In 2019, there are 6,664 bicycle accidents and 154 bicycle fatalities in Florida. For every individual in an accident, those costs add up. In fact, the costs related to non-fatal bicycle accidents in the U.S. have gone up by $789 million annually.
In other words? The cyclist is the one who bears the brunt of medical costs in bike accidents, even though the driver is often the one at fault.
This is why calculating damages is so important. It's not just about paying medical bills—it's about taking your life back. The good news is that while damages are calculated based on individual cases, there are some constants you can use to get an idea of where you stand, whether you were hurt by an Uber driver or a family car, in an intersection, or your own suburb. Here's what you need to know about calculating damages in bicycle accidents.
Types of Bike Accident Damages
In personal injury, there are two broad types of damages: economic and non-economic.
Economic damages are damages that can be easily quantified by a dollar amount. Medical bills are a good example of economic damages, as well as lost wages, property damage, and the cost of medication, to name a few.
Non-economic damages are harder to quantify, but they're equally important for your quality of life. For example, not being able to hold your baby because of a shattered arm and collarbone injury would fall under this category. More generally, non-economic damages deal with things like emotional distress, pain and suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life.
Compensatory Damages vs. Punitive Damages
Beyond this broad classification, there are six types of damages:
Most of the time, you're dealing with compensatory damages, which are paid to the injured party as compensation for the negligent act or for an act that should have been performed but was not, resulting in injury. However, in cases where the court deems the defendant's actions especially egregious.
Compensatory damages are based on the notion of making someone whole and righting a wrong after an incident. Punitive damages are intended to punish the defendant for their actions and to act as a deterrent for others who might behave similarly.
Calculating Damages in Bicycle Accidents
Calculating damages for a bicycle accident involves adding up your economic and non-economic damages. That algebra is trickier than it sounds.
Adding up your economic damages is pretty straightforward. Simply add up your lost wages and other costs associated with the accident, including costs you will likely incur in the future as a direct result of the accident. This includes things like:
- Medical bills
- Ambulatory care
- Follow-up care
- Nursing care
- Rehabilitation bills
- Medical equipment like crutches
- Prescription medication
Once you add these together, you'll have the total potential economic damages. Things get messy with non-economic damages. This is for one simple reason: the time it takes to recover, your pain and suffering as a result of the accident, and similar non-economic consequences are difficult to quantify and harder to prove than, say, a hospital visit.
That's why you need an attorney to help calculate damages.
Factors That Affect Your Calculation
Of course, there are several other factors that weigh into your calculation, which is the other reason why you need an experienced attorney to help you.
You're likely familiar with the concept of "guilty beyond a reasonable doubt". That's the burden of proof in criminal cases—the jury must be absolutely certain that the defendant committed a crime before delivering a sentence. In personal injury, the burden of proof is much lower—"more likely than not", or "by a preponderance of evidence", which is a legalese way of saying the jury must be at least 51% certain that your side of the story is true.
Here's the catch: the defendant is not required to prove that their version of the story is true (just that the plaintiff's story is at least 50% false or inaccurate) and the higher the percentage of certainty, the higher the damage award.
There are also some practical difficulties that may complicate your side of the story. Here are three of the most common.
Florida is a comparative liability state, which is a legal theory some states use to assign blame (and thus damages) in cases where both parties are at least somewhat at fault. Under this rule, the fault of each party is based on their contribution to the accident. Based on this assessment, each party is assigned a percentage of blame and pays damages to the other party based on that percentage.
Keep in mind that you can still get a fair settlement, even if comparative liability is on the table. However, it becomes even more critical to have persuasive evidence of the other party's fault.
Disputes About the Facts
Unfortunately, personal injury is much more subjective than criminal law. Because the other side needs to sow doubt about your side of the story rather than proving themselves wholly innocent, factual disputes are the most common complication in a bicycle accident case (and any other personal injury lawsuit, for that matter).
This is why you need an experienced attorney on your side. Half of your battle is not allowing the other side to sow unreasonable doubt about your version of events. A capable attorney can prevent such arguments from gaining traction.
Resources of the Liable Party
Some factors determining your damage amount have nothing to do with fault or what you are reasonably owed. It might not sound fair, but it's basic logic.
In order to compensate you for your injury, the other party must have the resources to do so. If your accident cost $70,000 but the other party only has $20,000 in assets, the court cannot reasonably expect them to magic the rest out of thin air.
That said, you may still get a reasonable settlement even if the other party has limited resources. There are other ways to collect damages. A knowledgeable attorney can help guide you through your options.
Get a Bicycle Accident Attorney Who Fights for You
Ultimately, when it comes to calculating damages (and navigating your entire bicycle accident case) the moral of the story is the same: you need an experienced bicycle accident attorney on your side.
That's where we can help. The Soffer Firm is a respected Miami law firm with extensive experience helping families like yours fight for their rights and recover the settlements they deserve. We know what it takes to win, and we won't stop until we get your best possible outcome.
If you need to speak with an attorney about your case, schedule your free consultation today.