a claim after bicycle accident
If you have been involved in a serious bicycle accident involving another vehicle, you may be eligible to file an injury claim after the at-fault driver’s no-fault insurance has paid at least $5000 of your medical bills. It’s important to recognize that every bike accident has its own unique circumstances, contributing factors and degrees of injury. An experienced injury attorney can review the specific details of your bicycle accident and explain your legal options.
An injured bicyclist who qualifies to file an injury claim may pursue compensation for:
• Medical bills
• Rehabilitation expenses
• Lost income due to missed work
• Pain and suffering
If the accident was caused by a driver whose conduct showed wanton disregard for public safety, such as a driver travelling at a very high speed, you may be entitled to seek punitive damages from the at-fault driver as well. The lawyers at Leavitt Yamane & Solder will review the specific facts of your accident and identify all the potentially responsible parties who may have liability for your injuries. We will interview witnesses and make sure that the bicyclist’s version of what happened in the accident is part of the record and not ignored by insurance companies biased in favor of car drivers.
We will represent you in negotiations with the insurance company and seek a settlement that reflects the full extent of your injuries. If the insurance company refuses to make a fair settlement, we will pursue the claim in court, where we have been successful in helping many clients.