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Biking in Pennsylvania: Understanding Your Rights After a Cycling Accident

Town Law Publishing Aug. 7, 2023

As summer unfolds and the great outdoors beckons, there is a significant rise in the number of people turning to bicycles as a mode of transportation, exercise, or simply for the sheer joy of cycling. Pennsylvania, with its scenic trails, lush countryside, and city bike lanes, is a haven for cyclists. However, with the increase in cycling, the potential for accidents also grows. If you're a cyclist in Pennsylvania, understanding your rights and the legal recourse available to you after an accident is crucial.

Pennsylvania Bicycle Laws: What Cyclists Need to Know

Before delving into the rights of cyclists post-accident, it's important to first understand the laws that govern biking in Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) has detailed laws in place to ensure the safety of cyclists on the road.

Under Pennsylvania law, bicycles are considered vehicles. This means that cyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as motorists. For instance, cyclists are required to obey all traffic signals and signs, just like drivers. However, there are also rules that apply specifically to cyclists. For instance, cyclists are required to ride on the right-hand side of the road, use appropriate hand signals when turning, and have a front lamp and rear reflector when cycling after dusk.

Cycling Accidents: Causes and Precautions

The leading causes of cycling accidents in Pennsylvania often involve collisions with motor vehicles. These can occur when a car turns directly in front of a bicyclist, when a car pulls out of a driveway or parking spot without noticing a cyclist, or when a car overtakes a cyclist without maintaining a safe distance. Unfortunately, because cyclists are more exposed, these accidents can lead to serious injuries.

To prevent such incidents, both cyclists and motorists must share the road responsibly. Cyclists should make themselves visible by wearing bright clothing and using lights and reflectors, especially when cycling after dark. They should also wear helmets, which, although not mandated by law for those over 12 years, greatly reduce the risk of head injuries.

Understanding Your Rights After a Cycling Accident

When a cycling accident occurs, the injured party has the right to seek compensation for their injuries. The process typically involves proving that the motorist was negligent and that their negligence directly caused the accident and the cyclist's injuries.

Following an accident, it's crucial to gather as much evidence as possible from the scene, including photographs of the accident, witness testimonies, and the police report. Seeking immediate medical attention is also essential, not only for health reasons but also because medical records serve as valuable evidence of the injuries sustained.

In Pennsylvania, a cyclist can potentially recover damages for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and even bike repairs or replacement. It's important to note that Pennsylvania follows a 'modified comparative negligence' rule, which means that even if you, as the cyclist, were partially at fault for the accident, you can still recover damages. However, your compensation will be reduced by the percentage of your fault.

Legal Help: The Value of an Experienced Attorney

Navigating the legal landscape after a cycling accident can be complex and daunting, particularly when you're also dealing with physical and emotional trauma. Engaging an experienced personal injury attorney who is familiar with Pennsylvania's bicycle laws can be invaluable.

A skilled attorney can help you understand your rights, gather and preserve necessary evidence, negotiate with insurance companies, and advocate for you in court if needed. They can also help you understand the statute of limitations for personal injury lawsuits in Pennsylvania, which is generally two years from the date of the accident.

Cycling in Pennsylvania, whether for leisure or as a mode of transportation, can offer immense benefits and joy. However, the risk of accidents is real. By understanding your rights and responsibilities on the road, you can not only help prevent accidents but also ensure that you are prepared and protected should one occur. And remember, if you're involved in a cycling accident, seeking legal help promptly can significantly impact your ability to recover the compensation you deserve.