Bicycle accidents can be as a result of numerous reasons in California. From reckless drivers, mindless pedestrians to hazardous road conditions, bicycle accidents have been on the increase. According to the laws on personal injury in California, anyone that suffers injuries following a bicycle accident can sue the responsible parties. Should a fatality happen, family members of the deceased are also permitted to sue those responsible for the wrongful death of their loved one.
Many of the injuries that occur can cause severe injuries and damages that may result in financial constraints to the victim and family. Medical care, possible loss of income, damage to property, and mental trauma are among the compensation a person would seek. When involved in a bicycle accident, and injuries are inflicted, getting in touch with a personal injury lawyer is essential to get rightful compensation. At San Diego Personal Injury Law Firm, we will help you identify the party at fault, file a lawsuit, and get you compensated.
When to Sue after an Accident
The parties or persons at fault when a bike accident occurs are compelled to compensate the victim financially for the damages. In California, a victim of a cycling accident can file a lawsuit on personal injury if injured in the crash. A person that has been injured in a bicycle accident can get compensated for the following damages:
- Physical or bodily injuries
- Damages for their bicycle
- Costs for seeking medical treatment
- Lost wages, especially if you have to miss work for a specified period or are unable to work again due to the severe injuries inflicted.
Bicycle accidents can happen between a vehicle and a bike. When this happens, it is best to get a lawyer first before engaging in communication with the insurance provider for the driver. Typically, an insurance company will try to settle any claim that comes their way with the least amount possible. With a lawyer, it becomes easier for you because he or she will discuss the compensation with the driver’s insurance company and ensure you get the best out of it.
The cause of your accident can be something else apart from a vehicle. Cracked cement, a dog off its leash, a pedestrian, or a porthole can be responsible for an accident. Additionally, your bicycle may be defective or have defective parts resulting in the crash. In such circumstances, a victim may not be sure who is responsible for the accident. With a personal injury lawyer, it becomes easier to establish the persons at fault and sue the right entity.
Factors that Contribute to Increase Risk in Bicycle Accidents
As long as you are a cyclist despite your experience, every day you cycle, you are exposed to the risk of sustaining injuries. However, some riders may be a more significant risk of succumbing to death or injuries as compared to others. Various reasons contribute to these factors, these are:
Age – the highest number of fatalities among riders is found in adults aged between 50 and 59 years. This is maybe because they are older, weaker, and less agile compared to younger riders. Research also indicates that adolescents and children between the ages of 5 and 19 years are less likely to die due to these accidents.
Sex – Reports indicate that men are more likely to die six times over women and more susceptible to injuries four times over women.
Alcohol – Driving or riding under the influence of drugs or alcohol in California is illegal. Over 1/3 of reported fatalities in bike accidents have involved a rider or driver that is intoxicated by drugs or alcohol.
Time – reports indicate that most fatal accidents involving bicycles occur between 4 pm and 8 pm. At these hours, the traffic is more cumbersome, and visibility on the road is less.
Location – most bicycle fatalities happen in non-intersection or urban areas. A report on bicycle accidents in 2011 indicated that about 70% of bike accidents resulting in deaths occurred in the metropolitan regions.
Use of Helmet – obviously, a helmet would not prevent an accident from happening. However, it is crucial to avoid traumatic or fatal injuries to the head. Lack of wearing a helmet has been reported as the primary contributor to fatal bicycle accidents or traumatic injuries to the brain.
The state of California is highly populated with higher populations in the urban regions. The state also boasts of favorable weather all year round, making it popular for a cyclist to ride any time. Cyclists use their bicycles as commuters, for racing competitively or for recreation.
The heavy traffic experienced in most parts of the state make cycling a preferred mode of transport for persons in need of avoiding getting stuck in traffic as they go to work. Unfortunately, most locations are built in favor of cars, leaving riders exposed to various hazards of the road. It is essential to understand that VEH 21200 imposes similar duties and rights to bicyclists as it does to other motorists.
What to Do After an Accident Involving a Vehicle
The most crucial thing a person should do immediately following a crash is to secure medical treatment if necessary. If you sustain injuries, one needs to call the emergency line or ask another person to do it for you. Most injuries individuals sustain after bicycle accidents involve the neck, back, or head. These injuries can be severe, with some leading to fatalities, and a doctor is well placed on examining them. It is possible to think you are not injured when you don’t feel pain. However, you may wake up with excruciating pain the following day. Being safe is always better than regretting your choice to ignore seeing a doctor. Ensure you eliminate the possibility of discovering that you were injured more than you thought you were.
After getting involved in an accident with a motorist, you need to collect information as much as possible. Some of the information that is crucial when and may need for purposes of compensation include:
- The license plate number of the vehicle that you collided with
- Information about the driver, their contact details and name
- Information about the insurance provider for the driver
- The make, year, color and model of the motor vehicle
- The identification number of the car
- Details of any witness to the accident.
However, your wellbeing is a priority in this case. Should the other motorist refuse to cooperate or is intoxicated or attempting to run from the scene of the accident, you must contact the police immediately. If you have a smartphone with you, taking videos or photos of the scene of the accident is essential. A picture of your damaged bike and injuries you have sustained is also crucial for your compensation case.
Never Admit Fault
Typically, most people will want to apologize following a crash even when they are not in the wrong. The words you use after an accident can be used against you to indicate you admitted to being at fault. If the motorist is forcing you to take responsibility, do not relent; instead, ask them to talk with your attorney about it.
In a lawsuit on personal injury charges, the person at fault is what the jury is keen to establish. Avoid admitting guilt, mainly because you are not sure who or what is at fault. It is highly advised that you allow your lawyer to take over any dealings with the driver or insurance provider for the driver.
Road Conditions and Bicycle Accidents
Hazardous road conditions have often been responsible for many bicycle accidents. After a crash, many cyclists assume it is their fault even when the road is cracked or has potholes. However, there are persons or entities to blame according to the liability laws on the premises in California. Based on the law, property owners or the city may be liable for the accident. If a property owner or the city negligently ignore to maintain roads in good conditions, an accident due to their negligence is their responsibility.
Various road conditions can result in bicycles crashing. Cracked cement, lifted asphalt, loose gravel, potholes, destroyed road signs, and uneven sidewalks are some of the conditions that can lead to an accident. Individuals that own property are responsible for their pavement surfaces and asphalt. This means that those accountable for city property, private, or commercial property are liable for the conditions therein.
Dangerous Road Networks
Reports indicate that various cities have paid hefty money to compensate victims of bicycle accidents because of having hazardous road conditions. In most of the injuries from the crashes, the different cities were aware of the road conditions. The city had received numerous complaints from the public and employees of the city about the hazardous conditions but refused to take them seriously. Reports also indicate that the cities have received several reports of bicycle accidents happening at particular locations but ignored them.
An example of a case that happened in California is that involving a 62-year-old male. While riding on Reseda Boulevard, he hit the pavement with a damaged patch and ended up crashing. Another bicyclist William Yao also crashed and got traumatic injuries that left him a person with quadriplegia.
All across California, many roads need better maintenance and repair. Millions of bicyclists are exposed to the risk of crashing due to hazardous road conditions that can be repaired.
Damages that can be Compensated after a Bicycle Accident
Any person found at fault in a bicycle accident will be responsible for the injuries sustained by victims of the crash. The damages for a dead victim or a living one are varied. However, if a cyclist sustained injuries only, he or she can file a lawsuit for the following:
- Current and any future medical bills concerning the injuries
- In case the victim suffers from mental trauma, counseling cost
- The cost for occupational therapy if a victim needs it
- Lost wages for the period the victim misses work recuperating
- Lost capacity to earn in the event the victim will not be able to work again
- Lost limb or disfigurement or loss of functionality of a body part
- A lost consortium of a domestic partner or spouse
- Suffering and pain of the victim and
- Scaring as a result of the injuries
The extent of injuries sustained by a victim determines the available damages to them. If the injuries were minor, the costs might include treatment at the emergency room and a few days off work. Unfortunately, some accidents may result in severe injuries that may need a victim to depend on medical care all their lives.
Bicycle accidents can result in various injuries. Some of the common ones include broken or fractured bones, neck and head fractures, dislocations and strains, concussion, internal bleeding, spinal injuries, and dental injuries.
When a person seeks compensation for the lost consortium, it is about the support, companionship, and intimacy a couple used to enjoy together. When a plaintiff sues for lost consortium, they are likely to get compensation for non-economic damages.
Some cases may lead to a victim suing for punitive damages. However, for the claim to succeed, the plaintiff must show that the behavior of the defendant was outrageous. This may include any actions deemed intentional by the defendant to cause harm to the victim, like attempting to run a cyclist off the road.
Suing when a Loved One Dies in a Bicycle Accident
If you lose a loved one following a bike accident, a living family member can sue for wrongful death and get compensated. However, not every person that calls themselves a family member can sue for wrongful death. The law only recognizes the following as the only ones that can sue:
- A surviving spouse of the victim
- A living registered domestic partner to the deceased
- Legally recognized children of the deceased
- Grandchildren if the children of the victim are deceased too
- Any person that is entitled to have the property according to the succession laws of California
When the surviving family sues for wrongful death, they usually are seeking compensation for:
- The financial income the deceased could have earned if they were alive
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Compensation for lost support and companionship
When a Motorist is Responsible for a Bicycle Crash
Sometimes, a driver may display recklessness or negligence on the road that would cause a bicycle crash. If this happens, a victim can sue the driver through filing a personal injury suit against them. According to negligence laws in California, a driver can cause an accident due to his or her negligence. When this happens, they assume responsibility for the injuries sustained.
For instance, driving on a bike lane is prohibited by the law, according to VEH 21209. A driver that violates this law and causes an accident will be found to be at fault and liable for the injuries. For compensation, the victim or family must prove the negligence of the driver. Some of the elements to prove negligence include:
- The motorist owed a duty of care to the bicyclist
- The driver by show of indifference breached the duty of care
- The negligence by the driver was a significant contributor to causing death or injuries to the cyclist.
As a general rule, drivers are expected to honor the duty of care to fellow drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians.
Another way to demonstrate the negligence of a driver is through violation of traffic rules, negligent actions, and inattentive driving. Some of the common traffic violations by drivers are:
- Failing to give the recommended 3 feet distance to cyclists for safety
- Speeding or going beyond the speed limit
- Failing to yield to other road users
- Ignoring road signs and running through an indication for stopping
- Driving while distracted either texting or while on phone
- Driving recklessly
- DUI – driving when intoxicated by either alcohol or drugs
When a Pedestrian Causes a Bicycle Crash
Sometimes a pedestrian can be responsible for causing a bicyclist to crash. If this happens, it is possible to sue the pedestrian for damages incurred. Pedestrians contribute to bike crashes when they:
- Fail to have control over their dog, and it runs off the leash
- Text as they walk and forget to watch the road
- Having headphones on and listening to them and paying no attention to bikes
- Absentmindedly stepping into the line bikes are using or suddenly running ahead of the cyclist
- Intentionally knocking down a cyclist from their bike
However, to successfully seek compensation from the pedestrian, the bicyclist must prove the negligence of the pedestrian. The cyclist must demonstrate:
- A duty of care was owed to the cyclist by the pedestrian
- Through neglect, the pedestrian refused to honor the duty of care
- The negligence of the pedestrian was a significant element in the crash that caused the injuries
When a Driver Claims the Cyclist was Responsible for the Accident
Most motorists do not comprehend the challenges bicyclists go through with vehicles each day on the road. The risk factors for a cyclist are higher than those of motorists. Unfortunately, most drivers will never accept responsibility even when it is clear they are to blame for the accident.
It is usual for a driver to apportion blame after an accident. No matter the pressure from the driver, never admit to being responsible. Should you admit or indicate that you may have been responsible for the crash, it will mean you will carry the burden of your financial challenges. This is in addition to the damages the driver will claim from you. When you are under pressure to admit fault, ask the driver to call your attorney.
Sometimes both the cyclist and driver may share a certain degree of fault in causing the crash. If they both are partially to blame, it may limit the liability of property owners when a collision happens. In California, the comparative law states that parties in an accident can share fault. When this is established, the jury will apportion damages and blame between or among the parties. This means that the costs a cyclist will be compensated for would reduce based on their fault level.
When your Bike was Defective and Responsible for the Crash
Defective bicycles or parts can be responsible for causing an accident. While cycling, a part of the bike may break, resulting in a crash or unable to control the bike. Most cyclists will not know whom to blame or what happened. The good news is, the state of California has laws on product liability that protect consumers against defective goods. Under these laws, the company responsible for the design, manufacture, and distribution of the bicycle or it's part is liable should an accident occur.
This means that if you crash and sustain injuries because of your bicycle breaking down, you can sue the company that manufactured it or its distributor for compensation. Comparing with different personal injury suits, the victim need not prove the negligence of the company. The law allows for strict liability to be imposed on:
- Defects in the manufacturing of products
- Defects in the designing and engineering of a product
- Failure by the company to issue a warning regarding the defects
To recover compensation for the damages the victim suffered due to the defective part or bicycle, the victim must prove:
- The company is responsible for the design, manufacture, and distribution of the faulty parts or bike
- At the time the bicycle left the manufacturer's or distributor’s premises, it already had the defect
- That he or she used the bicycle for the intended purpose and in a reasonable way
- That the injuries sustained were as a result of the defects
Find a Personal Injury Lawyer Near Me
Cyclists face danger each day they are on the road. A lot of other motorists disregard cyclists and almost bully them on the road. Most accidents involving a bicycle result in severe injuries that can be traumatic or fatal. If one gets injured during a crash, their lives may turn upside down if the injuries were significant. In some cases, a victim can lose the use of particular body parts, be left with life-long health challenges. These may cause them to be dependent on others or on medication forever. This can be emotionally and physically devastating for the victim and their family. Although money may not compensate for the injuries or life lost, it brings a sense of justice to the victim and family.
The cost of medical care can also be overwhelming for the family, and financial compensation can help the family cope. For this matter, you need an experienced personal injury lawyer to bring up a claim on your behalf. At San Diego Personal Injury Law Firm, we are passionate and committed to helping you get your compensation. Call us today on 619-478-4059 and let us help you with your compensation claim.