Cycling in Seattle

By Lauren E. Adler

April 9, 2018

As Seattle’s population grows (and traffic thickens along with it), more of us are opting to transport on two wheels instead of four. Sometimes in the city, cycling can actually get you where you need to go more quickly, and it’s far cheaper than a car—no need to shell out for gas or pricey insurance premiums. If you can stand the chill and sharp rain pellets in the winter, it can be tempting to forego a car entirely.

Yet Seattle’s road infrastructure hasn’t quite caught up to the increased volume of cyclists on the road and so more people are involved in accidents on their bike. The city is trying to create bike lanes and safe places for cyclist to commute, but Seattle’s drivers are simply not used to sharing the road.

As health care providers, here are a few things you need to know if your patient was hit and injured while riding their bike.

  1. Personal Injury Protection (PIP) from the Driver Pays Bills. The driver’s PIP coverage applies to the cyclist as well as the driver. In fact, the driver’s PIP is first in line to pay. If the cyclist has their own PIP policy, that is second to pay, followed by the patient’s health insurance. This is true regardless of how the incident occurred or who was at fault. PIP pays 100% of the treatment bill. The best practice is to get the name and claim number of the driver’s insurance company from your patient, and send billing directly to that company. Tell—don’t ask—the adjuster to open a PIP claim because your patient was hit by their insured while on a bike.
  2. Second layer of PIP. If the cyclist also has a car with an auto policy, they have a second layer of PIP coverage that comes into play after the driver’s PIP has exhausted. If the patient does not have their own auto policy, treatment bills should be sent to their health insurance after the driver’s PIP has exhausted.
  3. Your Patient May Also Have A Bodily Injury Claim. The driver’s PIP coverage is separate and apart from a bodily injury claim (also called “liability” or “negligence” claim) against the driver’s insurance company. The bodily injury claim exists only when the cyclist was not entirely at fault for the accident. This claim is more comprehensive than what PIP covers: it includes other economic damages apart from medical bills, such as wage loss and out-of-pocket expenses like gas mileage to appointments, parking receipts, and medically necessary purchases like pillows or ergonomic workstations. It also includes non-economic damages of “pain and suffering,” the stress and inconvenience to the injured cyclist because of the injury that was not their fault. To understand if both claims are at play in your patient’s particular case, we recommend your patient consult with an attorney. Even if your patient does not need to hire an attorney for their case, it is important to understand the difference between the two claims because the insurance company involved will be the same.
  4. Get Ahead of the Bias. Make sure your client gets a copy of the police report from the incident. We are not sure why, but we have seen time and time again an undeniable bias from law enforcement and drivers against cyclists. The assumption is that if a cyclist has been involved in an accident, it is the cyclist’s fault for not following the rules of the road, for crossing intersections illegally, not being visible, not wearing a bike light or taking other protective measures. If the officer has attributed any fault to your patient, it is better they know as soon as possible as it could impact their potential injury claim down the road.

Cyclist collisions can be more complicated and challenging than car-versus-car collisions, so we recommend your patient consult an attorney to understand their rights, know the players involved, and learn the truth about myths that the insurance company may be trying to feed them about what they can recover. We have a great deal of experience in cyclist cases and any of our attorneys are readily available to consult.