Filing a Lawsuit After a Colorado Bicycle Accident

August 11, 2022 | Bill Henry

Riding a bicycle is a fun way to keep fit and enjoy Colorado’s beautiful scenery on routine commutes. However, observing all safety rules accounts only so much for other drivers’ negligence. A Colorado bicycle accident can lead to terrible injuries and leave lasting financial and emotional damage.

This article explores possible personal injury case outcomes, state cycling laws, and how Colorado courts determine who is at fault when accidents happen.

Bottom Line

In every accident, someone is at fault. If it’s not you, then you’re entitled to compensation — if you can prove another party’s negligence caused your accident and the resulting damage.

In This Guide:

Know Your Options After a Colorado Bicycle Accident

If you or someone you care about has suffered injuries and financial damage from a cycling accident, you could be entitled to a lot more than sympathy. The R&H Personal Injury Team can examine your specific case and determine whether another party owes you compensation for medical costs, lost income, and the repair or replacement of your bike. Let a Colorado Bicycle Accident Attorney fight for what you deserve. Call 303-688-0944 for your free case assessment, o lláme al 720-359-2442 para hablar con alguien en español.

How Much Can an Injured Cyclist be Compensated?

The answer to that question depends on many factors, such as the seriousness of your injuries. Bicycle accident injury claims are unique, which makes it tough to estimate how much you may be able to recover.

Generally speaking, the compensation for a cyclist struck by a motor vehicle will be based upon the injured rider’s economic and non-economic losses, such as medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Let’s examine these further.

Let’s take a look at what type of damages you may be able to obtain to help you now and in the future.

Medical Expenses

If you have suffered serious injuries from an accident, you could be compensated for all current and future medical costs. The following is not an exhaustive list, but it covers some of the most common medical bills an injured cyclist could face:

  • ambulance costs and hospital admission
  • surgery and/or outpatient treatment
  • medication and/or medical devices
  • routine doctor visits
  • physical rehabilitation
  • psychological counseling
  • home health care

It is fairly common for medical expenses after a serious bicycle accident to add up to more than $100,000. It is not unheard of for current and long-term expenses to even surpass $1 million after a car vs. bicycle crash.

Lost Wages

An injured cyclist can lose weeks, months, or even the ability to perform their job after a serious accident.

Any temporary or permanent disability leading to reduced income, unemployment, and lost benefits should be compensated.

Collateral Financial Damage

Any other financial impacts directly related to injuries from your accident can be recovered, including home modifications, transportation costs, and property damage. Housekeeping and childcare expenses can also be recovered.

Pain and Suffering

Non-economic pain and suffering is highly personal, difficult to quantify, but very real to the person experiencing it.

Someone who has been seriously injured in a Colorado bicycle accident can be compensated for emotional pain, mental anguish, post-traumatic stress disorder, disfigurement, and more.

Current and future economic damages can have a final dollar sign attached after enough careful analysis.

Determining Negligence After a Colorado Bicycle Accident

In any bicycle crash scenario, especially when injury and other damages occur, finding fault comes down to determining whether the defending party failed to observe the basic laws of the road.

To recover on a claim of negligence, the plaintiff must establish the existence of a legal duty on the part of the defendant, breach of that duty by the defendant, causation, and damages.

Davenport v. Cmty. Corr. of Pikes Peak Region, Inc., 962 P.2d 963, 966 (Colo. 1998)

Like other states, Colorado has a series of laws on how to attached negligence to personal injury claims.

To prove negligence, an injured bicyclist must show each of the following:

One: The defendant or driver had a duty to observe and follow state traffic laws and rules.

Two: The driver violated their duty to observe traffic rules.

Three: The driver’s carelessness caused the accident and injuries to occur.

Four: The damage and injuries from the accident have caused the victim to suffer considerably. This suffering can be physical, financial, and/or emotional.

Determining Negligence Per Se 

In Colorado traffic law, negligence and negligence per se claims are predicated on the failure of a person or motorist to observe traffic laws thereby causing an accident, injury, and the plaintiff’s suffering. The latter, however, can be distinguished by a driver actively disregarding the danger they cause.

Negligence per se claims usually come with a plausible claim of reckless endangerment, which is defined as:

A person who recklessly engages in conduct which creates a substantial risk of serious bodily injury to another person commits reckless endangerment. Colo. Revised Statute § 18-3-208

When Motorists Can be Found Negligent After a Colorado Bicycle Accident

Bicycle riders must contend with several disadvantages when sharing the road with motor vehicles. Because of this, according to the NHTSA, motor vehicle drivers are found to be at fault in the majority of automobile-bicycle crashes.

In many cases, motorists cause accidents with bicycles through general carelessness by:

  • driving over the posted speed limit
  • failing to yield to the bicycle at an intersection
  • driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • driving while distracted
  • making an improper turn, or turning without signaling first
  • ignoring stop signs, stop lights, or posted traffic signs
  • making sudden or unsafe lane changes

Motorists and Vulnerable Road Users

In Colorado, automobile drivers must watch for and yield to persons considered vulnerable road users by state law. People who are considered to be vulnerable on the road include, but are not limited to:

  • bicyclists and motorcyclists
  • pedestrians
  • workers repairing or building roads, utilities, or buildings
  • a peace officer conducting duties in a right of way
  • an emergency worker providing necessary care in a right-of-way
  • any person riding or leading an animal
  • any person legally using any form of conveyance on a public right-of-way, crosswalk, or shoulder of the road, including roller skates, electric scooters, sleds, farm equipment, etc.

A 2019 Colorado law (SB19-175) makes careless driving that causes serious bodily injury to a vulnerable road user a Class 1 misdemeanor.

Penalties include a 12-point hit on the offender’s driver’s license as well as mandatory driving school and/or community service.

Additionally, motorists can be found at fault for the following careless or reckless behaviors specifically harmful to cyclists:

Intruding on Bicycle Lanes 

Bicycle lanes exist to give motorists and cyclists their own space to operate while improving safety for both. According to the CDOT, Colorado currently has 250 miles of bicycle lanes with more being added each year.

Unfortunately, motorists often misuse these lanes to pull over or park in, make righthand turns, or swerve into to pass or avoid other vehicles.

Hitting Cyclist with Vehicle Door 

You may have heard this act, intentional or not, as dooring. A driver or passenger opens their door in a bike lane, and BOOM, a cyclist rides right into it. Believe it or not, this can cause cyclists serious injuries.

In fact, causing an accident by opening a vehicle door in oncoming traffic is considered a Class B traffic infraction in Colorado. C.R.S. § 42-4-1207 

Fines for this traffic offense range from $15 to $100 dollars in addition to liability for damages if the incident causes injuries.

Crowding the Cyclist

When a bicycle and motor-powered vehicle are traveling in the same direction, Colorado law requires that any motorist passing a bicyclist must allow at least three feet of space between the furthest edges (including mirrors) of the right side of the motor vehicle and left side of the bicycle while they are side by side. C.R.S § 42-4-1003 

Furthermore, state law prohibits any crowding or threatening of a bicycle on the road, either by following too closely, driving too closely beside, or pulling ahead to impede the cyclist’s progress. C.R.S § 42-4-1008.5

Failure to observe any of these rules is a Class A traffic violation.

Obtaining Compensation After a Bicycle Accident 

The most important thing to do after any bicycle accident is to seek medical attention. Even if you are reasonably certain your injuries are minor, like bruises, small cuts, or road rash, the possibility of sustaining internal damage exists. More serious injuries can only be ruled out by a medical professional.

However, if you are able, you’ll want to take the following actions:

Obtain as Much Information as Possible

It may not be apparent right away that you’ll need or want to seek compensation in the future. That’s why it’s important to document everything that happened, just in case.

Take photos and video of the accident scene. Be sure to get pictures of the other vehicle and its license plate, even if the driver is initially cooperative. Take down the driver’s name, contact information, and insurance carrier.

Call the Police if: 
  • you are too hurt to do anything else after an accident.
  • the driver or person responsible for the accident refuses to cooperate, becomes hostile, or appears to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • the driver flees the scene.

Never Admit Fault

Determining fault after an accident is best left to the insurance company and the court. Even if you believe your own carelessness played a role, other factors could have contributed to the crash.

Once you have received medical care, contact a Colorado bicycle accident attorney. Do not talk to the driver’s insurance company until you speak with your own lawyer.

How Long Can I Wait to File a Claim?

How long you have to file a personal injury claim depends on who was involved in the crash. The statute of limitations is different if you were hit by a car or if you collided with another cyclist.

Time Limit if Hit by a Car

While your first priority should be your recovery, it’s important to understand that the statute of limitations does not wait for you to get well.

In Colorado, cyclists injured in a motor vehicle crash have three years to file a lawsuit against the negligent party. And the three-year clock begins to tick from the date of the accident.

Time Limit for Other Accidents

Time runs out after two years for all other personal injury cases, including bicycle crashes with other bicycles or accidents resulting from negligence by a private landowner, construction company, or local city government.

The best time to explore a possible civil action against a driver or party responsible for your bicycle accident is, well, as soon as you can. Waiting until just before the statute of limitations expires can make it difficult to put together a strong case.

Colorado Cycling Laws: Basic Do’s and Don’ts 

Cyclists in Colorado ride with the same rights, privileges, and responsibilities as other vehicles on the road. However, you can also be ticketed or faulted after an accident for breaking general traffic laws.

Cyclists must observe certain specific rules, such as the following:

Stay in Your Lane

Always ride where you have enough space to operate safely and other vehicles can easily see you. In general, this means to:

  • Keep as far to the right in right-hand lanes as safely possible in two-way traffic, unless you are passing another vehicle, making a left turn, or avoiding a hazard in your path.
  • Ride on the left-hand side on one-way roads giving other vehicles as much space on your right as safely possible C.R.S 42-4-1002.

Be Courteous to Fellow Travelers

It is best to exercise control of your bicycle and your immediate surroundings as much as you can while riding.

Good Cycling Habits:
  • keep at least one hand on your handlebars while in motion
  • yield the right of way to motorists and other cyclists when entering roadways
  • audibly alert other cyclists and pedestrians when passing
  • use hand signals to indicate turning, slowing, or stopping

Keep Out of the Way

Bicyclists have as much right to the road as motor vehicles do, but in Colorado, each is expected to make and observe space for the other. Therefore:

  • always take precautions to avoid blocking traffic
  • when cycling in a group, ride single-file whenever possible and never more than two side-by-side unless on a pathway specifically designed for bicycling
  • never operate a bicycle while it’s attached to or being pulled by another vehicle

Better Safe than Sorry

It should go without saying that attempting daredevil tricks on any public road or trail is a common way Colorado bicycle accidents happen. However, some common mistakes that don’t seem so daring to frequent riders are more dangerous than you think. Therefore:

  • never have more riders on a bike than seats available for them
  • don’t attempt to jump a curb when going onto or off the road
  • never go cycling while under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • do not operate your smartphone while cycling, especially in traffic
  • maintain a manageable speed that can adjust to changing road conditions

To See and Be Seen After Dark

When cycling at dusk or after dark, remember: it’s not only a matter of what you can see but whether other vehicles on the road can see you.

Use a white headlight, a red taillight, and/or red reflectors visible from at least 600 feet if cycling after dark. C.R.S § 42-4-221 (2020)

A study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that around 20 percent of all cycling accidents happen between the hours of 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. This is due in equal parts to declining visibility as the sun sets and the increased volume of traffic at rush hour.

Are Bicyclists Required to Wear a Helmet in Colorado? 

The short answer is no. A rider peddling a human-powered bicycle cannot be stopped, cited, or otherwise penalized for failing to wear a protective helmet. Furthermore, when it comes to personal injury lawsuits, whether the cyclist was wearing a helmet when the accident occurred has no bearing on determining fault or negligence by either party.

However, in some cases where a serious head injury occurs, a judge could determine that the rider was partially responsible for the severity of damages by not wearing a helmet.

Note: Riders and passengers of Class 3 electrically-powered bicycles who are 17 years old or younger are required to wear an appropriate helmet.

Additional Resources 

For a more comprehensive reference, all of Colorado’s specific laws for bicyclists are set out in Title 42 of Colorado’s Revised Statutes, specifically § 42-4-1412.

Colorado Bicycle Accident Statistics 

As more people move to Colorado—the Front Range in particular—the roads, highways, sidewalks, and bicycle trails only get more crowded. This has coincided with a steady increase in bicycle-crash fatalities, from just three in 2003 to 22 in 2018, according to numbers from The Colorado Department of Transportation.

Since 2010, CDOT data show that, on average, 970 Colorado bicyclists are injured in accidents each year. An additional 13 per year die from injuries sustained in those accidents.

Common Bicycle Accidents 

Experienced cyclists know how to control their bikes while observing the rules of the road and have far fewer accidents than casual cyclists.

The second-most common type of bicycle accident is the cyclist-motor vehicle collision. These crashes account for 20 percent, or one in five, of all bike accidents, according to the Boulder Cycling Club

The other most common cycling accidents:
  • Falling off the bicycle (50 percent)
  • Colliding with other bicyclists (18 percent)
  • Colliding with dogs (8 percent)

Common Colorado Bicycle Crash Injuries

Bicycle accidents should never be taken lightly. Even non-fatal crashes can cause severe and long-lasting medical issues such as:

  • trauma or fractures to the head and spine
  • permanent facial scarring
  • crushed limbs
  • fractured ribs and hips
  • internal organ damage
  • severe whiplash

The injured cyclist’s body may indefinitely pay for injuries sustained in a bicycle accident. Without an experienced and tenacious Colorado personal injury lawyer to hold a negligent driver accountable, the cyclist’s finances also may never recover.

Speak with a Colorado Personal Injury Attorney Today

If you or someone you love has been seriously hurt in a Colorado bicycle accident, you need an experienced personal injury lawyer in your corner. Attorneys at Robinson & Henry can help you put together the best possible case for maximum relief. Call 303-688-0944 today to begin your free case assessment. Si gustarÍa hablar con nosotros en español, por favor llámenos al 720-359-2442.

More Than Just Lawyers. Lawyers for Your Life.

Learn more about our law firm’s philosophy and values.