More Bikes on Houston Roads May Mean More Accidents; Houston Bicycle Accident Lawyer Says Cyclists Should Know Their Rights in an Accident

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There’s been a surge of good news for cyclists in Houston and those who want to ride bicycles more. However, cycling with cars on the road can be dangerous, and bikers should be aware of their right to recover if they are hit by a motor vehicle, said Houston bicycle accident lawyer George Wilhite.

Biking has gained significant ground in the Houston area. A report last month in the Houston Chronicle detailed some of the gains bikers have made over the past year, including the introduction of the B-Cycle program, where bikers can rent bikes from Downtown, Midtown and Montrose stations and a bill signed by Gov. Rick Perry that will add 100 miles of hike and bike trails to the Houston area ("More prominent role for cycling envisioned," June 4, 2013).

However, with more biking comes more bicycle accidents, and riders should be aware of their rights if they find themselves injured due to a careless motorist, said Houston auto accident lawyer George Wilhite.

“When a bike and a motor vehicle get into an accident, the bike loses,” Wilhite said. “Bikers are vulnerable when they are on the road, and even the most careful biker could be struck by a distracted driver, drunk driver or driver who is going too fast, leading to severe head injuries and even death.”

According to an April 2013 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report, about 70 percent of bicycle accident fatalities happen in urban settings. Nearly 60 percent do not occur at intersections, however — they occur, for instance, when a car driving down the road sideswipes a bicyclist.

Alcohol was a factor in 37 percent of bicycle accident fatalities in 2011, according to the same report.

Houston bicyclists may have gained extra support from a recent ordinance passed by Houston City Council, Wilhite said. In May, Council passed a safe passing ordinance that requires motorists to give bicyclists and pedestrians at least three feet of space at all time.

In personal injury cases, breaking a law does not automatically make someone liable, Wilhite said. When a defendant breaks a law intended for public safety and causes the injury, however, it does create a rebuttable presumption of negligence, called “negligence per se,” said the Houston bicycle injury attorney.

“If a car passes a bicycle and it’s close enough to sideswipe the cyclist, it’s clear who is responsible,” Wilhite said. “The ordinance adds extra ammunition to the bicyclist’s case.”

If a cyclist is involved in an accident, he or she should do whatever he or she can do to collect as much information as possible on the driver, Wilhite said. While this can be difficult, especially if the cyclist is injured and/or the accident is a hit and run, it is vital to collect damages, Wilhite said. If the driver does not stop, make as much effort as possible to note the license plate, he continued.

Like any accident involving a motor vehicle, the responsible driver’s liability insurance should cover damages, Wilhite said. The insurance company will likely offer a settlement, but the biker should not accept it, he continued. Instead, a Houston cyclist accident attorney can help collect the full extent of damage, Wilhite said.

Damages can include medical bills, physical therapy bills, lost wages, disability, pain and suffering and more.

“Remember, the insurance company is looking out for just one thing — its own bottom line,” Wilhite said. “Don’t accept what they offer.”

George Wilhite is a Houston auto accident attorney who represents the victims of bike accidents, drunk driver accidents, commercial truck accidents and other motor vehicle crashes.

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George Wilhite
Wilhite and Lea, P.C.
since: 07/2010
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