At Morris James, our auto accident lawyers see many car and truck accidents, but motor vehicle accidents are not the only accidents that happen on Delaware roads and trails. We have a large number of pedestrians, cyclists, and golf cart users in our communities who are at risk of accidents, often involving bigger vehicles. Along our beautiful coastal areas in the summer, you will see many people out walking, running, or leaving the car at home and opting to use their bikes or golf carts to get to the beach or coffee shop. When these road users are involved in an accident with a larger vehicle, they can be seriously injured because they do not have the same protections as occupants of cars, trucks, and SUVs.
When you have been in a road accident, your main focus is to recover from your physical injuries and emotional trauma. However, when the medical bills begin to pour in, or your wages are affected by the days or weeks of missed work as a result of your injuries, there are other practical issues to consider. Who should be covering the cost of your treatment and financial losses because of an accident that was not your fault? And what costs are you entitled to recover?
In this article, we consider these questions, and build on our previous advice about what to do if you have been in a road accident as a pedestrian, cyclist, or golf cart user. If you have other questions about pedestrian or golf cart accidents, our personal injury attorneys are available to help. Contact us online or by calling 302.655.2599 today.
Who is liable in an accident with a pedestrian, bike, or golf cart?
Simply put, whoever is at fault in an accident with a pedestrian, cyclist, or golf cart could be legally and financially liable for the damages caused by the accident. This is complicated by insurance systems and the reality that sometimes more than one person is at fault in an accident.
Insurance affects liability in a golf cart, bike, or pedestrian accident because insurance policies often provide some no-fault coverage for injuries or damage. In Delaware, drivers are required to carry a minimum of $15,000 of P.I.P. (Personal Injury Protection) benefits, which cover medical expenses, lost wages, and some other expenses. P.I.P. insurance is complex. In a car accident, the P.I.P. coverage in your own auto insurance policy will provide coverage for your injuries even if the other driver was at fault. In a bike accident or pedestrian accident, the P.I.P. coverage may depend on whether you are hit by a Delaware or out-of-state driver and how much insurance coverage they have, if any. If you are in an accident with an insured Delaware driver, you should be able to claim under their P.I.P. benefits for your medical expenses and lost wages. If this does not cover all of your expenses, you may be able to claim under the P.I.P. benefits on your auto insurance, if you have any. Unfortunately, insurance does not always cover the expenses and losses of a victim of a car accident, especially when their injuries are severe. In order to recover losses that are not covered by insurance, you may need to bring a personal injury lawsuit against the at fault driver(s).
In a personal injury claim for a pedestrian, golf cart, or bike accident, the person who caused the accident will be liable for the damage that they caused, but accidents are complicated. Sometimes, one person is clearly at fault, such as when a driver runs a red light and hits a pedestrian crossing the street. In other circumstances, another driver, or even the victim, may also be to blame for the accident. For example, if the driver of a vehicle is not paying attention to the road and hits a cyclist who is riding erratically and not using the designated bike lane, the driver may be primarily at fault but the cyclist may be contributorily negligent. A court could reduce the cyclist’s compensation by the amount that the cyclist is at fault for the accident. And if the cyclist was more at fault than the driver of the vehicle, the cyclist would not be able to recover any compensation from the driver under Delaware law.
What costs can you recover after a pedestrian, bike, or golf cart accident?
Compensation after a bike or pedestrian accident is different for every accident because a victim’s injuries, expenses, and losses are different in every accident. Even the best personal injury lawyer cannot (and under attorneys’ ethics rules, should not) tell you how much you will be awarded in a legal claim. However, a good personal injury lawyer can tell you what types of expenses and losses you are entitled to recover, and what range of compensation has been awarded in similar cases in the past.
Victims of pedestrian, biking, and golf cart accidents can suffer broken bones, head trauma, bruising, lacerations, internal injuries, and other problems. They may require hospitalization and treatments such as surgery, ongoing physical therapy, pain medication, and counseling. All of these can be incredibly expensive, and can quickly add up to more than the minimum P.I.P. coverage in Delaware of $15,000. An accident victim is entitled to be compensated for all of their medical expenses related to their injuries in the accident. This includes past and future medical bills. With the help of a medical expert, your attorney will value your expected medical expenses into the future so that they are included in your claim. This is a component that many unrepresented victims undervalue which can lead them to accept a settlement amount that is not enough to cover their medical expenses into the future. An experienced personal injury lawyer will ensure that your expenses are properly valued.
Another loss that hits accident victims in the short term and the long term is lost wages. An injured victim is often unable to work after an accident while they recover from their injuries. They may also need to miss work for ongoing medical appointments and treatments, even when they are back on their feet. Some injuries leave a victim unable to return to the job that they had before the accident, or affect the length of time that they are able to work. The amount of compensation that you are awarded after an accident should compensate you for all of the wages and benefits that you lose as a result of the accident. As with medical expenses, your attorney will help you to estimate and value all of your lost wages and benefits for your working life.
Pain and suffering
Pain and suffering is a legal term that describes all of the physical injuries, pain, and discomfort, as well as the mental anxiety and distress that has been caused by your accident. It does not include a victim’s medical bills, which are accounted for in a separate category. Pain and suffering is a dollar amount that a jury places on your suffering from the accident. An experienced personal injury lawyer understands how a jury values a victim’s pain and suffering, and can use their skills and experience to ensure that you are properly compensated for this suffering.
Loss of companionship and services
If a victim of a pedestrian, bike, or golf cart accident dies as a result of their injuries in the accident, their surviving family members may be able to bring a wrongful death claim. In a wrongful death claim, the surviving family members can be compensated for both the economic losses and emotional damage that they suffer, such as lost income, loss of companionship or consortium, and loss of household services.
Damage to your bike, golf cart, or other property may be covered by your own insurance policies, or the insurance of the at-fault driver. Your attorney will help you to review your coverage and your legal entitlement to compensation for your property damage to ensure that you are fully compensated for your loss.
If you are injured in an accident in Delaware as a pedestrian, cyclist, or golf cart user, you are likely to have injuries, expenses, and questions. Our experienced personal injury lawyers can help you to understand your legal rights and obligations, and help you decide the best path forward for you. We will deal with the insurance companies and other parties on your behalf, and fight to get you full and fair compensation for your injuries.
At Morris James, our attorneys have been standing up for victims since we opened our doors in 1932. If you have other questions about pedestrian, biking, or golf cart accidents, contact us online or call us at 302.655.2599 to learn more.