Bicycles share the road with motor vehicles, creating a potentially dangerous traffic dynamic. But motor vehicles are not the only things that add the potential to cause injury to a cyclist on the road. Poorly maintained roadways, wildlife, or even pedestrians can be the cause of an accident involving a cyclist. If you’ve been injured in a cycling accident, it’s important to understand your rights and responsibilities under the California legal code.
While the laws surrounding vehicles and bicycles are similar, as those who operate bicycles are subject to a lot of the same rules as those who operate motor vehicles, there are some key differences. For one, cyclists are much more likely to be seriously injured or even killed in an accident than are motor vehicle operators. Injuries can include anything from broken bones to serious head traumas and death.
People generally do not think of bicycles and lawsuits as a usual combination. After all, we bike for leisure, exploration, exercise, and sometimes to save on gas; seems innocent enough. However, as cities become more populated, traffic starts to increase. The number of bikers sharing the road with cars and buses has increased dramatically in recent years. With more bikers on busy streets, the chances of an accident have shot up exponentially. It’s also unusual for bikers to carry insurance to cover liability. However, you still have legal options if you feel you were a victim of a biking-related accident. Learn more about the nature of biking and car-related accidents and how experienced attorneys can help you.Common Causes of Bicycle and Car Accidents
- Driving against traffic
- Crossing an intersection against traffic
- Entering onto road too suddenly
- Failing to yield or signal properly
- Ignoring traffic measures like cones and closed lanes
- Improper passing techniques
- Distracted driving – currently at an all-time high
- Broken limbs
- Sprains and strains
- Cuts, scrapes, and bruises
- Facial injuries
- Dental injuries
- Road rash
- Back injuries
- Emotional distress
- Depression and anxiety
- Damage or destruction of personal property
An accident investigation will review the parties involved and start to uncover who may be at fault.
The investigation will look for:
What happened – Reviewing traffic photos or surveillance footage, eyewitness statements or physical evidence at the scene like broken glass to begin establishing what occurred. Try to get the names and contact information of witnesses in case they need to be contacted for further investigation.
Who is involved – This is not limited to the biker or the driver. For example, if the biker worked as a messenger and was delivering a document, the employer will carry some liability. The same goes for the driver. If the driver was returning to the office and was intoxicated at the time of the crash, the employer will be put on notice for this as well. If the accident occurred due to hazardous road conditions, a government agency could be liable. There are many pieces in the puzzle.
What injuries occurred – This will, at a minimum, require the persons involved to seek medical care, and accurate records must be maintained. From there, a thorough review of documents will be conducted to determine what current and future medical issues may arise and what care is needed. This will also impact income today and for future planning to cover pain and suffering as well as rehabilitation.Case Law
California’s legislation includes the California Vehicle Code. Bicycle legislation is outlined in California Vehicle Code VC 21201. This legal code contains the guidelines regarding the rights and responsibilities for cyclists.
Knowing if you have a case can rely heavily on knowing your rights and responsibilities as a cyclist. Therefore, we will discuss some of the rights and responsibilities of cyclists.Important Things to Consider
- Right of Roadway Use: A cyclist moving with the speed of traffic has the right to ride on the road; however, if a cyclist is moving slower than surrounding traffic then that cyclist must restrict riding to designated bike lanes.
- Bicycle Lanes: Reserved for the use of traditional bicycles; gas-powered and electric bicycles are NOT allowed to use bike lanes.
- Sidewalk Use: The right of a cyclist to use a sidewalk is dependent upon the rules laid out by the city and county in which the cyclist is riding. Make sure to check your local laws before heading out for a ride.
- Pedestrians: Just like motor vehicles, cyclists are required to yield to pedestrians.
There are also regulations in place outlining what equipment is required in order to maintain legal compliance when riding.
Bicycles must be equipped with:
- Properly sized handlebars
- Functioning brakes
- Lights for nighttime riding
- Reflectors for nighttime riding
Here are some of the important rules to keep in mind as a bicyclist:
- Ride with traffic
- Use the bicycle lane
- Do not block a bicycle lane
- Legal right to ride on the sidewalk varies across cities
- Bicycles may not be ridden on freeways or expressways
- Motorized bicycles may not be ridden on bike lanes unless expressly authorized by local authorities
- All riders under the age of 18 are legally required to wear a proper helmet
Let us take a look at some recent trends in bicycle accidents around the Los Angeles area to help further explore the legal concepts regarding this topic that we have been discussing.
The Los Angeles area has seen some interesting trends in traffic incidents. Overall, the total number of traffic-related deaths fell in recent years. This could be seen as a result of initiatives introduced to address the problem of rising traffic incidences in recent years – and it seems to be working, slowly. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean the roadways are now immune from injury-causing accidents.
Recently, the City Council of Los Angeles awarded a $7.5 million settlement to a cyclist who was seriously and permanently injured. In this particular case, the cyclist was riding in a bike lane, with all appropriate and required safety gear, and was thrown from his bicycle after hitting an obstruction in the path. The crash was the result of negligent road care and as a result, the cyclist was able to file a suit against the city for creating a dangerous situation – one that had been reported but remained unaddressed.Frequently Asked Questions
Do I Have any Legal Right to sue if my Spouse or Child Were Killed in a Bicycle Accident?
Yes, under California law you would have the right to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit.
How Common are These Kinds of Bicycle Accidents in California?
The Governors Highway Safety Association says that California has the highest rate of bicycle fatalities. Over 300 cyclists died in accidents involving motor vehicles in California between 2010 and 2012.
What Damages Might I be Entitled to for Such an Accident?
Compensatory damages for bicycle accidents follow California’s legislation for personal injury lawsuits.
Do I Have a Claim if I, as a Cyclist, am Blamed for the Accident?
Never, ever admit fault after an accident. Even if another party is trying to get you to do so, don’t do it. After an accident, an investigation will take place, and that will help determine potential fault. In most accidents, both parties share in the responsibility, though not all. Juries can still award damages even to a party who is considered to be at partial fault.
Can I sue the City if Poor Road Conditions Resulted in my Crash?
Yes. In the past couple years, multiple lawsuits have been brought before the courts due to poor road conditions resulting in serious, traumatizing injuries to bicyclists. These lawsuits have been awarded multimillion-dollar settlements for serious, life-altering injuries.
What Should I do After a Bike Accident Occurs?
Call 9-1-1, report everything to the best of your ability, get proper medical attention, and keep thorough records.How an Attorney can Help You
By now you may be realizing that while biking seems like a simple exercise, it carries a lot more liability and risk than we might think. A qualified attorney can help advise you on topics such as:
Accountability – If a biker’s or driver’s recklessness or negligence can be attributed to the accident, you may seek compensation through liability coverage.
Underinsured / Uninsured – If the biker or driver is not insured, or their personal insurance does not cover such a claim, we can show you which claims you can file to recover your fair settlement.
Additional policies – There are some cases where victims of an accident might not realize they are covered through other insurance policies such as homeowner’s insurance, special accident insurance, or personal insurance. We can advise you what coverage you have and what claims you can pursue.Find out if You Have a Case
If you believe you were involved in an accident that was not your fault, give us a call. Our free consultation will advise you as to whether or not you have a case. Let us work with you to explore your options; you may have more resources and insurance coverage than you realize. Your quality of life should not be affected just because you went about your day and then got into an accident; something out of your control. Your pain and suffering – whether it is financial, physical or emotional – are worth something, and we will pursue it. As always, there is no risk to you; if there is no settlement, there is no fee. We believe in your case and will not stop fighting for the best possible financial outcome for you.