Everyone understands cycling in traffic carries some risk. For most cyclists, it’s worth the risk for its many health and environmental benefits. Should an accident occur, however, it might be helpful to be aware of what kind of damage you might sustain, how to recognize when it’s serious, and what to do.
According to the CDC, 2% of vehicle accident fatalities are non-motorized (meaning bicycles, unicycles, tricycles, etc.,) which amounts to approximately 1,000 cyclist deaths in the United States annually. In contrast, 130,000 accidents result in cyclist injuries.
It’s estimated that these accidents cost $23 billion in medical bills, property damage, lost wages, and other related expenses. That averages $170,000 in expenditures per person.
Even though bicycle accidents make up a small percentage of the total casualties in the US, each accident is potentially more disruptive to your health, finances, and lifestyle than motorized vehicle accidents.
Types Of Bike Accidents
- Non-Motorized Vehicle Accidents– Sometimes, the cyclist runs into road conditions (like loose gravel on a turn) that cause an accident without the help of a car or truck.
- Avoidance Accidents– If the cyclist forgets to signal their intent to turn or the driver of the nearest vehicle isn’t paying attention, a cyclist may have to take evasive action to avoid a collision with a couple of thousand pounds of metal. They might be forced off the road, fall from the bike, or collide with another object.
- Direct Contact Accidents– As a rule, the vehicle with the most lugnuts wins, and the smaller vehicle takes the more significant damage. The car strikes the bike and possibly the cyclist’s legs. Or the bike runs into the car, causing a sudden stop that could result in the cyclist going over the handlebars or colliding with them.
Types Of Injuries
There are four groupings of injuries to discuss based on body location. Each one requires a different approach to treatment and carries own risks:
Each one requires a different approach to treatment and carries its risks.
Your extremities are your arms, legs, hands, and feet. There are two dangerous injuries related to the extremities: an arterial bleed and a broken femur. Both require immediate medical attention.
The arterial bleed leads to fast blood loss. You can recognize arterial vs. venous bleeds by how it sprays with each beat of the heart rather than oozing like a vein.
Use the cleanest covering you can find and put pressure on the wound. If that isn’t working, put pressure on the artery above the injury if you know where to locate them (in the upper arm for the brachial artery or near the groin for the femoral artery).
Only as a last resort will you want to use a tourniquet. Once you put a tourniquet on, you have a short window before the tissue starved of blood starts to die.
A broken femur is dangerous for two reasons. One, it’s right near the femoral artery and could cause an arterial bleed. Two, the femur is the strongest bone in the body but the most painful to break. Victims of a femur break can go into shock.
Stabilize the leg. As long as there are no head injuries, lower the head to be level with the heart, and keep the person warm and as calm as possible until the ambulance arrives.
Non-life-threatening injuries include smaller broken bones, sprains, tears, lacerations, and abrasions.
Bone-The only way to diagnose a broken bone is to get an x-ray. If you have trouble moving the limb, have severe pain, swelling, bruising, shooting pains when you move, loss of sensation, or it feels like it’s gone to sleep and has pins and needles, please see a doctor.
Skin-Skin trauma can be a cut (laceration) or a scrape (abrasion.) Both must be cleaned, which can be interesting if a road rash leaves gravel in the wound. See a doctor if there’s extensive bleeding, if you can’t get it clean if you might need stitches, or if it gets infected.
2. Head, Neck, and Spine
Head, neck, and spinal injuries can have life-altering or fatal consequences. If you suspect injuries in any of these areas, it is vital the patient remains still while you wait for the ambulance. Otherwise, there could be damage to the spinal cord.
Head injuries can also cause invisible damage, such as bleeding surrounding the brain. Pressure in the skull from a bleed can cause brain damage or death. It is better to be safe than sorry. Go to the ER.
Superficial cuts and scrapes are treated like other skin traumas. If you have broken facial bones or teeth, visit the ER or an urgent care dentist.
The thoracic cavity is everything from your diaphragm to your collar bones and is protected by your ribcage. Your lungs, heart, and all major arteries can be damaged in an accident. The best test is to take a deep breath. If it hurts, go to the doctor.
If you are helping someone else who has been injured, remember your ABCs. Keep their airway unobstructed, check to see if they are breathing, and make sure their blood is circulating. Follow the ABCs in this order. A CPR class is advisable to know what to do in an emergency.
4. Stomach Cavity
You are most vulnerable from the bottom of your rib cage to your pelvic bone where there are no bones to protect internal organs. Trauma to the stomach can damage any of them.
Press on the upper and lower quadrants, sides, and lower back to either side of the spine. If there is extreme tenderness, swelling, or bruising, or the area gets rigid, go to the ER. These may be a sign of organ damage or internal bleeding.
What Do I Do After I See The Doctor?
- Follow all the doctor’s instructions.
- Save all your receipts. If the accident was your fault, you can still use your medical expenses at tax time. If someone else was at fault, they were legally obligated to pay for the damage they caused.
- Consult a bike accident attorney regarding your case. They can guide you through filing a claim against the at-fault party’s insurance.
What Can a Utah Bicycle Accident Lawyer Do That I Can’t?
An accident attorney is your advocate to help you recover physically, mentally, and financially after your bike crash. They know:
- The applicable laws and what each party is responsible for in the event of an accident.
- What paperwork needs to be filed, and by what deadline?
- What the insurance company is and is not allowed to do while handling your claim.
- If your injuries might have lasting consequences and require medical bills beyond immediate treatment.
- The legal language in all the documents you must sign to receive payment. They won’t let anyone cheat you into signing away your rights.
Bicycling is an enjoyable, cost-effective, and environmentally sound form of recreation and transportation. Still, cyclists should know the risks and how to handle themselves in an emergency. Whether you are the victim or are riding with the victim, basic first aid and CPR certification can save lives.