According to the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) Florida has ranked third in the nation every year since 2001 for the most bicycle and pedestrian deaths.
Not a happy statistic.
Florida does have bicycle rules that all drivers (and cyclists) need to know and follow. Unfortunately, given the consistent rate of bicycle deaths caused by cars in Florida, it would appear that many Florida drivers either are not aware of the rules or that they just don’t follow them.
If you are in any way involved in a car-to-bicycle accident, the first thing you should do (after seeking medical attention of course) is to contact a Florida personal injury attorney to assist you. Bicycle accidents caused by passenger cars are difficult and emotionally charged personal injury cases that require the careful attention of an experienced Florida personal injury attorney.
Since a bicycle provides no bodily protection other than a helmet, it is not surprising that cyclists who are hit by cars often suffer serious or fatal injuries. Given the fact that many bicycle-car accidents are fatal to the cyclist, we will begin our discussion of Florida’s bicycle rules that all drivers should know with a review of Florida’s wrongful death statute.
Wrongful Death in Florida
A wrongful death lawsuit in Florida allows a decedent’s estate to recover money damages when an individual’s death was caused by the intentional actions or negligence of another. The action is also available if the death was caused by a breach of contract or warranty —for example, a death caused by a manufacturing defect.
In the context of a car-bicycle accident, a wrongful death action could be maintained if the death of the cyclist was caused by the driver’s negligence. So, for example, if the driver was drunk or distracted or speeding at the time of the accident, he or she may be liable for wrongful death.
Understanding Florida’s wrongful death statute is important because it is not the same as wrongful death statutes in other states. Consulting with an experienced personal injury attorney will assist you in understanding who may file a wrongful death lawsuit in Florida and what types of damages may be recovered.
Florida’s Bicycle Rules All Drivers Need to Know
To begin with, bicyclists are required to obey all traffic lights and street signs just as cars are.
But do they?
Not always. Drivers must be vigilant about looking for cyclists on the road and keep in mind the fact that most of them won’t obey the traffic laws. Most of them will run the red light or blow right through a stop sign. While this is very frustrating for drivers, you need to nevertheless keep an eye out for cyclists and drive very carefully if there is a bicyclist on the road because even if an accident is not primarily your fault, if it results in the death of the cyclist, you can find yourself paying out a significant amount in damages.
Not fair, you say?
True. It may not be fair, but when a bicyclist is killed, even if the accident is his or her fault, judges and juries have a very hard time not sympathizing with the grieving family and blaming it on the driver who may have sustained no injuries at all. So be careful. Always.
Florida’s Three Foot Rule
Always keep in mind that for the most part, bicycles, like pedestrians, always have the right of way when on the road. Even if you think you have the right of way, or even if you do have the right of way, it is almost always best to yield to a bicyclist.
Additionally, it is critical to remember that bicyclists are allowed to ride in the road.
One very important bicycle rule that you must know about if you drive in Florida is Florida’s three-foot rule. Obeying this rule is imperative and it can help you to remain vigilant when driving near bicyclists. Florida law requires a driver to provide at least three feet of space between the car and the bicycle when passing a bicycle. If a three-foot allowance is not possible, then the driver must stay safely behind the bicyclist until there is three feet of space in which to get around him.
Does this mean you may have to go slower and put up with a bit of a delay?
But it’s the law. And it is far better to have a little delay than to end up in personal injury litigation facing a wrongful death claim.
The traffic rules governing turning are also important rules for you to know as a driver in Florida when there are bicycles on the road with you.
Depending on which way you are turning (right or left) Florida’s bicycle rules require you to provide more space for bicyclists.
For example, if you are turning right, you need to signal and leave at least 20 feet between your car and the cyclist before you can make the turn.
If you are turning left, you must get into the furthest left lane available.
Bicyclists making left turns are allowed to use who are turning left are allowed to use the full lane from which they are making the turn.
Stay vigilant. Stay safe.
We all use Florida’s public roads. So it is vital that each one of us —drivers, pedestrians, bicyclists—do our part to know the bicycle rules and prevent accidents.
Stay vigilant and look for bicyclists. Share the road and stay safe.
And if an accident does occur, contact our personal injury attorneys to assist you.
John Fagan is Here to Help.
Whether a driver neglected to follow the bicycle rules and caused your accident, or you suffered a different personal injury, John Fagan and his legal team are dedicated to helping those who have been injured due to the negligence of another or disabled. Contact us here or simply call our firm at: 777-JOHN. We serve clients throughout Florida. Our main office is in Orange Park, but we have consulting offices in Palatka, Middleburg, Keystone, Starke, Gainesville, and Ocala.