With the recent “going green” movement, bicycling has become very popular in California. More people are using bicycles to avoid traffic when going to work or school, while others ride bikes for recreational purposes or as a way of exercising. However, the surge in the number of bicycles on the road has led to an increase in bike accidents. Some of the things that cause these accidents include dangerous roads, careless pedestrians, and reckless drivers. If you are a bicyclist, you should understand that you can claim compensation for the injuries caused by an accident that was not your fault. At The Personal Injury Attorney Law Firm, we assist victims of bicycle accidents caused by negligence. Below we have highlighted bicycle accident causes and what you need to do to get compensated.
Overview of California Bicycle Accident Laws
Under VC 21200, cyclists have similar rights and responsibilities on the road just like motorists. It means that if you are riding a bike, then you should obey traffic rules the same way you do when driving a car. California traffic laws require drivers to give cyclists not less than three feet of safety space when passing or driving along with them. Furthermore, drivers are prohibited from obstructing a labeled bike path by parking.
The law allows bicyclists to take the lane even when riding at a slower speed than the traffic when:
- They are avoiding road hazards
- They are passing
- They are getting ready to make a left turn
- The lane is too narrow to share
- They are close to a location where they are permitted to make a right turn
Cyclists are also required to ride with traffic flow unless:
- They are making a left-turn
- They are on a one-way street
- They are riding on a narrow path
- They are passing
Understanding the laws on bicycle accidents will help prevent liability in the event an accident occurs. If it is proved you are not at fault, you will receive your full compensation, unlike someone who doesn’t understand the law because they are likely to be at fault.
Risk Factors for Bike Crashes
Every time you are riding a bicycle, you are at risk of getting injured no matter your experience as a cyclist. However, certain factors increase the risk of cycling injuries or fatalities. These are:
- Helmet use
- Time of the day
- Urban areas
With the high population in California and the moderate temperatures throughout the year, cycling is prevalent. People are taking part in competitive and recreational cycling. Others prefer bike commuting to evade heavy traffic, especially in urban areas. Because of these, the risk of being involved in a bike collision in California increases daily. Things like age, sex, helmet use, and alcohol impairment increase the severity of the injuries sustained or death.
Common Causes of Bicycle Accidents
Several situations can result in bike crashes. Some of these circumstances include:
Unsafe Road Conditions
While riding on a bicycle, you can sustain injuries because of a collision caused by:
- Potholes on the road
- Loose gravel
- Uneven sidewalks
- Damaged road signs
- Projecting objects
If you are cycling and while evading a pothole, you crash and get injured, if the path you were using is privately owned, the owner of the property is responsible for the injuries. The same applies to public roads. If a public way is hazardous and the government authorities in charge of the roadway ought to have known about the dangerous road conditions, you can sue these authorities if the unsafe road condition causes a bicycle accident that results in your injuries.
Bike collisions occur in intersections when the cyclist is trying to pass through a crossway. The crashes happen when drivers fail to watch out for oncoming cyclists or when they are speeding. In case you are involved in a collision at an intersection, you should contact a personal injury attorney immediately because chances are the driver is at fault.
Defective Bicycle Parts
Manufacturers of various products are responsible for a considerable number of pedestrian and car crashes in California because of faulty parts. A defective part on your bicycle can cause an accident that leads to severe injuries. If this happens and you can connect the defective part to the accident, you should sue the manufacturer of the parts for product liability.
Cars Making Left-Hand Turns
California traffic laws require that every motorist making a left turn to yield the right of way to oncoming traffic. Oncoming traffic in this situation includes bicycles. The majority of drivers making a left-hand turn fail to give way to bikes, and due to that, cyclists are forced to pull out of the road, which leads to accidents.
A lot of bicycle accidents also occur when drivers are pulling out or in parking that is next to a road without paying attention. The law requires that drivers exercise caution when entering a roadway. Not every driver that is reversing to enter into the street looks out for cyclists, and this might result in a bike accident.
Drivers Passing Cyclists Without Allowing Enough Space
According to the law, motorists passing or riding along a bicycle should leave a distance of three feet between them and the bike. Bikes are allowed to ride along the highway but at the right-hand edge of the road all the time. The challenge is that some drivers are reckless to the extent they do not allow the minimum space between them and the cyclist when passing, which results in the bike being hit by the car or being forced out of the road.
Lane Changes and Merging
Side mirrors are essential for vehicles, especially when changing lanes. They help the driver see the traffic behind them when trying to change lanes or overtake. Because of the small size of bicycles, they are sometimes not visible in the rear-view. Failure to notice a cyclist when changing lanes will result in a crash.
Open Door Collisions
At times, bicycle accidents occur when a driver exiting a car opens the door while on traffic. If the door opens too fast and you were cycling trying to pass the vehicle, you are likely to hit the door, thus resulting in injuries. Drivers are always advised to look out for bicyclists, especially when they are opening car doors close to bike paths.
If a driver is operating a motor vehicle while using the phone, he or she is not likely to react on time to changing road situations. Also, a distracted driver is less likely to keep safe control over the vehicle, and at times he or she might veer off the road into bike paths, therefore causing a bicycle accident.
Actions to Take After Being Involved in a Bike Crash
A lot of people don’t know what to do after being involved in a bicycle accident, and this often affects their compensation. Whatever the cause of your accident, you should do the following things:
Seek Medical Attention
After a bicycle collision, it will be wise to call 911 or ask someone else to do it on your behalf if you are injured. The emergency response team will be sent to the scene of the crash. It is advisable that even if you have not sustained any significant injuries that you seek medical attention. The common bike crash injuries involve the neck, head, and back. Immediately after the crash, you might not feel anything, but the following day you might wake up to a lot of pain, hence the need for a doctor’s evaluation.
If you are hit by a car while riding a bicycle, gathering information is very crucial. Some of the information that you should collect includes:
- The car license plate number
- The name of the driver and his or her contact information
- Insurance information of the driver that hit you
- The year, make, model and color of the vehicle
- The VIN
- Witness contact information
It is advisable after a crash that you gather the above information and, in addition, take pictures of the accident scene. Photos of the road condition, the car that hit you, the injuries sustained, and the damage on your bike will be pivotal when claiming compensation. However, note that despite this information being crucial in your payment, your safety should always come first. If the driver in the car that hit you is impaired or not cooperating, you should call the law enforcement agency.
Don’t Admit Fault
Sometimes bicycle accidents are also caused by negligent cyclists. However, this doesn’t mean you should acknowledge fault at the scene of the accident. It is okay to apologize, especially where there is property damage or someone has sustained injuries, but remember everything you say at the stage might be used against you. Therefore, ensure that your attorney is present before you say anything no matter how hard the other driver pressures you to admit fault.
Note that after an accident, you might not know what caused it immediately. So, if you are not entirely sure you are to blame, let your injury attorney or bicycle attorney work it out with the driver’s insurer.
Seeking Compensation for Bike Accidents Caused by Reckless Drivers
Driver negligence is a significant cause of bicycle accidents. Things such as speeding, running a stop sign, and drifting into a bike lane all encompass driver negligence. VC 21209 specifically prohibits motorists from drifting to bike paths or lanes. If you can prove a driver violated this Vehicle Code or he or she was driving with disregard for the safety of other road users, then you can get compensated.
In a lawsuit, you will need to prove that the defendant acted in violation of a duty owed to you as the plaintiff. Also, you must show that the driver breached the duty of care through negligence and that the negligence or recklessness was the direct cause of your injuries. Keep in mind that drivers owe the duty of care to pedestrians, other motorists, and cyclists. The outcome of the lawsuit will depend on the individual case and how you present your evidence. You will have to rely on witnesses and other pieces of evidence to show that the driver acted negligently. Some of the actions that are considered evidence of negligence include:
- Denying cyclists three feet for safety when passing or driving along with them
- Driving under the influence
- Failure to yield
- Running at a stop sign or red signal
- Reckless driving
After presenting this evidence, it is up to the defendant, who is the driver in this case, to prove that he or she wasn’t at fault.
Suing a Pedestrian for Causing a Bicycle Accident
It is not every time that drivers cause bike accidents. At times even pedestrians can be blamed for a crash. Bicycle accidents caused by pedestrians occur when a pedestrian:
- Walks while texting
- Fails to control his or her dog
- Listens to headphones while not paying attention to bicycle traffic
- Steps out directly into a bike path
- Runs out in front of a bicycle
- Intentionally knocks a cyclist off the bike
Like in other cases, you will have to prove that the pedestrian was negligent and the negligence is what resulted in the crash. You will be required to prove that:
- The pedestrian owed you a duty of care
- He or she broke the duty of care through negligence
- Negligence by the pedestrian caused the bicycle crash that led to your injuries
Claiming Compensation for Bicycle Accidents Caused by Dangerous Roads
It is common for cyclists to blame themselves when they crash because of a dangerous road condition like a pothole or loose gravel. The truth of the matter is that you should not blame yourself. Instead, the blame should go to the people in charge of the poor road. As per the premises liability statute of California, the local authorities or the property owner where the hazardous roadway is based is responsible for bike accidents that occur. Private property owners are liable if they fail to maintain their asphalt or pavement surfaces, which later causes an accident.
Many roads in California are in poor conditions, and they cause many injuries and deaths annually. If you are injured in a public highway under the care of the city or local authorities, then you can sue them for damages. But to be compensated, you need to prove that these authorities were aware of this dangerous road conditions and many people had complained about it before your accident. You can further argue that the government agency in charge knew about other bike collisions that occurred because of the same hazardous road condition but never acted. That way, you can show that the people responsible for the road ought to have known about the situation and did something, but instead, they chose to ignore it. If you argue this way, you are likely to be compensated for your loss.
Often, drivers blame cyclists when accidents occur. No matter the situation, it is wise not to admit your negligence caused the accident because it means you will pay for all your medical bills and those of any other person that might have been injured. Further, you will pay for the damages caused to the car that hit you. If someone pressures you into admitting fault, refer them to your bike accident attorney.
Whether you are filing a lawsuit against the driver or you are the defendant, in most cases, both you and the driver are going to share the blame. Negligence where the cyclist and the driver share fault is known as comparative negligence. In the event you rode negligently, and someone is blaming you, you will pay the plaintiff for the injuries and property damage in case there is any. However, if you are the person who sued a driver for causing an accident but the driver tries to blame part of the fault on you, if he or she can prove you were partly at fault, the amount of compensation to be received will be slashed. Often your payment will be reduced by the percentage of negligence that is on you.
Keep in mind when it comes to contributory negligence, the experience and profoundness of the attorney on your side are what will determine the percentage of fault to be blamed on you. It means that even if you were negligent to a certain extent, with an aggressive personal injury attorney, you could get a hefty compensation if not the full amount. The reason being an excellent attorney will work hard to prove that you didn’t contribute to the crash in any way.
Seeking Compensation for a Bike Accident Caused by a Defective or Faulty Part
A bike accident can also stem from defective bike parts. The majority of bicycle accidents caused by faulty parts occur when breaks of a bicycle fail, causing you to crash or unable to stop. In most cases, you might not know whom to blame for such an accident. Fortunately, with the product liability law of California, it is possible to sue the company that designed, produced, or sold the faulty or defective part for the injuries or losses you sustained because of their product.
The good thing about suing the manufacturers of defective products is that you don’t need to prove negligence to recover damages. Instead, you have to show that:
- The defendant designed, produced, distributed or sold a faulty bike
- The bike had defects when it left the defendant’s hands
- You rode the bike in a reasonable manner
- You sustained injuries or harm due to the flaws in the bike
If you can prove the above in a product liability claim, you will be compensated for the accident.
Wrongful Death Lawsuits in Bicycle Accidents
Not every person involved in a bike accident gets to live. Some lose their lives, which means they can’t file personal injury claims against the people responsible for their crashes. However, the surviving family of the decedent can file a claim to recover damages for losing a loved one. The people who can present this claim are descendants of the decedent and any other person entitled to the estate of the decedent.
In a wrongful death lawsuit, you will be seeking to recover damages for burial and funeral costs, future earnings the decedent would have earned if he or she had survived the crash. Also, you should be compensated for the loss of consortium and companionship.
Damages Available in Bicycle Accidents
If you are involved in a bike collision caused by the things discussed above, and you can prove the defendant is liable, you will get compensation for the injuries. In the event the victim died from the accident, his or her descendants will receive compensation. The amount to be compensated depends on whether you were injured or killed in the crash. Some of the damages available for cyclists injured in an accident include:
- Medical expenses
- Occupational therapy
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of earning ability
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of limb
The amount of compensation depends on the extent of the injuries. Cyclists often receive massive compensation amounts because the injuries sustained are major. Some of the frequent bicycle injuries include:
- Road rash
- Eye injuries
- Internal bleeding
- Dental fractures
- Broken hands
- Broken bones
In some cases, you, as a cyclist, can pursue punitive damages if you feel the driver or the person at faulty portrayed outrageous conduct. If you think that maybe a driver was trying to run you down intentionally, that is the right time to seek punitive damages.
Find a Bicycle Accident Attorney Near Me
In California, bike accidents differ significantly from car crashes. In bike crashes, liability is not always clear, and in most cases, the insurer of the at-fault party will try to blame the accident on the cyclist. The fact that the proof in bicycle accidents is not always determinative allows insurers to use tricks on cyclists. If you have suffered injuries because of a bike collision, contact The Personal Injury Attorney Law Firm at 619-625-8707. Our attorney will answer all your questions regarding bicycle accident causes and help prove that the defendant was negligent, and it is what caused the accident.