When a bicycle accident or any other accident occurs, California law allows the at-fault party to be held liable for any injuries or property damages suffered by victims of the accident. Victims can receive compensation by filing a personal injury lawsuit. The compensation can then be paid by the defendant or the insurance company of the defendant. Knowing what the law says concerning personal injuries caused by bicycle accidents can help bicycle accident victims know the suitable legal action.
If you are a victim of a bicycle accident looking to file a lawsuit against the responsible party, The LA Personal Injury Law Firm is the place to look for an attorney. Our firm has expert attorneys who have experience fighting for clients’ compensation after suffering injuries after motorcycle accidents. In our attorney's hands, you will be guided on the claims you can file depending on your case and what legal steps to fight for your compensation. We serve residents of Los Angeles and the surrounding areas. Reach out to us and talk to the best personal injury attorneys from our firm.
California Bicycle Laws on Personal Injury
The law in California has extensive laws set to protect bicyclists riding in rural or urban areas. The California Vehicle Code clearly outlines that bicycle riders have the same rights to road usage as any other vehicle. They are also required to follow all other traffic rules. In addition, there are safety rules bicyclists are required to follow. Following these regulations will save you as a cyclist from being held liable if a bicycle accident occurs. A bicyclist should ensure that their bicycle:
Has a lamp on the front or side and a red reflector on the rear. All should be possible to spot from 300feet
Has pedals fitted with reflectors. These are essential for safety during night-time bicycle rides
Has well-sized handlebars that are not above the height of the bicyclist’s shoulders
Cycling on Sidewalks
Riding on the sidewalk is not restricted in the California Vehicle Code, but it is restricted in Los Angeles.
The Comparative Fault Rule
This law is used to determine fault after an accident. A plaintiff in a bicycle accident case can still receive compensation even if they were partly responsible for the accident. A judge determines the percentage of fault between all the parties involved in the accident. The extent of a fault the plaintiff is found to have will determine the compensation they will receive. On the same note, if one party suffered more injuries or more property damage, they will be compensated.
California Three-Feet Safety Act
Vehicle owners are required to observe a mandatory three-foot distance between them and a bicyclist. This buffer space should be kept to avoid collisions, whose impact can be life-threatening to the exposed bicyclists. If a driver is unsure of the distance to keep between them and the cyclist, they should keep an even larger distance to be safe.
Duty of Care
People using public roadways in California are required to exercise the duty of care. It is simply an obligation to avoid causing harm or injuring other road users by applying reasonable care. Any motorist who neglects the duty of care, thus causing an accident can be held legally liable. Failure to observe the duty of care can be portrayed as:
Driving under the influence (DUI), distracted driving, or reckless driving
A motorist's failure to observe a three-foot distance led to their vehicle hitting a cyclist from behind
The motorist obstructing the path of a bicycle rider
Failure to yield
When a motorist exits a driveway and drives into a path of a cyclist
Pedestrians can also be held liable for causing an accident if they obstruct a cyclist's path. Walking with headphones and ignoring the road, texting while walking, and failure to control a pet running out in front of a bicyclist or deliberately knocking down a cyclist are considered negligence of duty of care.
Product Liability Laws
In some rare cases, a bicycle accident can occur due to defective parts of a bicycle. Manufacturers have a legal responsibility to ensure that they do not sell faulty equipment or merchandise to consumers. Consequently, if your bicycle accident occurred due to the poor design or some bicycle parts’ malfunction, the manufacturer can be held liable. Your attorney has to prove that the defective product was designed, sold, or distributed by an entity, and the product was defective when it left the entity’s possession. Despite the victim using the product as per the instructions, it still resulted in the accident. This claim can also be applied if your helmet was defective and led to sustaining fatal head injuries.
Bicyclists on Designated Car Lanes
As a bicyclist, you should cycle near the right edge of the road. However, in some instances, you have the right to use a designated car lane when cycling. You can do this when overtaking a bicycle or vehicle moving in the same direction as you or trying to make a left turn or avoid a collision when a car makes a sudden right turn. It is also allowed when avoiding hitting objects, animals, or pedestrians that had obstructed your path.
Statute of Limitations
For a lawsuit of damages or injuries caused by a bicycle accident to be valid, it must be filed within the statutory period. The allowed statutory period in California is two years. Anyone who wishes to file a case against a party liable for injuries resulting from bicycle accident damages must do it within this period. A judge may bar a lawsuit if filed past this period.
However, there are exceptions when the victim is incapable of filing a lawsuit due to the severity of their injuries. This exception is possible for injuries that cause brain damage or if the victim is in a coma. In line with that, you may receive this extension if you suffered injuries that did not portray at that time but are discovered in the future.
Also, for minors involved in a bicycle accident who wish to file a lawsuit after they are eighteen, they will be allowed to reach eighteen years; after this, the two year period starts to count.
Common Causes of Bicycle Accidents
The party at fault for causing a bicycle accident is the one who was negligent of traffic rules or the one driving carelessly. Any road user who fails to act as expected, thereby causing an accident, will be liable for any injuries victims of the bicycle accidents suffer. These negligent acts include driving under the influence, distracted driving, or assumption of traffic rules. Some of the common bicycle-car accidents occurring in Los Angeles are:
Left turn or Right turn collisions — this type of bicycle accident happens when a motorist suddenly takes a sharp left or right turn at an intersection of busy roads.
Rear-end collisions — it occurs when a vehicle behind a bicycle hits it from behind. When this accident occurs, the motorist will be held liable for failing to maintain the tree-foot distance required from the bicycle.
Open-door accidents — they are accidents where a cyclist slams onto the door of a vehicle. It can be a vehicle that is parked at the wrong place, and a door is open, or the driver of the vehicle could suddenly open the door of his/her vehicle without checking for the cyclist. A vehicle driver is required by the California Vehicle Code to observe the road first and ensure that it is safe to open a door.
Unsafe roadway conditions — it can be loose gravel, potholes, or damaged road signs.
Unexpected reversals — sudden reversals without proper signaling can lead to hitting a cyclist.
Personal Injury Claims
Unlike other states where when there is a car-bicycle accident, the motorist is held liable, California's liability for causing an accident does not automatically lie with the vehicle's driver. Liability usually lies on the party proved to have been negligent. Negligence means that they failed to act as is expected of them by the California Vehicle Code. Thus either party can sue for personal injury compensation. For a bicycle rider who was a victim of a car-bicycle accident to compensate, he/she must prove that it was the driver’s carelessness that led to the accident's occurrence. Also, the bicyclist has to prove they suffered injury or property damage due to the accident.
Cyclists are prone to suffering fatal injuries due to impacts from an accident. Unlike cars and other vehicles, bicycles offer no protection to the cyclists; cars have hard metallic surfaces, airbags, and seat belts that reduce the amount of injury suffered after an impact, while cyclists' protection is limited to padded clothing and helmets. Consequently, injuries suffered by cyclists during an accident are severe and can have life-changing results. Therefore, you must receive the deserved compensation if someone else's negligence or carelessness caused the accident.
Common injuries suffered by bicyclists in accidents are traumatic brain injuries, broken bones, dental damage or fractures, road rash, internal organs damage, eye injury, soft tissue injuries, and torn ligaments. The injuries vary from critical to mild ones. The extent of injuries determines the compensation the victim will be entitled to from the negligent party. If someone contributed to you suffering these injuries, you should file a claim with the negligent party’s insurance company. Your injury attorney will educate you on your rights as a bicyclist and negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf.
Some possible claims to file are
Lost wages — during hospitalization, the victim cannot work. With the help of a lawyer, they can file for compensation of the income lost during treatment.
Damaged property — a petitioner can file a claim against the liable party for the damages caused to his/her property from the accident. It can include damages to your bicycle or other properties you were carrying.
Medical expenses — the costs you have to pay for the treatment you received after injuries from the accident can be compensated. If you are the victim of such a case, ensure you keep receipts of all the medical expenses your treatment requires.
Future medical expenses — Apart from current medical expenses that an injured victim will use for their treatment, they may require future treatment from the condition they suffered due to the accident. Once a registered doctor affirms that this will be necessary, the victim can file a claim for the expenses expected to be incurred on their future treatment.
For a successful negligence claim, your attorney will need to prove that:
The defender owed you a duty of care, and he/she violated the duty
Due to this violation, you suffered damages or injuries
The damages you suffered can be quantified. It can be medical bills you incurred, the pain you suffered, or losing your source of wages
You can use evidence from the accident to prove the fault of the negligent party. Some of the evidence can be photos of the accident scene, eye witness accounts of how the accident occurred, and police reports. You can also use medical records to prove that you indeed suffered injuries due to the accident. Depending on the nature of the bicycle accident and the injuries you suffered, your attorney will help you file claims against the liable party and ensure you receive the maximum possible compensation.
If a member of your family passed away due to a motorcycle accident, family members are entitled to file a case against the responsible party of wrongful death. Other possible claims include funeral expenses, loss of companionship, and the earnings the deceased would have accumulated if it had not occurred. Those entitled to file a wrongful death lawsuit are the decedent's spouse, domestic partner, children or grandchildren, and any other person who would inherit the deceased’s property.
Other Possible Liabilities to Your Injury Claims
The California civil code requires that property owners ensure their property is well maintained to avoid harming other persons. It includes the responsibility of checking if everything is in good condition and removing potentially dangerous items or putting up warning signs to ensure the safety of other people.
If an injury occurs due to a private party or legal authorities' negligence, then the victim of such an accident can file a lawsuit. You could file a claim against a legal authority or private party if the path where the bicycle accident occurred had potholes, loose gravel, cracked cement, or lifted asphalt. If the road or sidewalk was uneven or there were no warning signs or damaged road signs, you could file a case with the party or the legal authority responsible.
It should be noted that for a victim of a bicycle accident to file charges against a private party, the applicable statute of limitations is two years since the accident occurred. On the other hand, if the victim must sue the government, they have six months from the accident date to file their claims.
Summary of Types of Financial Compensation for Bicycle Accident Victims
You can be compensated for the following:
Disfigurement or amputation of a limb
Loss of working capacity
Loss of wages
Occupational therapy and post-trauma counseling
Pain and suffering
Scars from the injuries
Loss of a partner whom you were legally married
What You Should Do and Not Do After a Bicycle Accident
After being involved in a bicycle accident, you can do a few things that can greatly help establish the fault of the negligent party. Firstly, call the emergency line 911 and request an ambulance or first aid medical assistance. It is advisable to undergo a medical check-up still even if you do not feel injured to be sure.
Secondly, if you can move, you can take photos of the accident scene using a smartphone, or ask some witnesses to take them for you. Photos of the involved cars and their plate numbers and the injuries you have suffered, if possible, will be used as first-hand evidence; this is important in determining liability when other parties are involved in the accident.
If a poorly maintained road or pathway causes your accident, you can take photos of the condition that led to your accident. Gathering this information will help in determining fault should your case go to court. You can also obtain information from the parties involved in the bicycle accident, such as their names, phone numbers, and the insurance company that covers them. You can also take the contacts of eyewitnesses at the accident scene. Ensure you give your account of the events leading to the accident to the police. Finally, you should call your injury attorney.
You should refrain from trying to apologize to any party after a bicycle accident. It can be taken as acceptance of fault in causing the accident. Limit the conversation between you and other parties involved in the accident since you may make remarks that may be used against you if a lawsuit is filed. Also, avoid making any negotiations or accepting any offered settlements before consulting your attorney. You can be taken advantage of and lose a chance to receive maximum possible compensation.
Importance of a Personal Injury Attorney
With the constant modification of California bicycle laws, it would be much easier to have a personal injury attorney represent you in making negotiations with the insurance company or representing you in court if a lawsuit is filed. You can go through this alone, but law terms can be complex, and the insurance companies may take advantage of this to twist events to their favor to avoid paying full compensation. It is also possible that they might pressure you into accepting low compensation or lure you with settlements that may sound reasonable to you at the time but not beneficial in the long run. Be aware that insurance companies are not looking out for your interests; they strive to pay as little as possible in the settlements and be done with compensation quickly.
A personal attorney is well acquainted in these cases; therefore, they know how every law fits together. With this legal expertise on your side, you will receive adequate compensation for the injuries suffered. Having an attorney fight battle will save you more time to recover from the accident.
When to Contact a Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorney
If you are involved in a bicycle accident, it is in your best interest to reach out to a personal injury attorney for a professional opinion. Several indicators will necessitate the assistance of an attorney. They include:
The accident caused the injuries that bring you suffering and pain or have caused permanent disability.
An insurance company is involved
The party whose negligence led to the occurrence of the accident is denying fault. They may also try and force you or intimidate you into accepting fault. Do not accept liability or argue with them. Instead, tell them you will communicate after talking to your attorney
You have suffered injuries that will have you pay medical bills for treatment
You lost your source of income due to the accident
Find a Bicycle Accident Attorney Near Me
Personal injury cases can be difficult to handle without the help of a competent attorney, especially if you are still hospitalized from the injuries resulting from the bicycle accident. At The LA Personal Injury Law Firm, we will provide you with a seasoned personal injury attorney to handle your case as you heal from the accident's trauma and injuries. Reach out to us for professional consultations as well as legal representation. Contact us at 310-935-0089 if you are in Los Angeles.