Mikese M. Morse, of Tampa, was arrested and charged with first degree murder after intentionally crashing his car into a family riding bicycles on a New Tampa bicycle path. The Tampa Police Department reported that Morse traveled past the bicyclists, made a quick U-turn, then purposely drove over the sidewalk and ran over the family.
Pedro Aguerreberry, 42, died in the accident, and his two children, a 3-year-old son and an 8-year-old son were treated at a nearby hospital for their injuries, but are expected to be okay. Morse left the scene of the accident after running the family over and upon arrest, gave no explanation for his actions.
Bicycle Fatalities on the Rise
Florida bicycle fatalities have been on the rise, making Florida the deadliest state for bicyclists even though the state has expanded efforts to prevent such accidents. Statistics show that 818 bicyclists died in 2015 in the US, the year with the most recent data. Of those deaths, 150 occurred in Florida, with California coming in next with 129 deaths.
The Florida Department of Transportation has been studying police reports and found that automobile drivers are at fault for nearly 50% of all bicycle-automobile crashes, however, crashes where the bicyclists were at fault were more likely to be fatal. Common causes for bicycle-vehicle crashes include the following:
- Motorists turning right while the bicyclist is crossing the street.
- Bicyclists riding into intersections.
- Motorists turning left into bicyclists.
- Motorists going through stop signs and running into bicyclists.
In addition to these common causes for crashes, certain scenarios were also the most common to be found in conjunction with bicycle-automobile crashes:
- Inadequate street lighting.
- Unconventional intersections.
- Traffic violations by bicyclists and motorists.
- Bicyclists sideswiping vehicles.
- Intersections near driveways.
- U-turn maneuvers by motorists and bicyclists.
- Bicycles hitting the door of parked vehicles.
- Bicyclists riding opposite of the traffic.
Florida Bicycle Accidents and No-Fault Laws
If you are a bicyclist who was injured in an accident with a motor vehicle and you were not at fault, you could be eligible to take legal action against the driver who was at fault. Florida has a no-fault insurance law, also known as personal injury protection, or PIP, that states that regardless of who is at fault, each driver or bicyclist that suffers injuries must first file the claim under his or her own insurance policy.
The law requires that a bicyclist who has suffered injuries must recover the following losses and expenses under his or her own policy:
- 80% of all reasonable medical expenses such as doctor’s visits, x-rays, surgery, rehabilitation services, hospital and nursing services, and ambulance costs.
- 60% of any lost wages.
- 100% of replacement services such as lawn care or babysitting.
If the bicyclist does not have automobile insurance, Florida law allows the bicycle rider to file a claim under the responsible driver’s insurance policy instead. To file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver for recovery of damages outside of the no-fault insurance domain, the victim must have suffered injuries that caused significant scarring, loss of a bodily function, or disfigurement.
Because bicyclists do not have seatbelts or anything to protect them from the outside like passengers in a car, bicycle-vehicle crashes often result in severe injuries and death. If you have been involved in a bicycle-vehicle crash it is important to speak to an experienced car accident attorney to learn what your rights may be under Florida’s no-fault laws.
What to do if You Have Been in an Accident
If you have been in a bicycle-vehicle accident, there are certain things that you should and should not do immediately after the accident, as well as the days following the accident. Certain actions can have a direct impact on the outcome of your case and the amount of compensation that you may be able to receive. Building a strong case begins as soon as the accident occurs. If you have been in an accident, be sure you do the following:
- Call the police: Be sure that the appropriate authorities are notified immediately after the accident. This will make an official record and solidify any evidence in your case. The police will also gather information from witnesses, as well as information from the other party including their name and insurance. They may also conduct an investigation into the cause of the crash and other factors that may have played a role in the accident, such as alcohol or drugs, or distracted driving.
- Collect evidence: If you are able to, begin collecting evidence as soon as possible. Shortly after the accident is over, the scene will no longer be preserved. Take pictures of the accident from several different angles and be sure to include the scenery around the accident. Take pictures of your injuries and your bicycle damage. Gather contact information from any people at the scene and ask them to write down anything they witnessed.
- Avoid making statements: Be sure that you cooperate with the police, but do not make any statements of fault or guilt to them or any other people at the scene of the accident. It is likely that you will be in contact with insurance adjusters in the days following the accident and you should refrain from making statements to them without first consulting with a car accident attorney.
- Seek medical care: Even if you do not feel like you have been injured, it is important to seek a medical examination as soon as possible. Be sure your doctor documents the reason for your visit in your medical record. Some injuries do not start showing symptoms for days or even weeks after the accident.
- Keep documents: Be sure to hold on to all documents including medical records, police reports, receipts, payments, recorded statements, check stubs, or any other documents that you feel could be pertinent to your case.
Consult with a Car Accident Attorney
Having a skilled personal injury attorney on your side after your bicycle accident may enable you to recover more compensation than if you try to handle your case yourself. There are certain steps you must take after your injuries and they can be complicated and confusing. An experienced car accident attorney will be able to handle your case professionally and ensure that all the steps you must take are completed and done in a manner that meets the deadlines required by Florida law.
As with most accidents, the circumstances surrounding your accident will determine what compensation you are eligible to receive. The attorneys at Brill & Rinaldi have years of experience handling cases just like yours and will be able to review your case and determine the best course of action. Contact them today to schedule a consultation at one of our convenient Florida locations.