Jim Dodson, a personal injury attorney, bicyclist , and advocate for safe cycling shares his insights on this topic: “I commonly receive calls where a cyclist was in a pretty serious crash, but the driver did not contact them. The question is: Can they still pursue a claim?” The answer is “YES.”
If you are forced to take evasive action to avoid a collision and crash, you may still be able to recover if the driver’s negligent actions are the reason you were hurt. The question under Florida Law is not whether the car made contact, but rather, if the driver placed you in a “zone of risk,” meaning that the driver’s actions negligently placed you in immediate risk of physical harm.
This commonly occurs when a driver fails to see the cyclist and pulls out right in front of them from a driveway. It also commonly happens when drivers run, roll through stop signs, or make turns without seeing the cyclist. These left-cross/right cross maneuvers force the cyclist to make a split-second decision to either deflect (often hitting a curb or other object) or stop suddenly and fall over the handlebars to avoid an accident.
Another common example we see occurs when cars pass too close. Jim speaks often about the three feet rule in Florida, though cyclists know that many motorists fail to give them three feet. (Question: How can one measure three feet accurately when both the bike and passing motorist are moving? Answer: Bike mounted video camera). Close passing can sometimes force a reaction and then force you off the road.
When close calls occur, it is important to get as much information as you can about the driver and the car. You should report it to the police as soon as possible to allow them to investigate. You will also want to have witnesses who can confirm details about the accident. (HINT: A video camera mounted to your bike will help tell the story of what happened. Dave Lawrence, Bike Friendly Advocacy Committee Safety Director, discussed cameras and their uses in this column last month.)
In the photo below, both the truck and cyclist with bike mounted camera are doing 20 MPH for a closing velocity of 40 MPH. With under 60 feet of separation, the tandem cyclists had less than one-second to react. Just because there was no contact, does not mean there was no claim.
Stay safe out there!