Whether for environmental reasons or a desire to get fit, the number of cyclists in the U.S. is on a steady annual increase in recent years. In 2016, just over 12% of all Americans regularly cycled, while in 2017, the number of cyclists had risen to 47.5 million, up from 43 million in 2014.
But what laws govern you if you use a bicycle on the road? What are your rights if another vehicle hits you?
The most important fact to know if you plan on using a bicycle on Louisiana’s roads is that under state law, a bicycle is viewed as another vehicle. That means the same laws – and rights – apply to a cyclist as to any other road user.
However, there are some specific rules that apply to cyclists. Many cyclists see sidewalks as just another bike lane when, in fact, it is illegal to ride a bicycle on the sidewalk unless the cyclist is 12 or younger.
Louisiana statutes also state that cyclists must always ride to the right of any road they are on, whether or not there is a designated bike lane.
Cycle lanes are designed to provide a separate and safe part of the road for bicyclists to use. There are certain circumstances where cyclists are permitted to leave the bike lane, and also for cars to use a bike lane. These circumstances include:
• If overtaking a vehicle in that bike lane.
• When planning to turn left from the roadway onto another road, into a house driveway, or into a parking lot.
• To avoid an obstruction in the cycle lane, static or moving. These could include such things as parked vehicles, pedestrians, animals and potholes.
• If approaching an authorized right-turn spot.
Drivers of motor vehicles are generally prohibited from using the cycle lane, but there are also exceptions to that rule:
• When the vehicle is preparing to turn, and the turning point is within 200 feet.
• When entering – or leaving – any private road, driveways, parking lot, or alleyway.
• Entering or leaving a legitimate parking space.
The law requires that any motor vehicle must always yield to bicycles in the designated cycle lane. Motor vehicles must maintain a minimum distance of three feet when passing a cyclist, regardless of whether that bicycle is in a cycle lane.
Bicyclists should always learn both the state laws relevant to cycling and any pertinent city bylaws.
What Happens if Another Vehicle Hits Me?
Because Louisiana law regards bicycles as the same as other vehicles, comparative fault rules apply. This means that any amount of damages awarded will be affected by your own degree of responsibility. For example, if you were found to be 30% responsible and total damages were $10,000, then you would receive 70% of that award.
A Real Danger
With no real protection – other than a bicycle helmet – if a bicyclist is hit by another vehicle, the potential for serious injury is high. In 2015, 818 cyclists were killed, and more than 45,000 were injured nationwide. Where a bicycle is involved in a collision, they may be found to be at fault if they have violated any of the state laws – or city laws – relating to bicycle use.
What Can You Claim?
An injured cyclist – or the family of a cyclist who has been killed in an accident – can claim the same damages as any other vehicle user. These include:
• Damage – Damages can consist of costs of required bike repairs or equivalent replacement.
• Medical Treatment – You can claim coverage of all medical expenses, including initial treatment after the accident, any ongoing or necessary future treatment, medications and rehabilitation.
• Loss of income – This includes any lost wages due to the accident. These would need to be evidenced by pay stubs and testimony from your employer.
• Pain and suffering – This may involve not only your medical records but also testimony from expert witnesses and citing legal precedents.
• Adjustments and accommodations
Where a bicyclist is left disabled after an accident, they may be able to claim for any accommodations that are needed, such as improvements to their home or mobility aids.
As with most other personal injury lawsuits, the statute of limitations in Louisiana is one year. This means that any claim must be filed within one year from the date the accident happened.
Lamothe Law Firm has extensive experience in personal injury cases. That experience, combined with our knowledge of the relevant laws and bylaws increases your chances of success.
To schedule a free consultation contact us.