Bike-sharing programs are rapidly cropping up in cities throughout the country. These programs provide publically-accessible bicycles that the general public can easily rent and return to their local bike station.
As bike-sharing systems gain popularity nationwide, more and more people gain access to this affordable, active, and environmentally-friendly mode of transportation. But where do you turn if you're injured?
The concept of bike-sharing is fairly new, so some may be unsure of what to do if they are seriously injured on a bike that is part of a publically-shared program. We've broken down the basics.
Not all injuries that occur on your bike should necessarily be reported to an insurance company. These include minor ailments like small cuts, scrapes, and bruises that require no professional medical treatment.
It may be scary to think about, but severe injuries can happen when riding a bicycle—especially on highly-trafficked, city streets. These types of injuries can significantly disrupt your life, resulting in a trip to the ER, an extended hospital stay, surgery, time off of work, and expensive medical bills. In a situation like this, it's important to protect your legal rights if the accident was not your fault.
Generally, bicycle injuries are covered under an auto insurance policy if the injury arises out of the maintenance or use of a motor vehicle. Also, the same insurance laws exist when you ride a rented bicycle as when you are riding your own bicycle, but there are a few differences.
Each one of these potential situations could happen when you take a publically-shared bicycle out for a ride:
In Pennsylvania, if you own a car, your personal auto insurance will cover your injuries if you are seriously hurt on a bicycle, be it a publicly-shared bike or your own bike. This procedure works the same if you are involved in a bicycle accident as if you were involved in a car accident.
Even if you don't own a car, or you're too young to drive, you can still be covered by an auto insurance policy if you're seriously injured riding a bicycle. You're covered as long as you live in the same household as a relative who has auto insurance.
*Note—this rule only applies to relatives (e.g. children, siblings, cousins) of those with auto insurance policies. It does not apply to unrelated roommates who live in the same household.
If you are hit by a motor vehicle while using a shared bicycle, but neither own a vehicle yourself nor live with a relative who does, your injuries can still be covered as long as the accident was not your fault. Again, this is similar to the way you would report any injuries or damage to the at-fault party in the event of a car accident.
If another vehicle on the road hits you while you're riding a bike, stop and take down their contact and insurance information. Don't be afraid to call the police as well. Sometimes, a police report is the only official record of what caused an auto accident.
Sadly, some bicycle injuries occur when bicyclists are run off the road by a phantom vehicle (i.e. a vehicle with a driver who they aren't able to identify). When you suffer serious injuries after being run off the road, the other party's insurance comes into play. Unfortunately, in this scenario you have no way of knowing who the other party is.
It's best to report this incident to the police, as it pertains to Pennsylvania's Hit and Run laws. In regards to any medical costs or additional losses you may suffer, if law enforcement is unable to identify the at-fault driver, your own auto insurance policy would cover these costs—as long as you have uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.
If you pay for a good or service, but that service causes you injury, the company that sold/provided that good or service is held legally and financially responsible for any losses you may suffer. This is related to Product Liability Law. Just like if you purchase a bike from a sporting goods store, the company profiting from the rental of bikes in a bike-sharing system is liable if their bikes are defective or broken.
If you are injured on a publicly-shared bicycle or notice that the bike is defective or broken in any way, contact the company you paid to rent the bike. They should remove the bike from the general pool until it is working properly.
Whether you're riding around the neighborhood on your own bike or through the busy city streets on a public-use bike, always keep safety in mind. Explore our Bicycle Safety Resource Centerfor more information.
If you're seriously injured while riding a bicycle, it's important to protect yourself from suffering long-term physical, emotional, or financial losses in an accident that wasn't you fault. Need help? Feel free to contact our law firm for your free legal consultation.