California boasts one of the most progressive attitudes towards bicycle riding in the country. The state has several bicyclists who run errands, commute, or enjoy recreational activities. Due to this, the construction and use of bicycle lanes are becoming common in an attempt to help improve biker safety. Unfortunately, despite all this, people still suffer from bicycle injuries every year. A report by the California Department of Public Health showed that in 2016, 189 people died throughout the state due to bicycle accidents. NHTSA puts California the second in the number of bicycle-related deaths after Florida.
Most of the bicycle accidents that occur are rarely the fault of the bicyclist. They may be as a result of other drivers, poor conditions of the road, or pedestrians. Bicyclists should understand that they can claim compensation for the injuries they sustained in an accident that is not their fault. At The Personal Injury Attorney Law Firm, we help California bicyclists injured in bicycle accidents file claims to make the at-fault party liable for the damage caused. Reach out to us immediately after the crash, and we will help you navigate the road to your recovery.
California Bicycle Accident Laws
According to California VC 21200, bicyclists have similar rights as well as responsibilities as motorists. By this, it means any person riding a bike is subjected to DUI laws, traffic signals, and allowing pedestrians the right-of-way just as though they were operating a vehicle.
We have a few particular laws which apply to drivers’ interactions with bicyclists on the roadway. Since 2014, the state of California has maintained that all motorists should give bicyclists a minimum of three feet of space when passing them or driving alongside them. Additionally, no one is allowed to obstruct a designated bike path by parking a vehicle or bike in that path or stopping in it.
Many drivers do not understand this one rule that in given circumstances, bicyclists have a right to take the lane even if they are riding slower than traffic. These circumstances include:
- When they are passing
- When avoiding road hazards
- When preparing to turn left
- When the lane is so narrow that it impossible to share
- When nearing a location where they are authorized to make a right turn
Also, bicyclists must familiarize themselves with a few other laws of the road. For instance, California law provides that all bicyclists ride with the traffic flow except if they are:
- Riding on a one-way street
- Making a left-turn
- Riding on a very narrow road
- When the road’s right-hand side is closed because of road construction
Additionally, on any roadway with a designated bicycle lane, bicyclists riding slower than traffic flow have to use the bicycle lane except if they are:
- Turning left
- Avoiding hazards
- Nearing a place where they are authorized to make a right turn.
Risk Factors for Bike Accidents
Any person that rides a bicycle is at risk of a bicycle injury; even the experienced riders. However, we have several factors that might place some bicyclists at a higher risk of sustaining injuries or even death. These factors include:
Age- Studies show a high rate of mortality among bicyclists aged between 50 and 59 years. However, adolescents and children (between 5 and 19 years) record the highest rate of nonfatal bicycle accidents.
Sex- The chances of male bicyclists dying from a bicycle-related accident are six times higher compared to that of women. Also, the chances of male cyclists getting injured in a bicycle accident are four times higher compared to females.
Time of the day- The majority of deadly bicycle accidents occur between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m.
Alcohol impairment- More than a third of fatal bicycle accidents involve a rider and driver under the influence of alcohol.
Urban areas- The majority of deadly bicycle crashes take place in non-intersection zones and urban set-ups. A study carried out in 2011 indicated that close to 70% of the fatal accidents took place in urban set-ups.
Helmet use- even though putting on a helmet doesn’t prevent bicycle accidents; it plays a significant role in preventing brain trauma or head injuries. Not wearing a helmet contributes majorly to fatal bicycle accidents or crashes that cause serious injuries.
Of all the U.S States, California is the leading with the highest population. Populated urban regions, for instance, the Bay Area and Southern California, have moderate temperatures lasting all year round. This makes biking more prevalent in these areas all year round, including bike commuters, recreational cyclists, and competitive racers. The many biking activities increase the possibility of more accidents.
Also, California’s vehicle traffic leaves cycling as an alternate mode of transport for a person who doesn’t want to sit in traffic for a long time. Many places in urban areas of California are built for cars, leaving bicyclists exposed. This puts Californians at a higher risk of being involved in bicycle accidents.
Common Causes of Bicycle Accidents
Vehicles Making Left-Hand Turns
In bicycle accidents, a motorist turning left might collide with oncoming bicyclists. VC 21801a dictates that motorists who are making a left turn yield the right of way to all approaching vehicles. This includes motorcyclists and bicyclists. Often, drivers making left turns fail to notice the bicyclists. This forces them to pull out, which results in an accident.
Sometimes, drivers back their cars out of side streets or driveways onto the road abruptly without looking out for bicyclists. If there is an oncoming cyclist, this act may result in an accident. Any driver that does this will be violating laws that forbid entering onto a roadway without proper exercising of caution.
Under VC 22517, drivers are prohibited from opening the door of the car that is on the side of moving traffic. They are only allowed to do so if it is safe. Despite, several drivers still open their doors without looking out for cyclists; even those in or close to bicycle lanes. Doing this may cause bicyclists to collide with the door and get injured.
Lane changes and merging
Vehicles that attempt to change the direction of travel or lanes might fail to notice bicyclists with their rear-view or side mirrors.
Motorists passing bicyclists without giving enough distance
In California, bicyclists are permitted to ride along certain highways as well as most main surface streets. Bicyclists that ride along these roads are encouraged to keep on the right-hand edge, thus, moving along with traffic flow. The problem is that sometimes drivers become impatient and try to pass without providing enough space for the bicyclists they are passing. Doing this may cause accidents or sometimes bicyclists are forced off the road.
Unsafe road conditions
Poor road conditions can cause accidents that result in injury for bicyclists. These conditions include:
- Debris on the road
- Projecting objects
- Cracked cement,
- Loose gravel
- Uneven sidewalks
- Damaged road signs
- Lifted asphalt
In case these conditions are on privately-owned property, the owner of the property may be responsible for the injury caused. This is especially so if they reasonably knew or should have known the poor condition posed a danger to people using that property. In case the poor conditions are present on public roads, they could be considered dangerous conditions of public property. In this case, the governmental organization in charge of the roadway will be responsible for any injuries caused.
Several bicycle accidents occur in or near intersections when bicyclists try to move through a crossway. These crashes occur because drivers fail to watch out for bicyclists or engage in dangerous driving behaviors like failing to slow down for a yellow caution signal or running a red light.
Consulting with an attorney as soon as possible is crucial in all these cases. This is because deadlines to file a personal injury claim can be very short; six months from the date you were injured.
When to Sue for a Bike Accident
The party/parties liable for the bicycle accident might be responsible for paying money damages. You may seek to be compensated by filing a personal injury claim. In case you got injured during the crash, you may recover compensation for:
- Bicycle damage
- Physical injuries
- Medical bills
- Lost wages
If the bicycle crash involved a vehicle, you must speak to an attorney before talking to the insurance company of the driver. This is because, generally, the goal of the company is to settle the case for as little as possible, and it may manipulate you into agreeing on an unsatisfactory deal. Your attorney can negotiate with the company so that you do not have to settle for less.
It is also possible that your accident may be as a result of cracked cement, a pothole, or a dog on a leash. In these cases, if you are unsure of who to blame consult with your personal injury attorney. He/she may be able to establish who is liable so that you can be compensated for the injuries and damage caused.
Injuries You are Most Likely to Sustain in a Bicycle Accident
The most known injuries you can sustain in a bicycle accident include:
- Broken bones
- Road rash or abrasions
- Hand fracture
- Dental fractures
- Eye injuries
- Neck and head injuries
- Internal bleeding
- Dislocations or strains
What You Should do After Getting Involved in a Bicycle Accident
Seek medical care
The first and most crucial step to take after getting involved in a bicycle crash is seeking medical attention in case it is needed. In case you sustained an injury, call 911 or request someone else to do it for you.
Most injuries sustained in a bicycle accident will involve back, neck, or head trauma. A doctor must evaluate these injuries immediately. This is because you might feel okay shortly after the crash, but as time progresses, you may start experiencing severe pain. Therefore, you must get checked by a physician to be sure that your injuries are not more severe than they seem.
If your bicycle accident involves a vehicle, you should gather as many details as possible concerning the incident. The information to collect includes:
- The name of the driver and his/her contact information
- The license plate number of the vehicle
- The model, make, color, and year of the car
- The insurance information of the driver
- The identification number of the vehicle (VIN)
- Contact details of eyewitnesses if any
You can also record a video or take photos of the scene of the accident as well as vehicle information. Additionally, you could also take photos of any injuries you sustained and the damage caused to your bicycle. However, note that your safety is your priority. In case the motorist is impaired, trying to flee the accident scene, or simply not cooperating, you should contact the police.
Do not acknowledge that you were at fault
It’s common for parties to admit guilt and apologize after a crash, even if they didn’t do anything wrong. Anything you say at the scene of the accident in the absence of your attorney can be used against you; so is admitting fault. In case the other involved party is aggressive and wants you to agree that you are to blame, tell him/her to talk to your attorney.
In personal injury claims, the question of who is to blame helps the jury determine the facts of the case. Do not admit to being on the wrong, especially if you aren’t 100% sure what led to the accident. It could be that the motorist was speeding, drunk, or even on a phone call when driving. Let your attorney handle the driver’s insurance provider and have the driver compensate you for the injuries you sustained.
Contact your personal injury attorney
You must contact your personal injury attorney as soon as you get involved in a bicycle accident. Do not try to negotiate with the insurance company of the at-fault driver by yourself. As said earlier, the company will try to have you settle on a low offer. We advise that you don’t settle for less than what you deserve.
Damages You Can Recover in Bicycle Accident Lawsuit
Any party who was the reason for the bicycle crash may be liable for the injuries sustained. The damages recovered after filing a personal injury lawsuit will vary depending on whether, due to the accident, the victim died or was injured.
Generally, if you were injured, you could sue for damages by filing a personal injury claim. The damages you receive may include economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages include:
- Medical bills
- Lost wages
- Occupation therapy
- Loss of future earning capacity
Non-economic damages, on the other hand, include loss of consortium. Loss of consortium refers to the loss of companionship, intimacy, and support between domestic partners or spouses. Other non-economic damages include pain & suffering, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment of life.
In certain cases, you may also recover punitive damages. However, for you to recover these damages, you generally have to prove that the at-fault-party demonstrated outrageous or extreme conduct like being negligent or reckless. Under the negligence laws of California, a negligent motorist is responsible for injuries brought on by a crash he/she caused. To show negligence, you have to prove that:
- The driver owed you a duty of care
- The driver violated that through negligence
- The carelessness of the motorist was a significant factor that contributed to your injury or the victim’s death
Generally, a motorist owes the duty of care to pedestrians, other drivers, and cyclists. The negligence of a motorist can be shown by inattentive driving, traffic violations, and other reckless actions. Negligence or traffic violations by motorists may involve the following:
- Failure to leave three feet between him/her and the bicyclist for safety
- Distracted driving
- Failing to yield
- Reckless driving
- Running a stop sign
- DUI of alcohol or drugs
Note that damages are awarded depending on the degree of your injuries. If you sustained minor injuries, the damages might include emergency medical care and one or two days off work. Moreover, if you sustained severe injuries, damages may consist of long-lasting medical care.
If a person dies as a result of the bicycle accident, the surviving members of the family to the deceased can file a wrongful death claim for compensation since the deceased cannot do it. Members of the family who are permitted by law to file a wrongful death lawsuit include:
- Children of the deceased
- Surviving spouse
- Domestic partner
- Grandchildren (in case the children of the dead are all deceased)
- Any other person who has a right to inherit the deceased’s property as per the California intestate succession rules and regulations.
Wrongful death claims allow the members of the family mentioned above to claim damages for:
- Loss of future earning capacity
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Loss of support and companionship
- Medical bills from when the deceased was hospitalized up to the time he/she passed away
If it is another bicyclist or pedestrian who caused the accident, you can file a compensation claim against the responsible party. Like in the case of a bicycle-car accident, you will need to prove the pedestrian’s negligence. Bicycle accidents that involve pedestrians may include:
- Failure of the pedestrian to control his/her dog
- Entering in a bicycle lane suddenly
- Walking and texting
- Listening to loud music via headphones thus failing to pay attention to bicycle traffic
- Running right before a bicyclist
- Intentionally knocking a bicyclist off his/her bicycle
What Happens if the Motorist Claims you Caused the Crash?
Several motorists don’t understand the daily hardships bicyclists go through with vehicles. Bicyclists might have multiple narrow escapes when riding on the streets. Sometimes, when the motorist is to blame for the accident, he/she still blames the bicyclist.
If a motorist faults you for causing the crash, don’t admit fault. This is because admitting that you caused the accident may mean that you will pay for the medical bills by yourself. Also, you may be needed to compensate the motorist for the damage caused to his/her car. As we said earlier, in case a motorist compels you to agree that you caused the accident, ask him/her to talk to your attorney.
In most cases, you and the motorist may share a given degree of blame for contributing to the occurrence of the crash. Both of you may have partially contributed to the occurrence of the accident. In this case, the liability of the property owner could be limited.
In California, if over one party shares the blame for a crash, the jury may apportion blame and damages. It means that your damages award will be lowered depending on your degree of fault. This is according to the comparative fault regulations of California.
Accident Caused by a Defective Bicycle
Bicycle accidents can also be as a result of a defective bike or its part. A bicycle part may break, making you get involved in a crash. You might not have any idea of what happened and who was at fault. As per the California product liability regulations, the company that designed, manufactured, and sold the bicycle is responsible for the resulting injuries of the accident.
Unlike the previous cases we have talked about, here you don’t need to show that the company acted with negligence. In defective product cases, strict responsibility may be imposed for design, failure-to-warn, or manufacturing defects.
For you to be compensated in this case, you have to prove that:
- The at-fault party designed, manufactured, sold or distributed the defective bicycle
- The bicycle had the defect when you took it from the at-fault party’s possession
- You used the bike in a sensibly foreseeable manner
- You suffered harm or injury due to the defective bike
Get a Personal Injury Attorney Near Me
Whether you were injured in a crash while enjoying your recreational activities or in California city traffic, we will help assess whether you have a valid claim. Having an attorney by your side to handle your case provides you with the best chance of getting the compensation you deserve after a crash. At The Personal Injury Attorney, we help clients injured in bicycle accidents get their rightful compensation by putting the liable party to task. Call us at 619-625-8707 for a free consultation and to share more about your case. In addition to helping you get compensated, we will evaluate your situation to see whether legal action is necessary.