Protecting Cyclists and Pedestrians in Wisconsin
We Represent Bicyclists Hurt by the Negligence of Others
Bicycles are one of the most popular forms of outdoor recreation in Wisconsin–not to mention, a healthy and environmentally friendly to commute. While the Badger State is known for its many pro-bicycle policies, which does not mean bicycling is completely without risk. To the contrary, there are still far too many bicycle accidents reported every year in Wisconsin– these crashes often involve severe injury and even death.
There are many potential causes of bicycle accidents that involve third-party negligence. Fitzpatrick, Skemp & Butler, LLC is a team of Wisconsin bicycle accident lawyers who help victims seek compensation from these responsible parties. Our attorneys have over a century of combined experience managing personal injury claims. We have recovered millions of dollars for our clients by providing professional representation to bicyclists and their families whose lives have been upended by a sudden and unexpected accident.
The Most Common Factors in Wisconsin Bicycle Accidents
In 2021, there were seven hundred bicycle accidents reported to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. Approximately six out of every seven of those crashes led to some sort of injury. Sadly, there were also nine fatalities reported that year.
While a bicycle may be a safe mode of transportation, it offers little in the way of protection should a car, truck, or similar vehicle strike a bicyclist. Even if a bicyclist is wearing a helmet and pads, which is no guarantee they will escape a collision unharmed. If a bicyclist is thrown from their bike they can sustain a traumatic brain injury, broken bones, facial disfigurement, and severe internal injuries, among other consequences.
Bicyclists always need to remain vigilant while riding, especially in traffic. Even the safest and most cautious bicyclist cannot avoid every collision, especially when a negligent motorist is involved. Common examples of this include:
- Driver distraction. Too many drivers simply fail to keep their eyes on the road and a lookout for bicyclists. The most common reason for this is distraction. Especially during a daily commute, a motorist is prone to look at their smartphone, eat breakfast, or adjust their hair or makeup in the vanity mirror, all of which can cause that driver to miss a bicycle in their path.
- Driver impairment. We all know that alcohol and drug use play a significant role in many traffic accidents. This also applies to bicycle accidents. Some estimates, as many as one-third of all fatal bicycle accidents were caused by drunk drivers.
- Speeding. Cars and trucks are designed to operate at much higher speeds than bicycles. Too many motorists push their vehicles beyond what is considered a safe or legal speed. This reduces the amount of time they have to avoid colliding with another vehicle or object, and in particular bicycles, which are often more difficult to see.
- Poor visibility. Indeed, bicycle accidents often happen simply because a motorist fails to see the bicycle until it is too late. Poor visibility is often a contributing factor to such collisions. This includes reduced visibility due to poor weather conditions, as well as loss of light during early morning and early evening commutes.
- Failing to keep a proper distance. Even in perfect driving conditions, a motorist must still act responsibly and keep at least a three-foot passing distance when approaching a bicycle. A car or truck that gets too close to a bicycle can cause a serious accident simply by accidentally touching a bicycle that is too close.
In addition to bicycle accidents caused by driver negligence, it is also important to consider the role of a property owner in causing a serious crash. For example, if you are riding your bicycle down the street and hit a pothole or other road hazard, the local municipality responsible for maintaining that road may be legally responsible for your injuries. Similarly, if you were riding your bicycle on private property and were involved in an accident, you may have a valid premises liability claim against the owner.
How Wisconsin’s Comparative Fault Rules Can Affect Your Compensation for a Bicycle Accident
Wisconsin is an at-fault state when it comes to vehicle accidents., This means that you can demand compensation from a driver who causes an accident. You need to prove they were negligent, and that their negligence was the direct cause of your injuries. Since personal injury is a civil matter rather than criminal matter, you only need to prove a defendant’s negligence by a “preponderance of the evidence” and not “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Wisconsin also follows a comparative negligence rule in personal injury cases. This rule governs how a court assigns relative fault to all the parties who may be responsible for an accident. This includes the plaintiff.
In other words, if you are injured in a bicycle accident, the motorist can try to argue that your own actions contributed to or outright caused the crash. A judge or jury then must decide if you should be assigned a percentage of the fault. Any award of damages you receive for the accident must then be reduced to account for your share of the fault. Under Wisconsin’s implementation of comparative negligence, if your comparative fault exceeds 50 percent–i.e., you were 51 percent or more responsible for the accident–you will receive no compensation for your injuries.
Comparative fault often comes up in bicycle accident cases because there are a number of ways that a bicyclist may violate the rules of the road or act recklessly. Some things you need to keep in mind when riding your own bicycle include:
- You should always wear a helmet. While it is not mandatory in Wisconsin, not wearing a helmet may be used against you in the event of a personal injury lawsuit.
- You typically cannot ride your bicycle on a sidewalk unless you are in a municipality that has adopted a specific ordinance allowing it.
- Never ride your bicycle while distracted or drunk.
- When riding your bicycle, remember to use standard hand signals when appropriate.
- If you are bicycling with a friend, it is okay to ride two-abreast, provided you do not impede the normal flow of traffic.
Remember, even if you are not technically breaking the law, any reckless or unsafe behavior on your part may be used as proof of your own negligence in any litigation arising from a bicycle accident. So, you should always be mindful of your own conduct and never assume that a court will always hold the motorist responsible for your injuries.
What Should You Do Following a Bicycle Accident in Wisconsin?
If you are fortunate enough to get up and walk after a bicycle accident, you should consider yourself lucky; but you also need to think and act quickly. The first thing you should do is call 911. This does two things; first, it means that a police officer will come to the scene and take down a formal accident report; second, you can receive emergency medical attention.
As with any accident involving a motor vehicle, you also need to exchange contact and insurance information with the driver. Use your smartphone to take photos of the driver’s documents if you can. Otherwise, make sure to copy any information provided in writing. It is also a good idea to identify any witnesses to the accident and get their contact information for future reference.
The police report will take note of the circumstances and conditions surrounding your bicycle accident. You can supplement that by taking photos of the scene with your smartphone. This includes photos of your bicycle, the other vehicle, and the overall location where the collision occurred.
Finally, even if you think you feel uninjured, you should go to the emergency room or an urgent care clinic as soon as possible. Bicycle accident injuries are often not immediately experienced. For example, if your head hit the ground during the accident, you may have sustained a concussion or a more severe traumatic brain injury. You may also have internal bleeding or organ damage that would not present any outward symptoms.
No Fees Unless We Win
Once the initial shock wears off following a crash and you have sought medical attention, your next step should be to contact an experienced Wisconsin bicycle accident lawyer. Even if you are 100-percent convinced the driver was at-fault, you will still need to build a strong enough case to convince an insurance company and a court that the driver caused your injuries and experiences. The process of bringing an injury claim will go a lot smoother if you have a qualified personal injury lawyer at your side.If you are worried about the potential cost of hiring a lawyer, rest assured that Fitzpatrick, Skemp & Butler, LLC, works strictly on a contingency basis in personal injury cases. This means that we will not collect any fees until we obtain a judgment or settlement on your behalf. There is never a charge to sit down and talk with us about your bicycle accident. So if you would like to schedule a free initial consultation, contact us today.
Attorney William SkempMelissa, Source: Avvo
"Mr. Skemp was so thorough in handling my case.
He was literally the junk yard dog I was hoping to hire and fought for me the whole way. Even when I felt like giving in. His staff is so helpful and kind as well. "
Attorney David FitzpatrickGeorge, Source: Google
"If you been denied SSI, call them they will fight for you and pay nothing unless they win."
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Attorney SCOTT BUTLERAbby, Source: Google
"We hired Attorney Scott Butler after a motor vehicle accident. Immediately a weight was lifted off our shoulders, as he handled everything with the insurance companies, medical paperwork, etc so that we could focus on healing and getting on with life. He is highly attentive, kind and genuine. His communication is fabulous-frequently reaching out just to check on us, prompt in returning calls/emails. Couldn't have had a better experience with our case. My family would highly recommend Scott Butler to anyone."
BICYCLE AND PEDESTRIAN
BICYCLE AND PEDESTRIAN