"Is my bike okay?"
More often than not, this is one of the first questions a concussed cyclist asks when he or she 'comes-to' in the hospital. A similar question usually arises when discussing the personal injury claim with their attorney: "It was a Specialized Tarmac SL-7. I paid more for it than I did for my car, and it had only 200 miles on it!"
Bikes, of course, have an obvious sentimental value. We cyclists are attached to our bikes, whether it’s a dialed Cervelo with a custom paint scheme, a chromoly Long Haul trucker with as many memories as it has scratches, or a trusty commuter that has been through it all. It is understandable that your first concern is the condition of your bike, or whether or not there will be money to replace it. Yet, even if your bike was top-of-the-line, chances are it’s actually the least valuable portion of your personal injury claim. The cost to replace even the most expensive bike out there is significantly less than a single night in the ICU, which ranges between $25,000 and $30,000, according to Modern Healthcare. Medical expenses in the Colorado Front Range can be even higher, depending on which hospital you were brought to, and what your specific medical needs are. Below are some examples of the most common aspects of a typical bike crash personal injury claim in Colorado. Every case is unique, however, so it is imperative that your attorney be highly experienced at identifying and proving all elements of damages that are unique to your case.
Cost of Medical Care
Hospital and doctor’s bills are the first major expenses that you will encounter as a Colorado bike crash victim. The cost of medical care can be astronomical, particularly if your injuries require surgery, multiple overnight stays in a hospital, and long-term physical therapy. Even insured bike crash victims usually leave the hospital with large out-of-pocket expenses.
Whether or not your insurance ends up paying for your hospital stay, your full medical expenses will be included in your personal injury claim. Estimated future cost of care is also factored in. For example, if a victim’s severe injuries are likely to require future surgical procedures in the years to come, well after the personal injury claim has been settled, these expenses are still included in the monetary settlement of the claim.
In Colorado, there are two categories of general damages: 1) Non-Economic Damages, and 2) Physical Impairment and Disfigurement.
Non-economic damages include past and future physical and mental pain and suffering, inconvenience, and loss of enjoyment of life. These encompass, among other things, the actual physical pain the victim suffers, as well as the emotional trauma the crash and resulting injuries caused, such as emotional distress, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, insomnia, loss of joy of life, lost quality of life, and more. If your injuries are severe, the non-economic damages associated with your personal injury claim may be among the largest financial elements of damages.
Physical Impairment damages are those general damages associated with the victims past, and sometimes future, inability to do the physical things they would otherwise have been able to do. Damages for Disfigurement deal with permanent scarring or other changes to the victim’s body that changes their appearance. As with Non-Economic Damages, in a serious injury case these elements of damages can be quite large.
There is a lot of misinformation and myth associated with the calculation of general damages. There is no table, or math formula for calculating these. Simply put, the best way to evaluate these damages for the purpose of evaluating a case for settlement is to ask: ‘how would a jury of six strangers react to this evidence at trial; and what amounts would they deem fair and reasonable as reflected on a jury verdict form?” As should be obvious, in order to provide the best possible legal advice to a client, the attorney must have decades of experience handling these claims, and must be a very experienced civil trial attorney.
Past and Future Lost Earnings
The median lifetime earning of an American worker is $1.7 million, according to Georgetown University. That number is more than doubled for workers with professional degrees. Of course, lifetime earnings start at working age and end at retirement. Your own lost future earnings, or sometimes lost earning capacity, due to disability could be lower or higher than these averages. Lost future earnings are calculated using the following factors:
- Age of plaintiff;
- Health of plaintiff before the crash;
- Likely career trajectory; and
- Estimated level of disability due to permanent injury.
If you are laid up in a hospital bed, or at home recovering from a concussion, you obviously can’t work. And, returning to work full-time could take months. Sometimes years. The monthly per capita income in Denver county was $3,647 in 2019, according to the Census. Considering the time it takes to recover from a serious bike crash injury, the relatively short-term wage losses due to temporary disability can be exceedingly high. The at-fault party will be held accountable for these lost wages, in addition to any projected future lost income as stated above. Furthermore, if you end up losing your job, or a promotion, because of the time you’re required to take off of work, those losses must also be factored into your personal injury claim.
Cost of Medical Equipment, Transportation, and Home Modifications
Bike crash victims that suffer amputation, severe traumatic brain injury, or tetra or quadriplegia must be compensated for medical equipment and other high costs of living that their injuries require. For example, these expenses may include an electric wheelchair, cost to install a wheelchair ramp, modifying a vehicle for a physical disability, the cost of in-home medical care, the cost of in-home medical equipment, and more.
The property damage portion of your personal injury claim includes the cost to replace any damaged property resulting from the bike crash. Depending the bike you were riding and what you had on you at the time of the crash, property damage could include:
- Your bike;
- Power meter and other add-ons;
- Clothing / bike kit;
- Watch and jewelry;
- Bike computer;
- Accessories (lights, computer mount, fenders, etc.);
- Bike shoes; and
- Backpack / panniers and contents.
To determine the fair market value of your property damage, it is usually best to compile a list of your damaged items and take that list to a local bike shop. Cost to replace is based on current retail value. That could be more, or less, than the fair market value of your property had the crash not occurred. As an example, if you bought your bike three years ago, pre-pandemic, for $2,000 on a Black Friday sale, it might be worth more today, even if it had a few thousand miles on it. In some instances, loss of use while the bike is being repaired or replaced is appropriate.
Contact a Denver Bike Crash Attorney at Colorado Bike Law
When it comes to figuring out the value of your bike crash personal injury claim, there are no quick calculations or charts to turn to. Each case is different, and it takes many months to assess the long term economic and non-economic damages suffered by a bike crash victim. During this time, it is essential to lean on your attorney and trust that patience and careful negotiation always work better than seeking out a quick result. If you were to become the victim of a bike crash, Colorado Bike Law is here to help. Call ColoBikeLaw today at 303.694.9300 to schedule a free consultation.