There are many causes of bicycle accidents in California. They range from unkempt road conditions, reckless motorists to mindless pedestrians. Bicycle accidents are on the increase because of the large population in California and many people using bicycles as their mode of transport or recreation. A bicycle accident can result in severe injuries that sometimes can be traumatic. Many people have suffered from the brain, back, or neck traumas that have left them with permanent disabilities. The cost of damages from a bicycle accident is very high and can leave a victim or their family in debt. Other times, bicycle accidents have resulted in fatalities that have left families devastated. Any person involved in a bicycle crash needs to seek compensation from the person responsible for covering the damages. For this to happen, you need the services of an experienced personal injury lawyer. At the LA Personal Injury Law Firm, we are committed to answer all your questions and help you pursue your rightful claim.
Laws that Cyclists Must Know and Adhere to
Sometimes accidents happen because cyclists, as well as motorists, do not fully understand the laws that govern them. When an accident happens, getting full compensation may be hindered when a cyclist did not follow the laws as required. And as such, he or she may be found at fault. California has evident laws for drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians, and if followed well, bicycle crashes may be reduced. Equally, the insurance company will not find a reason to fight your claim when an accident happens because you followed the law.
In most cases, the responsibilities and rights of bicyclists are similar to those of other motorists. Cyclists need to familiarize themselves with the laws. This will help minimize accidents, and in the event of an accident, the insurance company will have no reason to refuse to pay for the damages. While many laws exist that guide bicyclists, here, we discuss a few basic laws that are essential for everyday riding. These laws are:
- Bicyclists are governed by the Vehicle Code and must follow it
Based on CVC 2100, adult cyclists are charged with similar responsibilities and duties as other motorists. Such may include stopping at areas clearly marked to stop or at red lights similar to all vehicles.
- Riding with Traffic
Bicyclists are expected to ride in similar direction traffic is flowing. According to CVC 21650, if a cyclist is moving in the opposing direction from the traffic flow, they should walk their bicycles along the sidewalk. It is not allowed to ride a bike on the road against traffic.
- Adhering to the right side of the road
Typically, cyclists are not faster than vehicles. However, if you feel you can ride with speed just like vehicles, it is acceptable to ride in the traffic lane. However, a cyclist will automatically be moving at a slower pace to the other traffic. Because of this, a cyclist should ride close to the curb on the right as it is practically possible.
However, there are some exceptions to this rule that allow a cyclist to take a lane. These situations are:
(1) When overtaking another rider,
(2) When readying to make a turn to the left, and
(3) When it is reasonable to avoid unsafe conditions on edge or curb on the right, such as pedestrians, according to CVC 21202.
- Use of Bike Lanes
When you are riding on the road and realize your speed is slower than that of other traffic, it is advisable to ride on the bike lane. When you determine it is reasonable to move from the bike lane, you can do that safely and by ensuring you use the signals. The vehicle code CVC 21208 clearly outlines the times when one exits from a bike lane. Such situations include when overtaking another cyclist, yielding to a pedestrian, making a turn to the left, or giving way to a vehicle.
- Yielding to Pedestrians
The law states that pedestrians should make use of marked crosswalks at all times while crossing a road. However, even when the pedestrians do not follow this rule, cyclists are expected to exercise caution to ensure the safety of pedestrians as outlined in CVC 21954.
- Stopping at Crosswalks on in them
CVC 21255 clearly states that cyclists and motorists must stop at crosswalks to allow pedestrians to cross. They are meant for pedestrians to walk on, not for cyclists to stop on.
- Use Lights and reflectors when riding at night
If you are riding at night, your bicycle must have a white light that makes it more visible. The distance of visibility should not be less than 300 feet ahead of the bike. Additionally, the bike
is expected to have:
- Either a red light that flashes a solid red light or a reflector on the back of the bicycle that should be visible from 500 feet.
- Each pedal must have a yellow or white reflector. A reflector can also be placed on the shoe or ankle of the rider and should be visible from at least 200 feet.
- A yellow or white reflector placed on either side of the bicycle. Another reflector on the rear of the bicycle, either red or white. This is as outlined in CVC 21201(d).
- Put on a Helmet
The law states that only riders below the age of 18 should have their helmets on at all times while riding. However, even when older people are not required by the law to put on a helmet, wearing one will help you against suffering life-altering head injuries. The laws on wearing protective gear are outlined in CVC 21212
- One ear must remain uncovered
According to CVC 27400, cyclists are prohibited from wearing earplugs or headsets that cover both ears while riding. When a person cannot hear, they may not realize approaching vehicles or warning signs and act accordingly.
- Tall Bikes are not allowed on the road
CVC 21201(c) states that a cyclist must ride a bicycle on the road that they can control with a foot that touches the ground and can safely start it again.
- Brakes must work at all times
The law states that a bicyclist must ensure that their bicycle has working brakes always.
The brakes on your bike must allow you to make emergency stops on clean surfaces.
In addition to these rules, vehicles on the road are also expected to keep a safe distance. The law requires a distance of at least three feet from the bicyclist. This ensures safety, as outlined in CVC 21670.
Following these rules, among many other rules, will not only ensure reduced accidents but will ensure that the insurance provider has no reason to fight your compensation in case of an accident.
Other Causes of Bicycle Accidents
Aside from motorists and cyclists disregarding the rules and causing accidents, there are various other reasons why bike accidents are on the rise in California. Bad road conditions often cause accidents to cyclists. Because of a lack of knowledge, many cyclists blame themselves when they crash due to hitting potholes or cracked roads.
The law on premise liability in California states that the owner of a property may be responsible for an accident when it happens. In the event of bad road conditions, the city is usually accountable for neglecting to maintain the roads and ensuring the conditions are good at all times. Various conditions on the roads can result in bicycle crashes if not taken care of. Some of these conditions are cracked cement, potholes, lifted asphalt, uneven sidewalks, destroyed signs, or loose gravel.
The law on premise liability indicates that private, public, and commercial property owners are responsible for maintaining the pavement or asphalt on their premises. Because of this law, the city is held liable for accidents that may be due to poor road conditions that are their responsibility.
When Should One Sure Following a Bicycle Crash
Despite taking every caution, bicycle accidents do happen and can lead to severe property damage and injuries. A victim of a crash is expected to sue the party responsible for compensation for the damages incurred. Through a lawyer, an accident victim can institute a suit against the party responsible for personal injury according to the law in California. A lawsuit will help the victim get compensation for various damages that include:
- Physical bodily injuries sustained by the victim
- Damages to the bicycle, either the cost of repair or replace it
- Lost wages for the period the victim may miss work as they recover from the injuries
- Medical expenses incurred as the victim sought treatment for the injuries.
If the bicycle crash involved a vehicle, it is essential to speak to a personal injury lawyer first instead of engaging the driver’s insurance company. Insurance companies are profit-making entities, and as such, they try to pay claims with as little as they possibly can. An insurance company will also try to avoid paying the claim by finding reasons to blame you for the crash. For this reason, having an experienced personal injury lawyer is essential to deal with them as you focus on recovery.
A bicycle accident can also be as a result of a road condition such as hitting a pothole or cracked cement. An absentminded pedestrian or a dog without a leash can also lead to a bicycle crash. Whatever the cause of your accident, talking to a lawyer is important to ascertain the actual parties responsible and ensure compensation.
Factors that Enhance Bicycle Accidents
Bicyclists are constantly exposed to various risks on the road, regardless of their experience. However, various factors are responsible for putting some people at a more enhanced risk of injuries or fatalities. These risks include:
Age: Statistics indicate that fatalities are higher among adult cyclists aged from 50 to 59 years. The lowest level of fatalities, on the other hand, has been of minors and adolescents aged from 5 to 19 years.
Sex: Females are four times less possible to get injured due to bicycle accidents as compared to men that are six times more at risk of injuries.
Time: The time one rides is a significant contributor to the possibility of an accident. Most bike accidents that lead to fatalities have been reported to happen between 4 pm and 8 pm.
Alcohol: It is illegal to drive or ride when one is intoxicated by either alcohol or drugs. More than 1/3 of bicycle accident fatalities involved a driver or a bicyclist whose judgment was impaired due to alcohol or drugs.
Location: Urban areas report the highest levels of fatalities when it comes to bicycle accidents. Areas that are non-intersection or metropolitan areas report a higher number of accidents as compared to others.
Using of Helmet: Helmets do not stop a crash. However, wearing one can save someone from suffering a fatal accident or a traumatic injury to the brain. Lack of putting on a helmet contributes significantly to the number of fatalities experienced by bicycle riders.
California is a very populated state. One of the most significant contributors to the high population is the favorable weather conditions throughout the year. This has resulted in many people choosing bicycle riding as their form of transport to avoid the significant traffic snarl-ups experienced by motorists. Riding bicycles is also a favorite recreation activity making more people at risk of bike accidents.
What One Needs to do if Involved in a Crash with a Car
Your wellbeing is the most important thing following an accident. If you are in a position to call for help or request a witness to call on your behalf. Most people involved in bicycle accidents suffer back, head, or neck trauma. These are serious injuries that require a thorough examination by a doctor in a medical facility. Sometimes, you may feel no pain and assume you are fine. However, the pain may kick in later, or you may have internal injuries that may lead to severe consequences. Always make it a priority to seek medical care.
If you are up to it, it is crucial to gather as much information as you possibly can on the incident. Some details you should collect include:
- The plate number of the car involved in the crash
- Details on the name and contact of the driver and a witness if any
- The insurance information of the driver
- The VIN or Vehicle identification number
- The color, make, model, and year of the car
Many people nowadays have smartphones. If you have one on you, it is important to take pictures of the scene of the accident. You need to take as many pictures as possible of the bicycle, the vehicle, injuries, and anything that may seem necessary. Try and capture various angles of the accident scene and pass on the photos to your lawyer.
Avoid Admitting Fault
Naturally, people feel the need to apologize after a collision even when it’s not their fault. Be careful what you say because the words can be used to mean an admission of fault. Sometimes the vehicle driver can be very aggressive and blame you for the accident. No matter the pressure, never admit fault; instead of direct him to your lawyer.
During a trial on a personal injury suit, the jury is tasked with establishing the person to blame. When a person admits fault, they take responsibility for all the damages incurred during the accident. Maybe you were texting as you ride, and you think you were the cause of the accident. However, you don’t know what the driver was doing; they may have run a light, or committed another traffic offense. You can never 100% certain of the cause of the accident, allows your lawyer to deal with it, and avoid admitting fault at all costs.
Can the City be blamed for an Accident?
As earlier discussed, there are many causes of bicycle crashes. If the road conditions are hazardous and responsible for the accident, based on the laws on premise liability, one can sue the city for compensation. There have been many cases where the city was compelled to compensate for bicycle accident victims. This is because of their negligence in maintaining the roads.
Los Angeles city is one of those that has parted with millions in compensation for bicycle accidents. In 2017, the city paid over $19 million for 17 claims. Many of the bicycle accidents are as a result of bad road conditions that the city has ignored to repair. However, to get compensation, there must be evidence that the city knew about the dangerous situation of the road. Additionally, the victim must show that the city negligently ignored to repair the road resulting in the accident.
Through your personal injury lawyer, it is possible to establish the party at fault and seek proper compensation for the same.
Available Compensations Following a Bicycle Crash
Any individual found liable for causing an accident that results in injuries is expected to take responsibility. The damages available to a victim or their family depend on the injuries suffered. And whether or not the victim survived or died. When a bicyclist sues for compensation, they hope to recover damages on:
- Costs associated with seeking medical treatment
- In the case of psychological trauma, counseling costs
- Occupational therapy costs if needed
- Lost income for the time one misses work to recover
- Lost ability to earn if one is unable to work for prolonged periods of time
- Lost consortium when a spouse or a partner dies from the accident
- Loss of a limb or disfigurement of any kind as well as scarring
- Pain, both physically and mentally, as well as suffering.
The injuries suffered will determine the possible damages to the victim or their loved ones. When the injuries are minor, the compensation may be for emergency treatment and some days of lost wages. However, some crashes may lead to traumatic injuries that can result in a prolonged need for medical care.
The law also allows for a family member that may have lost a child, spouse, or partner to sue for wrongful death. This is also known as a lost consortium. Damages due to this are referred to as non-economic compensations.
Can a Reckless Driver be Held Accountable for a Cyclist Accident?
If one can establish that a driver was negligent or reckless based on the negligence laws of California, then they can sue for compensation from them. For example, driving on bike lanes is prohibited, as stipulated in VEH 21209. If a driver violates these laws and is responsible for causing an accident, they are accountable for the harm and damages suffered.
To recover for the damages, the accident victim or the family of the deceased need to prove the driver’s negligence. They must show that:
- The driver owed the cyclist's duty of care
- Through negligence, the driver disregarded to give the duty of care
- Due to the driver's negligence, the act was the significant cause of the injuries or death of the victim.
What to do if a Pedestrian is Responsible for an Accident
Often a pedestrian or a fellow cyclist can be liable for causing the crash. If this is the case, you can sue for compensation from them. Bicycle crashes that involve a pedestrian may include:
- Texting while they walk
- Failing to keep their dogs under control
- Failing to pay attention to bicycle traffic because they have headphones on
- Mindlessly walking into the lane used by bikers or abruptly running in front of the bicyclist
- Intentionally pushing a bicyclist off their bike.
In this case, as well, the victim must show the other cyclist’s negligence or that of a pedestrian. And that the negligence resulted in the accident.
When a Defective Bicycle or Part is Liable for a Crash
Aside from the discussed causes of bike accidents above, a bicycle or its parts can be the reason an accident happens. Under the laws of product liability, the manufacturer and distributor of the bike and its products may be liable if the accident was due to a faulty bike or parts.
In this case, the cyclist is not required to prove the manufacturer’s negligence. According to cases on product defect, strict liability is normally imposed for:
- Defects in manufacturing of a product
- Defects with the designing of the product
- Failing to warn potential users of the defects.
For compensation, the victim should prove that the company was responsible for manufacturing the defective bicycle or its parts. Additionally, they are responsible for its distribution.
Finding a Los Angeles Personal Injury Lawyer
Bicycle accidents are common and can lead to significant injuries and in some cases, fatalities. The cause of the accident may not be your own making but that of another party. You do not have to suffer because of another person’s recklessness or negligence. Suing for compensation is essential when an accident happens. Money may not bring back a life lost or fully compensate for injuries sustained compensation helps a victim feel justice was served and help with the expenses thereof. Hiring a skilled personal injury lawyer is vital in ensuring you get compensated. At The LA Personal Injury Law Firm, we are skilled and able to ensure that you receive your rightful compensation from the responsible party. Get in touch with us on 310-935-0089 for an appointment, and we will be glad to assist you with your claim.