How to Find the Best Bicycle Accident Attorney in Philadelphia
A bicycle accident can leave you in pain while unable to work and participate fully in life. Chances are good that your bicycle accident resulted from another’s negligence, such as a motorist or bicycle manufacturer. In that case, you need the best bicycle accident Attorney in Philadelphia.
But where can you find the best bicycle accident lawyers in Pennsylvania?
Try the following methods:
Your friends, family, neighbors, and others may have experience with a personal injury lawyer. A referral from a former client is priceless.
Contact the Bar Association
The Philadelphia Bar Association can provide a list of lawyers practicing in the personal injury space.
Visit Legal Websites
Legal websites like Nolo and Avvo offer reviews and referrals.
Visiting the lawyer’s website can provide valuable information and links to testimonials, reviews, and other helpful data.
What Does a Bicycle Accident Lawyer Do in Philadelphia?
Bicycle accident lawyers go up against insurance companies to win their clients the compensation they deserve. Success in this endeavor requires the skills and experience needed to build strong cases, negotiate to win, and persuade juries.
Key facets of the bicycle accident lawyer’s job include the following:
Investigating the Claim
Your bicycle accident lawyer starts by investigating your claim. Success in court requires evidence that proves the four essential elements of a personal injury claim:
- The defendant(s) had a duty of care
- The defendant(s) breached that duty
- The specific breach alleged caused the injury
- The plaintiff has actual damages from the incident
The investigation naturally starts during your initial consultation. During this session, your attorney listens to your story and asks pertinent questions. He or she needs to know if you have a case based on the ability to establish the four elements described above.
Some of the information your lawyer may need include the following:
- Your demographic information
- Your insurance coverage, if applicable
- The contact information for any witnesses
- The contact information for the defendant (s)
- The defendant’s insurance information, if available
- Your recollection of events
- Details on your injuries
- Relevant medical records
- Any other evidence, such as photos or videos of the accident scene
- Any related reports, such as police reports
After learning what happened and reviewing any evidence in your possession, your bicycle accident lawyer provides an evaluation of the claim. Your attorney will foreshadow the legal process, give an opinion on the strength of the case, and apprise you of comparative negligence and its potential impact on your claim.
Your attorney then prepares a complaint and submits it to the court. Some cases settle before the complaint is officially filed. But in most cases, filing a lawsuit is necessary to convince the defendant that you mean business.
The investigation process continues through discovery. During discovery, your attorney can demand the production of all the other side’s evidence and vice versa. This step often leads to settlement negotiations.
For instance, the defendant may be required to turn over a dash cam video that shows him striking you with his vehicle. Likely, in the face of such strong evidence, the defendant will wish to settle earlier because the images leave little room to doubt his liability.
Additionally, attorneys conduct a process called interrogatories. Interrogatories are written questions lawyers prepare for the other side’s witnesses. These serve as another investigative tool, allowing attorneys to define the facts further.
Depositions often provide key evidence in personal injury lawsuits. Depositions are face-to-face interviews of the other side’s witnesses. Witnesses answer questions under oath, and a stenographer creates an official record.
Many cases settle shortly before or after depositions. In many cases, defendants prefer to settle rather than sit for a deposition because they will be forced to make admissions under oath. Also, many defendants become amenable to settlements after depositions if they feel it favors the plaintiff.
When the defendant(s) remain intransigent, the case goes before a jury; however, the investigative process usually firmly establishes the four key elements, so most defendants settle rather than adding the cost of a trial to the damages they are sure to pay.
Proving a Personal Injury Claim in Philadelphia
Defense lawyers focus on undermining the plaintiff’s evidence for each of the essential elements. For instance, the defense may argue that the plaintiff failed to establish a duty of care existed or dispute that the incident resulted in the injury.
Furthermore, the defense frequently tries to disqualify as many of the damages claimed as possible. This can be done by disputing a medical procedure related to the injury or minimizing the plaintiff’s pain and suffering.
Therefore, it’s essential to construct an unassailable case proving the following:
Duty to Exercise Reasonable Care
No negligence exists unless the defendant has a legally recognized duty of care. When the defendant struck the plaintiff with his vehicle, the duty of care was apparent. All motorists have a duty of care to avoid collisions with cyclists. As a result, if the accident was the driver’s fault, he is liable.
In another example, a bicycle manufacturer has a duty of care toward its customers. If it sells a defective product and the rider is hurt because of the defect, the company is negligent in its duty of care.
However, the law imposes no absolute standard of care. Instead, it applies a reasonable care standard. If the party with a duty of care exercised reasonable care, the case might be dismissed even if the serious injury resulted.
Establishing Failure to Exercise Reasonable Care
Most vehicle accidents result from human error. When a driver fails to see a cyclist or hits them because of speeding or improper lane usage, courts hold that the driver is negligent because he did not take reasonable care.
However, it is possible that the driver did act with reasonable care despite the accident’s occurrence. For instance, the defense may maintain that the collision happened due to the cyclist intruding into the lane, a situation that made it impossible for the driver to avoid the collision. In the defense’s version of events, it is the cyclist who breached the reasonable care standard.
Proving a breach of the duty of care is a bit like reaching the top of a mountain: The journey is only halfway over, and you still have several crevasses to cross.
The first of these is causation.
To win, the plaintiff must prove that the specific breach alleged caused the injury. The plaintiff may also win if he establishes that the breach of care contributed to the injury.
For example, imagine a motorist struck you as you were riding your bicycle. The impact was low, and you seemed to have no injuries.
However, the next morning you wake to your knee ache. It hurts to walk, and you visit a doctor who prescribes pain medication and physical therapy. The pain continues despite these interventions; eventually, you must have knee surgery.
Did the Accident Cause the Knee Problem?
You walked away without trouble, so the defense may seize on this to claim the knee injury was due to some other cause. Without evidence showing causation, you cannot collect damages from the motorist even if you can prove a duty of care breach.
In this situation, your Pennsylvania bicycle accident lawyer will gather evidence to prove causation. Medical records show the injury, and the doctor’s diagnosis that the injury occurred due to recent trauma demonstrates that the accident is the cause.
Nonetheless, the defense may use the delay in seeking treatment to raise doubts. For this reason, we always recommend receiving a prompt medical exam after an accident, even if no injury is apparent at the time.
Suffered Actual Damages
Proving a breached duty of care and causation is still not enough to win a personal injury claim. The plaintiff must also establish that he sustained actual damages.
Pennsylvania law creates three types of personal injury damages: economic, general, and punitive.
These are the easiest to establish. They correspond to an expense or income loss resulting from the incident. Often, documentation shows exact dollar figures.
Common bicycle accident economic damages include the following:
- Property damage
- Ambulance charges
- ER costs
- Physical therapy
- Occupational therapy
- Lost wages
- Lost business income
- Lost benefits
General damages are the intangible impacts of the injury, including the following:
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of consortium
Courts rarely award punitive damages in bicycle accident cases. For them to apply, the plaintiff must prove some extraordinary negligence, reckless, or intentional action on the defendant's part.
There needs to be more than a typical auto accident. For instance, courts may find for punitive damages if a defendant intentionally struck a cyclist with his vehicle during a road rage incident.
Comparative Negligence and Bicycle Accidents
Proving all four elements still does not guarantee an award or full reimbursement for damages. The defense may still claim it owes nothing or much less than the full damages because of comparative negligence.
Comparative negligence laws require juries to assign each party to the accident a percentage of fault. It can find the defendant 100% at fault. However, it can also decide that the plaintiff was partly at fault and assign a lesser number, such as 80%. In that case, the defendant must pay 80% of the plaintiff’s damages.
For instance, imagine a motorist and cyclist colliding while the vehicle is passing. Cyclists must obey traffic laws, and vehicles must exercise a duty of care in sharing the road with bicycles. It’s possible that a jury could find the motorist mostly responsible because the collision happened while the cyclist was proceeding legally in the traffic lane.
However, it could find the cyclist partly at fault, such as if the rider maintained an inconsistent lane position. In that case, if the rider had $40,000 in damages, he may receive just $32,000 due to a 20% fault finding.
Personal injury lawyers play a vital role in winning justice for bicycle accident victims. After a personal injury, plaintiffs face several obstacles to winning a settlement, including proving the four essential elements.
In addition, comparative negligence can severely reduce an award and eliminate it if the 51% bar rule applies.
Consult with a Philadelphia Bicycle Accident Attorney
Mattiacci Law’s bicycle accident lawyers build cases that prove fault and resonate with juries. They overcome comparative negligence claims to win their client's total compensation. Contact Mattiacci Law for a free consultation.
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