Guest Writer – Sara Stieben, Hadfield Stieben Doutt, LLC

Whether you are bicycling for pleasure or for transportation, the last thing you expect is to be horribly injured. While the most common bicycling injuries occur when a bicyclist is struck by an automobile, we have seen a rise in bicycle crashes caused by other factors. Oftentimes there is insurance coverage available to reimburse injured cyclists for their injuries. Our goal is to alert cyclists to these dangers and to assist them when they are injured.  

Unexpected causes of bicycle crashes include:

  1. Dogs.  Dog attacks on cyclists are not uncommon.  The attacks can occur when the dog is at large or, in some instances, on a leash. A dog at large can also cause injuries by running in front of a cyclist. This can occur on busy trails or in other recreation areas.

What should you do to protect yourself? 

Injuries caused by dogs are often unexpected and happen quickly.  If you are riding on a trail and passing a dog, give a wide berth and announce yourself to the person controlling the dog.  

What happens if I am injured by a dog while on a bicycle?

The dog owner or person controlling the dog is responsible for injuries caused to cyclists. Even if no medical attention is necessary at the time the attack occurs, the injury and incident should still be documented by contacting local authorities, such as the police or humane society. Also obtain the contact information for the owner of the dog, if possible.

What most cyclists don’t know is that the person in charge of the dog may have coverage available to the cyclist through a homeowner’s insurance policy or renter’s insurance policy. These are generally policies that will cover injuries to cyclists, including reimbursement for medical bills and compensation for pain and suffering and other non-economic damages. This is true even if the incident occurs away from the home either owned or rented by the dog’s owner or handler.

  1. Broken or uneven pavement.  Sidewalks and parking lots can often fall into disrepair due to tree roots, erosion from weather, and general lack of maintenance.  While broken and uneven pavement is rarely an issue for automobiles, it can be life threatening to encounter on a bicycle.

What should you do to protect yourself? 

Avoid poorly lit areas at night. Avoid biking over areas covered by debris which may mask defects in the pavement.

What happens if I am injured by broken or uneven pavement? 

The person or entity in control of the pavement may be responsible for your injuries.  Document the pavement that caused your injuries by taking photographs, and immediately report the injuries to the owner of the property.  For privately owned areas where broken or uneven pavement exists, the owner likely has liability insurance that may cover your injuries and reimburse you for medical expenses incurred, for damage to your bicycle, and for non-economic damages which you have sustained.

  1. Dooring accidents.  A dooring accident occurs when an occupant of a parked car opens their door while a cyclist is passing. While we are fortunate to have bike lanes on many of the streets in Fort Collins and surrounding Northern Colorado cities, the bike lanes do not always allow adequate space for a cyclist to pass a parked vehicle in the bike lane without risking contact with an open car door. On streets that are too narrow for bike lanes, the risk of dooring accidents is greater.

What should you do to protect yourself?  

Be vigilant—especially in congested areas. Make sure that you can safely pass a vehicle if the door opens while passing.

What happens if I am injured by an automobile?

The owner or driver of the vehicle is likely responsible for your injuries. Call the local authorities and stay on scene until they arrive.  Seek medical attention as recommended by first responders. Obtain the auto insurance information from any and all vehicles involved.  Did you know that your auto insurance may cover your related medical bills?  If you or someone in your household has auto insurance, call the insurance company to see if Medical Payments coverage is available to cover your medical bills while you resolve your claim with the at-fault party.

Personal injuries of any nature can be life-altering. It can be difficult to navigate through the process insurance companies require to obtain a fair settlement for your injuries. At HSD Law, we are happy to answer questions and assist you in your time of need. The insurance company has a plan, and you should, too.

Sara Stieben is an avid cyclist and a partner at the law firm of Hadfield Stieben Doutt, LLC.  She previously served as board member on the Fort Collins Bike Co-op, and she also manages HSD Law’s corporate sponsorship of Sugar Beets Cycling.