Filing a Personal Injury Claim as a Bicyclist in Oklahoma
In Oklahoma, bicyclists have the same rights on most roads as all other vehicles and bike riding is encouraged for transit, leisure, and sport. While there are some restricted roadways, bikes are commonplace on city streets, rural roads, and state highways. Cyclists must always adhere to state and local laws, including laws that apply to all vehicles as well as bike-specific ordinances.
While most bike rides occur without incident, accidents do happen, and cyclists often suffer serious injuries. If you’ve been injured in an accident with another vehicle in Oklahoma, you may be entitled to damages that can help pay for medical bills, property damage, pain and suffering, or other accident-related losses.
Personal Injury Claims and State and Local Bike Laws
Following state and local laws not only keeps bicyclists safe, it also allows them to file a successful claim if they are ever struck by a motorist. This is because Oklahoma has a fault-based insurance system in which the at-fault driver’s insurance is responsible for paying accident related expenses.
If a claim must proceed to court as a personal injury lawsuit, fault determinations also play a significant role in any case ruling and the payment of damages as well. In Oklahoma, you can be partially at fault for an accident and still receive damages, but you cannot be any more than 50 percent responsible. Your level of fault also reduces the damages you’re awarded too, so if you’re 10 percent responsible, you can only receive 90 percent of any damages awarded in a claim.
State Laws dictate rules of the road for cyclists regardless of where you ride, but local ordinances are also important. Failing to follow city or county regulations can affect any personal injury claim, whether it’s processed with an insurance company or goes to court. Here are just a few of the state laws with which you must be familiar:
- Helmet Laws and Safety Rules – There are no statewide laws requiring bike riders wear a helmet, but it is strongly encouraged. Any bike on the road must have a proper seat and no bike can carry more passengers than it is safely equipped to handle. Riders must always have at least one hand on the handlebars at all times. There are only two cities that have a bicycle helmet law:
- Norman—All riders under 18 must be wearing a helmet
- Oklahoma City—Riders of all ages must be wearing a helmet
- Bike Lanes and Road Sharing – Bike riders are expected to ride as far to the right as is safely possible, except when turning left, passing another vehicle, or when avoiding an obstacle in the roadway. When a bike lane is present, riders are encouraged to but not required to use it.
- Bike Equipment Requirements – Every bike must have functional brakes that can stop the vehicle within 25 feet when traveling at a speed of 10 miles per hour. All bikes on the road after dark or before sunrise must be equipped with the following, unless they are on a road on which the speed limit is 25 miles per hour or less:
- a white headlight, visible from 1,000 feet
- a red tail light, visible from 1,000 feet
- a red, rear reflector, visible from 600 feet
- side reflectors, visible from 600 feet.
Filing a Claim or Lawsuit
If you’re involved in an accident with another vehicle, you should exchange insurance information, just like you would if you were in an accident while driving your car. You’ll then notify your own insurance company about the accident, but should also file a claim with the insurance of the other driver.
You will need to compose a “demand for damages” letter. This document allows you to notify the other driver’s insurance carrier of what you believe is a fair settlement. If the other driver’s insurance offers a low or unfair settlement, then you may need to file a personal injury lawsuit.
Lawsuits are filed in the city or county in which the accident occurs and the county courthouse it the appropriate location for filing a petition. Here are just a few of the county courthouse locations in the State of Oklahoma:
- Carter County – 20 B St. S.W., Ardmore, OK 73401
- Cleveland County – 200 S. Peters Ave., Norman, OK 73069
- Choctaw County – 300 E. Duke St., Hugo, OK 74743
- Leflore County – 100 S. Broadway St., Poteau, OK 74953
- Oklahoma County – 320 Robert S. Kerr Ave., Oklahoma City, OK 73102
This article was not written by an attorney, and the accuracy of the content is not warranted or guaranteed. If you wish to receive legal advice about a specific problem, you should contact a licensed attorney in your area.