Bicyclists are exposed while riding and can suffer severe injuries once they are involved in an accident. Most bicycle accidents are preventable, but a simple issue can lead to an accident. While there are many factors related to severe bicycle injuries, you should seek compensation from the at-fault party. There is usually a strong defense presented by the at-fault party while seeking compensation. That’s why you need to seek professional legal help. At The Personal Injury Attorney Law Firm, we are more than willing to offer the best legal assistance to anyone seeking compensation after a bicycle accident in California.
Types of Catastrophic Bicycle Accidents
You should follow all road rules while sharing a road with a bicyclist. Dispute on who has the right of way can is common, leading to bicycle accidents. Bicyclists can incur different types of accidents, depending on the accident’s location and vehicle. Here is a closer look at the common types of bicycle accidents.
Collision at Intersections and Stop Signs
Bicyclists should treat traffic control devices similar to a driver behind the wheel of a car. Therefore, they should stop at signs, yield to the right of way, and avoid following too closely. Despite the cyclist following all these rules, other motorists might ignore their presence and interrupt their bicycle’s movement. For instance, if a driver fails to give a bicyclist the right of way, there are chances of causing a bicycle accident, especially if the cyclist is unaware of the misconduct.
Collision at Uncontrolled Intersection
Not all intersections have traffic control. Some rely on a motorist's knowledge about traffic and have to apply it while approaching such intersections. However, some drivers underlook bicyclists and fail to give them the right of way when needed. Therefore, they do not slow down while they realize that cyclists have the right of way, putting them at risk of an accident.
Left Cross Collisions
A left cross collision occurs when a left-turning vehicle crosses a cyclist’s path who is crossing a road. Since left turners should always yield, this usually puts the motorist at-fault of the accident. This kind of accident often occurs when the bicyclist does not have brightly colored clothes or is moving close to the left turn lane.
Dooring accidents occur when a driver exits their vehicle without making sure that the area at the side of the vehicle is free from any traffic. Bicyclists have less time to reach and would easily strike the door of that car. The bicyclist is often thrown off the bike and might sustain severe injuries.
Side-sweep accidents are common with vehicles but can also occur to bicycles. This kind of accident occurs when a motorist fails to give a bicyclist enough room to pass while on a busy highway. This kind of accident occurs when a driver fails to overtake a bicycle by forcing the vehicle into its lane.
Drivers usually misjudge the distance between their vehicles and the bicycles in front of their vehicles. Therefore, if a bicycle comes to a sudden stop while the driver is following too closely, there are chances of hitting the bike from its back. This might cause catastrophic injuries if the vehicle was speeding.
Causes of Catastrophic Bicycle Accidents
In most cases, catastrophic bicycle accidents result from negligence from other road users. Also, bicycle accidents can result from the state department’s negligence responsible for the construction of rehabilitation of bicycle lanes and California roads. Here is a detailed view of the common causes of catastrophic bicycle accidents in California.
Failure to Yield
Bicycles enjoy the same rights as vehicles that share the same road. However, some drivers intentionally or unintentionally fail to give bicyclists the space they need while using the road. Drivers fail to honor the rights of the driver in situations such as:
- Entering an intersection
- Backing out of driveways
- Failure to follow traffic rules in a stop sign
In simple terms, vehicles do not always have the right of way. They must honor the right of a bicyclist and acknowledge it to prevent a possible bicycle accident.
One of the highest causes of bicycle accidents is inattentive driving. This occurs to both the driver and the cyclist. If a driver is distracted by his phone, iPod, or something outside the vehicle, they would not easily concentrate on what is happening on the road. Since bicycles are quite smaller than cars, it is hard to realize that there is a bicycle in front of you while distracted and manage to stop your vehicle in time. This would lead to catastrophic injuries, especially when the driver was speeding.
It is hard to stop a speeding vehicle. Therefore, a driver can severely injure a bicyclist if he or she ends up hitting him or her while speeding. This usually puts the driver liable for the injuries, especially if the cyclist observes all relevant traffic rules at the time of the accident.
Following too Closely
Another common cause of bicycle accidents is following too closely. Drivers are expected to maintain at least two-meter space between their vehicle and the one at the front. If a driver follows a bicycle too closely, there is a likelihood of hitting it from behind once it makes a sudden stop since vehicles require a longer distance and time to come to a halt.
Poor Riding Lanes Design
There are specific roads that have cycling lanes meant to be used by bicyclists rather than using the main road. Such paths are suitable for the bicyclist, but sometimes they can pose a significant danger if they have a poor design. Some of the aspects that can demonstrate a poorly designed cycling lane include poor marking, too narrow, and pedestrians' use of the same pathways as cyclists.
Defects in a bicycle can present a hidden danger when the rider does not discover them soon. Defects can arise from serious design flaws of one of its components or improper manufacture. Some of the defects that can cause a severe accident include:
- Brake defects
- A crack or error on the carbon fiber frames
- Fork failure
- Incorrect material or assembly
- Failure to meet the recommended safety standards
Dangerous Road Conditions
In some cases, other vehicles on the road are not the sole cause of a bicycle accident. Sudden changes in the road surface might also affect bicycles much more than large cars, leading to loss of control. For instance, unfixed or poorly fixed potholes can be a severe hazard for bicycles. Also, sewers and trolley tracks might be a grave risk hazard. If your bicycle accident resulted from these conditions, you need to hold the state department responsible for the construction and rehabilitation of the road responsible for your injuries.
Aggressive driving is a mixture of different behaviors that puts other road users at risk of incurring an accident. This includes actions such as:
- Overtaking dangerously
- Rage driving
- Driving on the cycling lane
Most catastrophic bicycle accidents are not entirely a result of negligence from other motorists. Sometimes cyclists do not put reflective clothing, making them more visible to motorists. In that case, they end up being hit by the motorist, making them partially liable for their injuries and damages.
As much as other motorists should take care of the cyclists sharing the road with them, cyclists must obey all the traffic. Therefore, they should not make a sudden movement in the vehicle's path, run stop signs, or cycle aggressively. If the bicycle accident that you were involved in was due to aggressive cycling, you should be held liable for the injuries and damages sustained.
Catastrophic Injuries Sustained in a Bicycle Accident
Bicycle accidents can leave you suffering from catastrophic injuries. These injuries are different from minor ones due to their severity and can leave the accident victim needing long-term medical care and nursing care to get through the day. Catastrophic injuries usually occur in critical body parts such as the spine, brain, skull, and specific bones. Let's have a closer look at the common catastrophic injuries suffered in a bicycle accident.
Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
Traumatic brain injury is a severe head injury resulting from a violent blow or jolt of the head. It might also result from an object that penetrates the skull, such as debris from a metal shard or a shattered windshield. You can suffer TBI if you are hit by a vehicle from the back, or in a head-on collision that hits your head against the vehicle's windshield. Traumatic brain injury causes sensory problems, memory or concentration problems, depression, mood swings, loss of coordination, etc.
Spinal Cord Injury
A spinal cord injury involves the damage of the nerve endings or part of the spinal cord. The spinal cord is a sensitive part of the body and cannot repair itself compared to other body parts. Some of the common signs and symptoms of this injury include:
- Loss of movement
- Loss of bladder or bowel control
- Exaggerated spasm or reflexes
- Change in sexual sensitivity
- Difficulty breathing
- Pain or intense stinging sensation caused by damage to the nerve fibers
It is likely to need your arm, foot, leg, finger, toe, or hand to be amputated once you are involved in a bicycle accident. The doctor might resolve an amputation once he or she assesses your limb or digit injury and finds out that it cannot be reattached. You might also suffer an amputation if you incur significant nerve damage, an infection, or a crushed bone.
Once your limb has been amputated, you might need to use a prosthesis to help you retain your natural use. It takes quite a lot of time and effort to get used to the prosthetic, but victims can attain a high degree of functionality and satisfying life quality. However, pain and suffering suffered should be explained.
Internal Organ Injury
You can incur an organ injury in a bicycle accident, especially in a high-impact collision. This can lead to internal bleeding and might cause the organ to fail to perform essential functions. Some of the common organ damage types include liver laceration, kidney damage, and a ruptured spleen. You might also experience other types of internal injuries such as broken ribs, pneumothorax, abdominal aorta aneurysm, and brain bleeds. Treating and managing this kind of injury is quite expensive and might need long-term care as well.
Partial or Total Paralysis
Paralysis usually results from severe brain damage and spinal cord injury. There are two types of paralysis. This includes complete and partial paralysis. Complete paralysis occurs when you cannot move or control your paralyzed muscles at all. You cannot also feel anything in those injured muscles. Partial or incomplete paralysis involves a partial control over the paralyzed muscle. This type of paralysis is also referred to as paresis. Depending on the paralysis’s nature that you suffer from the bicycle accident, you might require long-term care and treatment. This makes you eligible for a compensation claim from the at-fault party.
Disfigurement and Significant Scarring
Disfigurement occurs in different ways depending on the body part that is affected. For instance, loss of a limb is part of disfigurement since the body’s natural appearance is affected.
Scarring is also part of disfigurement since it involves an effect of the natural appearance of the body. In a bicycle accident, a victim might suffer significant scarring when part of his or her body contacts the road. The most suitable way to handle or treat significant scarring is through skin grafting. This kind of treatment is quite expensive, hence the need to seek compensation from the at-fault party.
A coma is a state of prolonged unconsciousness that might result from a TBI or a head injury in general. Swift action is required to preserve the victim's brain function and his life. Therefore, doctors might order several medical diagnosis measures to determine the best treatment needed to get the victim out of the coma. This will lead to a high cost, which should be the at-fault party’s responsibility to pay for the bills incurred.
Types of Damages in Catastrophic Bicycle Accidents
If you suffer injuries from your bicycle accident, all the expenses incurred in treating and rehabilitating them are referred to as damages. Damages are the total of all costs incurred by a victim due to a particular type of accident. In a catastrophic bicycle accident, you will likely suffer several kinds of damages. Here is a detailed view of the general damages that result from catastrophic injuries.
Medical expenses usually take the lion share when it comes to compensable damages. These expenses cover many aspects that arise once you are involved in a severe bicycle accident. This includes:
- Physical therapy
- Cognitive therapy if the victim suffers a brain injury
- Consultation with a medical professional
- Purchase of accessories such as heat pad and crutches
- In-home medical services
Please note, medical expenses also cover future medical expenses, which are common in victims who have suffered severe injuries. Your attorney should find a professional capable of calculating your future medical costs to ensure that your compensation is accurate.
This is a type of compensation that includes payment for the time that you were unable to work while recuperating or any future loss of wage. Your lost income is calculated based on your current pay, and how much you would have earned if you had not incurred the accident. For your future loss of wage, you and your attorney should consider aspects such as promotions, and potential benefits that could have been added to your current wages until your retirement.
Pain and Suffering
Pain and suffering is a legal definition of physical distress in which a victim should seek damages in a compensation lawsuit. There are chances of suffering severe pain and suffering in a catastrophic injury, including anxiety, stress, and loss of enjoyment of life.
Loss of Consortium
Loss of consortium is a legal definition that involves the lack of a partner to fulfill his or her affection, such as sexual activity. It also consists of the inability to show companionship to other family members such as your child. Unlike other types of damages, the uninjured spouse demanded loss of consortium rather than the victim.
Punitive is another type of damage meant to punish the at-fault party for his or her gross negligence that led to the bicycle accident. This kind of damage is usually three to four times the average amount of the other damages. The decision to award a particular amount is based on the discretion of the judge or the jury. You and your attorney should prove beyond doubt that the at-fault party acted in gross negligence hence the bicycle accident. Otherwise, you cannot recover punitive damages since the court rarely awards it.
How to Successfully Claim Your Damages After a Bicycle Accident
You need to consider several aspects while making a compensation claim after a bicycle accident. Failing to consider these aspects might somehow affect your compensation claim, denying you the amount you deserve. Here are the most crucial considerations you should make while making your damage claim after a bicycle accident.
Identify the At-fault Party
One or more parties might be at fault for the bicycle accident that you were involved in. Parties that might be responsible for causing a bicycle accident include:
- Drivers of, trucks, cars, and other motor vehicles - Most bicycle accidents are caused by careless and negligent drivers who are distracted, speeding, tired, and impaired
- Bicycle and Parts Manufacturers - If you can prove that the accident resulted from a defective bicycle part, you can hold the bicycle or parts manufacturer liable for your injuries.
- Commercial companies - A corporation or company can be held liable for your injuries if the at-fault party was a hired personnel of the respective company or corporation.
- Government entity - You can hold a government entity liable for your injuries if the accident results from hazardous roads, defective road designs, or an accident involving a public vehicle.
- The Bicyclist - Sometimes, the victim or cyclist might play a part in causing a bicycle accident. In such a case, the damages will be awarded using the comparative negligence rule. Under this rule, the damages are awarded according to the percentage of liability of the other party. For instance, if you are 40% liable for the accident, you will only be eligible for 60% compensation of the total damages, which counts as the other party’s aggregate liability.
Prove that You Suffered Injuries from the Accident
You cannot claim compensation from the at-fault party if you do not have concrete evidence that you suffered injuries from the car accident. In every kind of injury that you incur, there are specific ways that you can use to demonstrate that you were injured. Here are a few ways that you can prove that you sustained injuries from the accident:
- Receipts that show your medical expenses
- Psychological report of your pain and suffering
- Receipts that show the purchase of prosthesis and other aids
- A report from your employer that indicates your absence from work while recovering from your injuries
- An affidavit from your partner that proves a loss of consortium
- A report from an expert witness that demonstrates that you suffered damages from the bicycle accident
Prove that the At-fault Party was Liable for Your Injuries
Once you have proved that you suffered injuries from the accident, you should continue into proving that the at-fault party was liable for your injuries. In this case, you need to provide evidence from the bicycle accident to show the link between the at-fault party and your injuries. The legal term used to describe this aspect is proving negligence from the at-fault party. You can rely on several pieces of evidence, such as:
- Police reports
- Eye-witness testimonies
- Expert witness testimonies
- Evidence from the scene
Find a Personal Injury Law Firm Near Me
Compensation claims after a severe bicycle accident are not as easy as they seem. You need to hire a professional attorney to help you through the compensation claim process as you recover from the injuries that you sustained. At The Personal Injury Attorney Law Firm, we provide to our clients: expertise, compassion, and skills to get you through difficult times. Call us at 619-625-8707 and let us seek the best compensation for you or your loved one.