In a personal injury case, if you've experienced an injury, property damage, or any other type of loss, as the plaintiff, you may seek compensation from whoever caused or was partly responsible for those losses. The legal word for this type of compensation is damage. The California law on personal injury allows any person injured to file a lawsuit against all the parties involved in causing the accident. For those who lose their lives as a result of the injury, their families can file a wrongful death lawsuit. Get in touch with us at San Diego Personal Injury Law Firm, and we will ensure you receive the compensation you deserve even if we have to go to trial.
Who Can Claim Compensation After a Bicycle Accident in California?
Any cyclist who is injured or the family of an individual who loses his or her life in a California bicycle accident is entitled to compensation, so long as you can prove the following:
- Duty - You should illustrate how the defendant owed a duty of care
- Breach - The defendant’s actions caused the breach of duty
- Causation - The defendant’s actions or lack of action caused your injury
- Damages - You were harmed as a result of the defendant’s actions or inactions
For you to receive a settlement, you have to prove that the person or corporation was at fault. The at-fault parties in a bicycle accident may include the vehicle's driver, pedestrian, bicycle manufacturers, and the agency responsible for maintaining a structure for public use.
If a reckless or negligent driver caused the accident, you could seek compensation by filing a personal injury civil lawsuit. The negligence law of California states that a careless driver responsible for the accident should be liable. Drivers mostly cause accidents by driving in bike lanes, not giving cyclists 3 feet for safety and other traffic violations.
A pedestrian or a cyclist may also be responsible for causing the accident, and you can claim damages against them. Bicycle accidents involving a pedestrian might be caused by failure to control their pets, texting while walking, moving into bike traffic and not paying attention, and deliberately knocking you off your bike.
A damage may occur on a poorly built or maintained facility that leads to the bicycle accident. The facilities may include a road sign, a road condition, or a traffic light. In this case, the property owners are liable to damages regardless of who built the property, as stated under California premises liability law. The property owner might include private property, commercial property, or city property.
If the manufacturer improperly installed a component or inadequately designed the entire bicycle system, such that it resulted in the accident, you may have a claim against that manufacturer. Bicycle manufacturers, just like any other manufacturer, is obligated to provide you with a product that is reasonably fit for its intended purpose. Some of the main failures of bicycles include defective carbon fiber frames, defective wheels, faulty brakes, carbon fork failure, and defect on quick-release hubs on front wheels.
Types of Compensation Available in a California Bicycle Accident Lawsuit
When filing a lawsuit, you will be seeking compensation for the loss you suffered due to the defendant's wrongful acts. While you may be awarded compensation in various forms, a monetary award is the most common. To understand a potential lawsuit worth, you need to understand the type of damages permissible in court. The following are three main types of monetary damages you can receive as part of resolving a civil lawsuit:
The first type of damage is known as compensatory damages, which is generally the most definite and identifiable type of damage and is classified into either economic compensatory Damages or Non-economic compensatory damages.
The economic Compensatory Damages, also known as Special Compensatory Damages, compensate for monetary expenses incurred because of an injury. Factors considered when evaluating the economic compensatory damages value are your age, occupation, income, and the severity and nature of your injuries. Future medical expenses are also considered. Your attorney will be able to seek a definitive amount of economic compensatory damages based on your injuries and bicycle destruction. The most common forms of economic compensatory damages are:
You can recover your medical bills incurred both in the past and in the future from your injuries treatments. Additionally, a doctor's professional opinion will be used to acknowledge that you will need medical treatments in the future as a result of the accident. If the future treatments are confirmed, then you can acquire the compensation for that cost as well.
Although the party responsible for your injuries ought to pay your medical bills, they rarely admit liability or pay the medical bills immediately. This means that you have to pay the bills as you wait for the case to conclude. The case can be considered over by either settling or going to trial. You have a few for sorting your bills, including private health insurance or government health insurance, such as Medi-Cal or Medicare. If you are injured but do not have insurance, you can negotiate payment plans and discounts for medical treatments with the hospital.
After all the necessary medical treatments, you will have to provide the other party's insurer with copies of your bill. Your doctor should also deliver your diagnosis and copies of your test results. If you had any pre-existing injury but was made worse by the accident, you will still receive the medical bills compensation for that treatment.
Lost wages apply when you were unable to attend your regular job routines, or you were dismissed from your current job. This means that you will be compensated for the amount of income lost as a result of you taking time off work to recover.
Lost wages, also referred to as back wages or back pay, include regular income, overtime pay, bonuses, commissions, self-employment income, sick days or vacation, and self-employment income. The statute of limitations in California for personal injury cases is two years.
You can prove lost wages by providing a letter from your employer, explicitly confirming you were an employee at the time of the accident and your regular income plus the benefits. If you are self-employed, you will need to provide tax return statements for the years before the accident or billing statements for the previous month or the last year if your income is seasonal. You may require the services of forensic accounting experts to testify on your behalf.
You could qualify for unemployment insurance benefits in California if you were physically able to work or available and actively searching for a job. If you were not able to work, you could file for California disability benefits rather than the unemployment insurance benefits.
Lost Earning Capacity
The lost earning capacity refers to the reduced ability to make money in the future due to catastrophic injuries such as permanent disability or long-term injuries. The calculation for this form of damage is done by considering factors such as your work-life expectancy as dictated by the federal government statistics. The calculation is challenging as you have to prove losses that have not yet happened.
The following factors are considered when calculating lost earning capacity:
- The period which your injuries are likely to last
- When you are likely to return to your employment
- Your age and life expectancy before the accident
- Your retirement age
- Your income in the past and terms of your employment contract
- Your opportunities for promotion
Your employer can testify about your work history, promotional opportunities, and work performance. Your therapists and doctors will need to elaborate on how your health has been affected and reasons as to why you can not go back to work. A testimony from your friends and family explaining your life goals can also be used to determine the lost earning capacity compensation.
Out of Pocket Costs
These are expenses paid directly rather than being put on account or charged to some other party or organization. They may include parking fees at the hospital, gas money for traveling to and from the hospital, and payment for additional services incurred due to the accident.
These expenses can range from a few dollars to thousands of dollars and will more often than not put an unnecessary strain on your already strained pocketbook. To claim compensation for these costs, you should carefully track, or money expended as well as save receipts.
For you to seek reimbursement for your out-of-pocket expenses, it is necessary to understand what costs may be recoverable from the at-fault driver or their insurance company. It is important to note that not all expenses arising from your medical treatment will be reimbursed. Insurance companies commonly evaluate whether the item or equipment purchased is reasonable or necessary, considering the injuries sustained.
Non-economic Compensatory Damages
Another type of compensatory damages is the Non-economic Compensatory Damages. Non-economic damages may include pain, emotional anguish, humiliation, reputational damage, loss of enjoyment of activities, or worsening of prior injuries. In California, the maximum amount of non-economic damages you can recover $250,000, but in some cases, the amount can exceed the cap.
Under federal law, non-economic damages must be reasonable and are limited to no more than ten times the amount of economic damages awarded. They cannot be issued for losses that are purely imaginary or invented by the plaintiff and have a higher chance of being issued if they can be traced to some sort of physical manifestation.
These types of damages do not necessarily involve expenses as they include more personal losses. They may consist of the following:
Pain and Suffering and Mental Anguish
This refers to the pain you suffer as you perform your daily routines and chores. You may also be experiencing mental anguish and trauma while dealing with the fact that the accident has caused you a lot of losses. The losses may include indirect suffering that is brought about by injuries such as missing out on family events or being unable to participate in your hobbies.
There is no fixed standard for deciding the value of pain and suffering, so you must prove to the jury that you suffered harm or bound to in the future. You can be compensated for pain and suffering, even if you do not have physical injuries. You are most likely to be paid for this damage if you have a long-term loss of function or permanent disfigurement. Also, if your medical treatment bills are high or your recovery time was long and complicated, you can also likely receive compensation for pain and suffering damages.
Loss of Consortium
Loss of consortium, which is the loss or falling out of a relationship with a partner. The loss or falling out should be as a result of the injuries caused by accident. Your partner or a family member can sue for the loss of affection, love, companionship, household services, or sexual relations you provided before the accident.
Emotional distress damages are designed to compensate you for the psychological impact your injury has had on your daily life. Emotional distress includes but not limited to fear, sleep loss, anxiety, or depression. Emotional pain is a very subjective type of harm, and it changes from person to person. There is no exact definition, so if you are experiencing psychological issues, bring them forward as they may be compensable.
For you to be compensated, you will need to prove that your emotional stress is ongoing, it affects your daily routines and is as a result of the injuries caused by the accident. Testimony of a mental health professional is particularly appropriate in cases in which you have experienced significant subjective symptoms.
Loss of Enjoyment
Loss of enjoyment refers to how a severe injury impacts someone's quality of life, so they receive less satisfaction from the things they were able to do before the accident.
Courts and juries will consider your age and the severity of the injury as younger plaintiffs have better chances of receiving a more substantial sum because the loss will affect them longer. Catastrophic injuries that cause more significant pain or interfere with daily life are also more likely to result in higher awards for loss of enjoyment.
The second type of damages is Punitive Damages. These damages are meant to punish the defendant for the wrongful conduct. In most cases, the punishment is due to a DWI situation. When the defendant was driving recklessly or while intoxicated risking the lives of cyclists and injuring you in the process, then you can file for punitive damages. Punitive damages mostly apply to avoid such circumstances from happening again, as damages for personal injuries may not be that severe.
The jury determines whether to award punitive damages and by how much by deciding if the defendant's actions deserve condemnation or the amount you received as a plaintiff was justified. The punitive damages bear a reasonable relationship to the compensatory damages you were awarded.
Wrongful Death Damages
The third and final type of damages is Wrongful Death Damages. California law allows families to recover when they have lost a loved one as a result of someone's wrongful conduct and, in this case, the bicycle accident. The compensation for wrongful death includes but not limited to burial and funeral expenses, the income of the deceased, and also loss of companionship and support.
The Civil Procedure of California Code 377.60 permits the spouses, children, domestic partners, or grandchildren to file for a wrongful death lawsuit. The settlement compensates for the value of the support they could have received from the deceased. Wrongful death damages can include both non-economic and economic damages. Punitive damages can not be awarded in a wrongful death lawsuit in California, but one can file for a California Survival cause of action.
The family members who sue the defendant for wrongful death can receive compensation depending on the deceased individual's life expectancy or the plaintiff's life expectancy at the time of the unlawful act.
The statute of limitations in California for both survival cause of action and wrongful death is two years. The time starts running from the date of the deceased's death. The survival cause of action compensates the deceased’s estate for the following types of losses:
- Claims unrelated to the death and which the deceased had the right to sue for as of the date of death, or
- Claims for the injury that caused the death provided the person survived those injuries for at least some time
Why You Need to Hire a California Personal Injury Lawyer
You need to contact a lawyer immediately after the accident. Dealing with the other party's insurance on your own is not advisable as they will probably try to get you to agree to a low-ball offer. You should get the services of an attorney if you are experiencing the following difficulties:
- Liability may not be Apparent
Liability may not be apparent, or multiple parties are involved. If responsibility is not clear, the insurance might try to put the duty of care mainly to you and end up awarding you a small settlement. Also, if multiple parties are involved, it is difficult to establish whom to file a lawsuit against and how you will be compensated.
- Pressure from Insurance Firms for You to Accept Less Compensation
The insurance company will try to get you to agree to a low-ball offer or refuse to make an offer at all. Negotiating with the insurance company is a very hectic and overwhelming process, and you will be tempted to agree on any offer.
- If You Suffered Permanent or Disabling Injuries
If you have suffered permanent or disabling injuries and you are subjected to long term care, it is difficult to calculate the settlement you deserve as a lot of factors need to be considered. A lawyer can help you understand all the forms of compensation applicable in this situation and how you can calculate them.
- You Suffered Severe Injuries
If you suffered severe injuries, it is best to contact a lawyer as the compensation is awarded based on the severity of your injuries. Also, factors such as your medical bills or length of your recovery period will assist in calculating the settlement. In this case, the amount might be higher than the insurance company policy limit, which means you will have to settle for a lesser compensation than you deserve.
California’s Restriction on Recovering Compensation
California is a pure comparative state, which implies that the state courts allow the injured parties to collect damages even if they are 99% accountable for the accident. This is different from other states, as they do not cap the amount at 50%. Your percentage of fault will determine how much the settlement is reduced by when awarding settlements. If you are found 20% responsible for the accident, then your compensation will be deducted by that percentage. The State of California also allows division of negligence and liability among various parties.
In most cases, you still get a settlement regardless of your carelessness resulting in the accident from the party most responsible for the bicycle accident. The comparative negligence is whereby the percentage of the liability is determined by the percentage damages the other party must pay you. While negotiating a settlement, you and the insurance adjuster will have to analyze the factors that caused the bicycle accident to determine the worth of your injuries.
Find a Personal Injury Attorney Near Me
Personal injury cases can be complicated and require the expertise and knowledge that a legal counsel can provide. The process of negotiating a settlement can be time-consuming and overwhelming, making it harder for an injury victim to follow up and get the deserved amount. You may improperly file legal paperwork, miss deadlines, and not be aware of the additional damages you deserve. Not having a lawyer also makes it harder to get a fair settlement or win a lawsuit in court as the other party may likely have an attorney.
If you need a brilliant team of lawyers in San Diego that adhere to all ethical codes and provide the best service and legal experience, call the San Diego Personal Injury Law Firm at 619-478-4059