Los Angeles is known for its glamour, beaches, and Hollywood. It is also one of the most congested cities. Thus, many residents are opting to use bicycles to avoid heavy traffic. Despite having plenty of roads, many of them still do not have shoulders or bike lanes. Also, drivers often tend to ignore the protected cycling spaces that exist. This situation has led some cyclists losing their lives or getting injured in a bicycle accident.
When you are injured in a bicycle accident, we at The LA Personal Injury Law Firm will help you file for compensation. In this article, our expert personal injury lawyers will help you understand bicycle accident causes and how we can help you seek compensation.
Bicycle Accident Statistics
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2018 alone, at least 857 bicyclists were killed in the country. Every year, 2% of almost all motor vehicle crash deaths are pedal cyclists. While there has been a decline in deaths from 2016 to 2017, there has also been a significant increase in 2018.
Additionally, it is essential to note that the number of pedestrians, motorcyclists, and pedal cyclists killed had increased from at least 20% in 1996 to at least 33% in 2017. Thus, it is evident that cyclists and pedestrians have a significant disadvantage, especially in traffic crashes. Also, according to a 2017 study, the bicycle injury medical costs for adults alone in the United States, both non-fatal and fatal, had amounted to approximately $237 billion. Out of these costs, 3.8 million were non-fatal, and men accounted for at least three-quarters of the entire cost.
Head injuries from bicycle accidents tend to be quite common among cyclists visiting the emergency rooms. Also, nearly 65% of people killed in a hit and run accident are either bicyclists or pedestrians, and these numbers will continue rising if action is not taken.
Cycling Laws in CA
Having an understanding of bicycle laws can help you take legal action if an accident occurs. The ten essential bicycle laws to know under the California Vehicle Code include:
Bicyclists have the same Obligations as Vehicle Owners
This means that the rules that apply to motorists also apply to bicyclists. Thus, they have to follow every traffic like any motorist.
Bicyclists must Ride in the Traffic Direction
A cyclist must ride in a similar direction as traffic and, if required, they can walk their bicycles on the available road sidewalks.
Stay on the Right Side
In normal circumstances, cyclists are comparatively slower to other vehicles. Thus, it is vital to stay on the right side and ride as close to the edge of the road as possible. However, there are certain instances where cyclists can cycle in the traffic lane. These instances include:
- When they are cycling as fast as other cars
- When overtaking another cyclist
- When making a left turn
- When trying to avoid conditions that can endanger the safety of pedestrians and cyclists
Always use Bicycle Lanes
Cyclists must always use a bike lane if it is present on the roadway. When traveling and leaving the bicycle lane, it is essential to give other road users the appropriate signal to avoid accidents.
Give Way to Pedestrians
Though pedestrians should only use marked crosswalks to cross the road, bicyclists should still take care of their safety at all times even if they are not using designated crosswalks.
Wear a Helmet
For cyclists who are under 18, it is mandatory to wear a helmet while cycling. The helmets must be approved. However, for cyclists who are over 18, they are under no obligation to have a helmet on while cycling.
Do not Cover your Ears
Cyclists are not permitted to cover both ears with earplugs or headsets while cycling, as this can prevent them from hearing police, traffic, and ambulance sirens.
An Appropriate Size of Bicycles
Every cyclist should have a bicycle size that they can easily handle. The bike must offer upright support and make it easy for the cyclist to have one foot on the ground.
Always make Stops at Crosswalks
Bicycles are also considered vehicles. When you approach a crosswalk, make sure you stop as they are not for cars but pedestrians only.
Must have Reflectors and Lights on at Night
Every bike on the road must have white front lights, which can be seen from a distance of at least 300 meters at night. The bicycle must have a flashing red light or a solid red reflector on its rear, which can be seen from a distance of at least 500 meters.
If a bike does not have rear and front reflective tires, then the cyclist must place a yellow or white reflector on each side, the center, and the front of the bicycle.
Common Causes of Bicycle Accidents
Bicycle accidents are caused by distraction and human error, as well as the position of the bicycle. We will discuss them further below.
Your position as a cyclist is a significant factor when it comes to bicycle accidents. Some of the bicycle accidents that occur, especially in LA, are because of the cyclist's position on the road relative to the car that collides with the cyclist. Here are five common bicycle accidents that occur due to position.
The Right Cross Accident
The right cross accident happens when a vehicle pulls out of a side alley, street, driveway, or parking lot to a cyclist’s right. In this scenario, the cyclist has already passed the vehicle’s front. However, the car ends up striking the cyclist, or the vehicle ends up pulling out far enough at the very last second and blocks the bicyclist right of way. This ends up making it impossible for the bicyclist to avoid colliding with the vehicle’s side. In such an accident, the driver is negligent because of failing to yield to the cyclists right of way and keep a proper lookout.
The Right Hook Accident
The right hook accident typically occurs in two ways. The first situation arises when a bicyclist is in front of a cross street and is hit by a motorist because the motorist does not see the cyclist when making a turn. The other common situation happens when a driver overtakes a cyclist and then ends up cutting the cyclist off when taking a right turn.
In both situations, the driver passes the cyclist and ends up assuming or forgetting they have passed them. They then end up taking a quick right turn causing the cyclist to slam into the car’s side.
A dooring accident is one that occurs when a cyclist runs into a vehicle’s door that has been opened in his/her path. Dooring accidents are common, especially on streets with heavy traffic, as it ends up forcing cyclists to ride closer to parked vehicles. However, in such situations, it is the driver’s responsibility to ensure that no car or bicycle is coming before exiting the vehicle. The best way to avoid this is by trying to get out of the car using the left door.
The Rear-end Accident
Every cyclist is almost always concerned about rear-end collisions, as most of them end up, resulting in injuries. However, they are still quite common, especially when a driver is drunk. Maintaining a safe distance is a requirement by law, especially when overtaking a bicyclist. Thus, any cyclist needs to be on a safe lookout.
Make sure you do not ride too close to a car, as this can also help prevent such accidents from happening. As a cyclist, make sure you have reflective gear, taillights, and headlights. They may not look cool, but they can certainly save your life.
The Left Cross Accident
The left cross accident happens when a car traveling in a different direction intentionally or accidentally happens to make a left turn in front of the bicyclist. This, in turn, ends up striking the biker’s left side or cutting of the biker, forcing them to hit the car’s right side. In such a scenario, the driver is responsible for failing to obey the traffic signals or yield way to the cyclist.
2. Distraction and Human Error Accidents
The majority of the accidents that happen to cyclists happen because of distractions and human error. Some of the other bicycle accident causes include:
A fast-paced society and new technology have encouraged people to start multitasking while driving, and this has led to an increased likelihood of collisions occurring.
Just as drivers can sometimes get distracted by their devices while driving, so can cyclists. When using your bike, make sure you never take your eyes off the road.
Web surfing, texting, and emailing while in motion is a serious threat to other road users. You not only end up endangering your life but that of others as well.
While cyclists don’t ride as fast as cars, that doesn’t mean that they should increase their speed. Severe injuries and deaths, especially with bicycle accidents, have been linked to traveling at a fast pace. Drivers and cyclists who are in a hurry have only a few seconds to react to anything, and this can be quite catastrophic for any road user, from passengers, drivers to cyclists.
Most cyclists avoid riding in some weather conditions like torrential downpours, snow, hail, and ice. Some of these weather conditions can cause an accident to occur. Also, almost all rush hours in LA coincide when the sun is in a position that easily blinds the drivers driving in the direction of the sun. This situation can easily cause accidents.
Cyclists who ride in rain storms also have less visibility. And in such situations, cyclists are encouraged to have headlights and wear reflective clothing, as this can help make their presence known to other road users.
Drug and Alcohol Influence
Drunken driving is one of the primary causes of car and bicycle fatalities in LA. No driver has an excuse to drive while under the influence of alcohol and drugs. Those found to be under the influence should be held accountable.
Riding too Close to a Traffic Lane
According to the law, drivers should always have at least three feet from their vehicle and a bicycle. However, not every driver follows the rules. It is, therefore, important for bicyclists not to assume that cars will always leave plenty of space for them while riding. Thus, make sure you use sidewalks or shoulder lanes while cycling rather than use the edge of a roadway.
Lane Merging or Intersections
In LA, bicyclists are considered vehicles. This means that they have the same responsibilities and rights as cars. However, bicycles are required to stay on the right side of the road unless when avoiding an object, turning, or when safety requires a cyclist to ride in the left or center part of the road.
Cyclists must also obey stop signs and traffic rules. You should also use signals when approaching a turn. Too many bicyclists lose their lives every year because of not following traffic rules.
Remember, just because a bicycle is not as fast as a car, it doesn’t change the responsibilities both the cyclist and motorist have while on the road.
Parking lot, Sidewalks, and Driveways
Parking lots, driveways, and sidewalks tend to be more confined compared to roads. With less space, bicyclists have less time to avoid accidents and higher risks of incidents. Riding in these areas requires extra caution and a proactive approach. You should never assume that a motorist sees you or is going to stop when they should.
Dangerous Road Conditions
Sudden changes in the road’s surface affect bicyclists more than other road users. Any change can cause bicyclists to lose control. Potholes are some of the common changes roads experience. When they remain unfixed, they can be a severe hazard for cyclists. Railroads and sewer grates are also dangerous, as bicycle tires can easily get stuck, and this can cause the cyclist to fall off or veer into traffic.
Bicycle defects are often a hidden danger to the cyclist until it’s too late to fix the problem. Inspecting your bicycle regularly can help you detect if your bike has a defect. This, in turn, allows you to avoid unforeseen accidents.
What to Do After a Bicycle Accident
Bicycle accidents can be quite scary. If you are a cyclist, it’s essential to remain calm when an accident occurs. The steps you take can determine how a personal injury lawyer can help you. So, here is what you should do.
- Wait for the Police
Waiting for the police to arrive is essential, as they can file a police report. Sometimes, most cyclists often assume they are not injured, and they end up leaving the accident scene. However, some cyclists do not realize they have severe injuries until after several hours have passed. Sometimes, the injuries may end up developing into permanent and acute problems. By leaving the accident scene early, you may not be able to identify who caused the accident.
- Get your Version of Events Recorded as well
Sometimes, some police officers take statements from motorists and end up not bothering to talk to the bicyclist. Make sure you also get your version of events written in the police report. By all means, also report all your injuries. It doesn’t matter how minor they are, report them, as they may end up becoming more serious later.
- Obtain Witness and Driver Contact Information
Once the police take a report, the next step, if possible, is getting the name of the motorist, as well as his/her phone number, address, vehicle license number, driver’s license number, and insurance information. Try to get the contact information and names of the people who witnessed the accident. Never assume that the police report also includes this information. But, if you are injured and are not able to get the witness accounts yourself, ask someone to help you.
- Document Everything That Happened
If you can, ensure you take a mental note of all the details about the accident—how, what, when, where it happened, and the weather, road, and traffic conditions. And, as soon as you can, write down everything.
- Document Your Injuries
Even if your injuries are minor, make sure you seek immediate medical attention. Seeking medical care acts as proof that you have injuries from the accident. While the medical records help to document the extent of the injuries, ensure that while at the hospital, you have several photos taken as soon as possible. Also, start journaling your physical symptoms and ensure you make entries a few days every week.
- Preserve Evidence
Preserve evidence is a crucial step to follow, as the evidence is an essential determinant of any personal injury lawsuit. Make sure you leave any damaged property and your bike the same way as after a bicycle accident. Don’t attempt to have anything fixed or inspected. Don’t wash the clothes you had on when the accident occurred. And, finally, don’t send your helmet, bike, or any other damaged item to someone else other than your personal injury attorney.
- Seek Advice From an Attorney
Plenty of accidents that occur between motor vehicles and bikes have complex legal issues. In such circumstances, you should consult an attorney who understands cycling or has in the past handled bicycle accidents.
Benefits of Consulting a Personal Injury Attorney
Accidents are never an enjoyable experience for anyone. They are not only expensive but also stressful and completely time-consuming. If another individual is responsible for the injuries you obtained, you can alleviate the stress you are experiencing by filing a compensation claim. Doing so will help you with the costs you incur while treating the injuries.
However, filing a claim is not as easy as it sounds, and you will need legal help. This is where having a personal injury attorney help you comes in handy. Here the key benefits you obtain from consulting a personal injury attorney.
Help in Building your Case
Filing a compensation claim is no walk in the park. From proper documentation, gathering evidence, conducting depositions, finding experts to testify, to dealing with the insurance company, Every stage can be overwhelming. But, with the help of a personal injury lawyer, the entire process becomes more manageable. Your lawyer will handle the whole process of building your case without you lifting a finger. All you have to do is recover.
Provides you with the Advice you Require for your Case
An experienced personal injury attorney can correctly assess your situation by comparing it to other compensation claims. This enables your attorney to decide your best response. He could advise on taking legal action, filing an insurance claim, bringing your case to trial, or negotiating a settlement.
Offers you an Objective Insight
Other than handling your compensation claim, your attorney also offers an insightful objective into your situation. Sometimes, the injured party can tend to take the accident too personally. These emotions can end up getting the best of their decisions. When this happens, irrational actions tend to crop up, and it can affect the claim. Your lawyer guides you towards the best actions and responses that are most beneficial. They also try to help you tune down your emotions, so as not to interfere with the compensation claim.
Having a personal injury attorney allows you to benefit from the links your lawyer has with credible experts in different fields. These connections benefit you tremendously, especially when your claim requires experts to testify.
Find a Personal Injury Lawyer Specializing in Bicycle Accidents Near Me
The expertise and experience of a personal injury attorney will help if you want to file a compensation claim resulting from a bicycle accident successfully. If you want legal help from a top-notch Los Angeles personal injury lawyer, we at The LA Personal Injury Law Firm will be glad to assist. Contact us today at 310-935-0089.