Cycling is a popular means of transport in California because of its affordability and health benefits. California's high population means the cyclists are equally many, resulting in many cycling accidents each year. The causes of these accidents are as diverse as the injuries sustained. Unfortunately, most bicycle accidents, especially those involving a vehicle, result in catastrophic injuries to cyclists and sometimes death.
Although cyclists are also to blame in some cases, most catastrophic accidents involving a vehicle result from the motorist's negligence. When you suffer these unfortunate injuries as a motorist, the cost of their treatment and other damages are high. Get in touch with us at the San Diego Personal Injury Law Firm so that we can help you seek compensation.
Catastrophic Bicycle Accidents and their Causes
As earlier stated, a cyclist can be partially to blame for a devastating injury following an accident. However, a more significant percentage of those responsible for catastrophic bicycle injuries are vehicle drivers. There are many reasons why a disastrous bicycle accident can occur. Some of the causes are:
Distracted driving can be either by a motorist or cyclist. When a cyclist is distracted either using the phone or listening to music, they can carelessly join a road without checking if it is safe to do so. As a result, it may be too late to stop and end up knocking the cyclist down if there was an oncoming vehicle. Equally, the cyclist can crash into a car already on the road or a stationary object, resulting in catastrophic injuries.
A motorist is also often distracted on the road. When driving, drivers can be eating, using their phone, or attending to children, among other behaviors. Unfortunately, they may fail to see you riding your bicycle and knock you down, leaving you with catastrophic injuries.
If you ride your bicycle intoxicated by either alcohol or drugs, you may end up in a severe accident. When you are impaired, you are not in control of your bike and can make wrong decisions resulting in accidents.
Equally, a motorist operating their vehicle when drunk or drugged is dangerous on the road to themselves or other road users. If you are on the way and an impaired driver is as well, they may end up crashing into you because of their intoxication. Drunk or intoxicated drivers account for many roads' accidents, with many leaving devastating damages in their wake.
This is a type of accident that leaves many cyclists with severe injuries. If you were riding your bicycle at high speed and suddenly a car door opens in front of you, you will likely get thrown off your bike and sustain devastating injuries. This type of accident can have you land on your back, injuring your spinal cord. Other times, you may land on your head, causing a fracture to your skull that leads to brain damage.
Hazardous Road Conditions
The conditions on our roads must also provide for safe driving or riding. When there is a road problem, a cyclist can encounter it and end up in an accident with devastating injuries. For instance, if a road construction company was repairing a road and failed to put signs warning road users, a cyclist can ride into the construction. Crashing into the construction site and workers can result in severe injuries to those involved.
Slippery roads, especially when a vehicle has spilled oil, can also cause a catastrophic bicycle accident. Hitting a pothole can result in you getting thrown off your bike and falling on the hard ground. If the department responsible for ensuring our roads are kept in safe conditions fails to do so, it may result in serious accidents. In this case, you can pursue your damages from the particular government agency responsible.
Manufacturing or Mechanical Defects
Bicycles can also have defects or can malfunction while on the road, just like vehicles. If you are riding your bike as you should and it falls apart on you as you ride, you may find yourself involved in a severe accident. Equally, a part of the bicycle, especially the brakes, can fail, and you end up crashing into a vehicle or a stationary object.
A vehicle can also suffer manufacturing defects of mechanical malfunction, causing it to crash onto you. The injuries resulting from the failure or defect of a bicycle or a vehicle on the road can be catastrophic.
When a motorist cannot see you on the road, he or she can likely crash into you as you ride along the route. When you ride near the rear or at the driver's blind spot, you are at risk of suffering a catastrophic accident. Equally, when there is poor lighting, or you fail to wear reflective clothing, you can easily get knocked down and suffer devastating injuries. Because of this, as a cyclist, you are encouraged to ride in an area you are easily seen and to always wear reflective clothing, especially when riding at night.
Disregarding Traffic Rules
When traffic rules are ignored, there are consequences to it. If you disobey traffic rules and turn where you are not supposed to or when you should not, you can easily find yourself in an accident. Cyclists, while riding on the road, are subjected to the same traffic rules as motorists. At an intersection, you must wait until the lights indicate that it is safe and your turn to proceed or take a turn. When you disregard these rules, you are a danger to yourself and other road users.
Motorists that disregard traffic rules are also a danger to other road users. When a driver turns without ensuring the road is clear and safe, they easily cause accidents. A motorist can turn in front of you as you ride your bicycle at an intersection. If none of you can stop on time, you will end up in a catastrophic accident.
Types of Catastrophic Injuries in Bicycle Accidents
As earlier stated, cyclist accidents are prevalent in California, with most of them resulting in catastrophic or devastating injuries. When an injury is described as catastrophic, it means that it alters your life negatively, and you may never go back to the life you had before the accident. Treating and caring for these injuries in many cases becomes a lifelong affair that is physically and financially draining as well as emotionally.
Some of the traumatic injuries cyclists sustain when involved in a bicycle accident include:
Traumatic Brain Injuries
The brain is one of the most critical parts of your body. It works together with other parts of the body in controlling bodily functions. If the brain gets injured, many things that you previously took for granted may not be possible. Most traumatic brain injuries leave the victim in a vegetative state. This means that you will depend on people to care for your every need if you suffer this injury.
If you suffer from this injury, you may be confined to a bed and kept alive by machines. Your eating, bowel movement, breathing, among other things, is controlled or assisted. When you get in a bicycle accident, your head's severe impact can cause this type of injury. Your skull can crack, resulting in bleeding in the brain. Treating this type of brain injury may not be possible, and you will remain alive through assisted living.
The cost of the treatment and staying alive is hefty. Equally, you will no longer be able to work or earn a living. All these are damages that you are entitled compensation for in California.
Spinal Cord Injuries
Cyclists are also prone to these catastrophic injuries when involved in an accident. For instance, in a dooring accident, you can get thrown off your bicycle and land on your back. The hard surface's impact will injure your spinal cord, which is the center of the nervous system. When your nerves get damaged, it will mean communication from your brain to body areas is disrupted.
The brain transmits signals to the body parts through the nervous system. If your nerves get damaged, your mind will not pass crucial signals to your body parts. For instance, if the nerve responsible for communicating to your legs to move is damaged, the message to move from the brain will not get relayed. As a result, you suffer paralysis on your legs.
Most spinal cord injuries leave their victims paralyzed either totally or partially. When a bicycle accident injures your back, it is likely to leave you paralyzed. This means you will use a wheelchair, limiting your movement. The way you lived your life before the accident has changed and became even difficult. You may be required to alter your home space to allow for the moving around, among other home modifications.
The cost of treatment, buying the wheelchair, and other associated costs to your injuries are compensable in California. In some cases, your career can be lost due to this injury. If this happens, your lost earnings are compensated as well.
Damage to the Internal Organs
Sometimes a forceful impact may result in the damaging of your internal organs. Your internal organs are critical in your bodily functions, and if damaged and not treated immediately, you can die from the injuries. A bicycle accident can result in the damage of your kidneys, liver, heart, or lungs. Damage to some of these organs can leave you in need of medical care for the rest of your life. The cost to your finances as you seek treatment is also high, requiring compensation.
A severe bicycle accident can result in serious damage to your limb, requiring amputation. Other times, a victim can lose their limb at the accident scene. Missing a part of you is devastating. When you are whole, and suddenly you are told one of your legs or arms is amputated or must be cut off, it is catastrophic. Unfortunately, these are common injuries in a bicycle accident.
As you get treated for the wound and other injuries, your doctor may ask you to consider prosthetics to replace your damaged or lost limb. An artificial limb's cost is high, not forgetting the need to periodically visit your doctor to monitor its functioning and changing it. However, California’s compensation laws allow you to get awarded for the losses you incur due to the injury. The payment of the lost limb is also considered in a claim lawsuit.
A lot of fatalities are reported when a catastrophic bicycle accident occurs. The accident's impact is felt to your body directly, causing significant injuries that can lead to death on the spot or later in the hospital. The surviving family can sue the party responsible for the wrongful death to receive compensation for your untimely death.
What You should do Following a Bicycle Accident
When a bicycle accident occurs, there are various things you will be advised to do for your wellbeing and to strengthen your claim case. Although the first thing after such an accident is shock and confusion, when you calm down and are able, you may need to do a few things to support your case.
The first thing to do is seek or call for help. If you have a phone with you or a witness has a phone, reporting the incidence to get help is crucial. The police and emergency personnel will get dispatched to the accident scene to offer their support. The police arriving at the scene will piece together the cause of the accident, take photos, and interview witnesses to the accident. The officers will also talk to the parties involved in the accident and test them for intoxication to eliminate DUI as the cause of the accident.
One of the most important things is to seek medical care. Injuries following a bicycle accident are often severe and require immediate medical attention. When the paramedics arrive, they will offer you first aid as they take you to the nearest hospital for treatment. Once there, the doctors will carry a thorough exam to determine the extent of your injuries, both physical and internal. Take photos of your physical injuries if you can to support your claim for damages.
As you wait for the police and paramedics, if you can, take photos of the accident scene from various angles. This is helpful, especially when reconstructing the accident scene to determine the cause of the accident. If you see a witness to the accident, engage them, and ask for their contact details. Ask them if they can offer a written account of what they witnessed because it strengthens your claim.
Another important thing is never to admit fault. You may not say you are responsible for the accident directly, but apologizing for the incident or other words you may use can mean you are guilty. Additionally, when the other party's insurance adjuster calls you with an offer, decline it and refer them to your lawyer. An initial offer is always below what you will demand in damages and are likely to receive.
At the same time, avoid making any statement without your lawyer present regarding the accident. Even when the police talk to you, focus on your injuries and not on what happened. Once you are in hospital and stable, you need to find an experienced attorney to represent you in seeking your damages. Your attorney understands insurance laws, the statute of limitations for California claims, among other things, to help your case.
Liability in a Bicycle Accident
Determining the party responsible for your accident is critical in California in getting your damages paid. Compensation laws in California are based on fault. This means responsibility or blame for the accident must be established because the party responsible for the accident is liable for the losses you suffer.
When the police come to the accident scene, determining the accident's cause is one of the protocols. However, this does not mean that their findings are final, although they are heavily relied upon by the insurance company and the court in establishing responsibility.
In many cases, the other party can blame you for the accident as well. Fortunately, your lawyer will work with experts to establish liability for the accident. If the other party is found to be responsible for the accident, he or she will be held accountable for the damages you incur.
However, if you were partially to blame for the accident, you will only receive compensation according to your degree of responsibility. This is mostly determined by the jury when you petition the court for your damages. California adheres to the comparative negligence laws when apportioning blame in a bicycle accident.
When seeking your damages, your lawyer will prepare the claim documents, attaching evidence of the costs and the accident. Once finished, they will present the claim to the insurance adjuster who will study it and pay it, offer a different settlement, or decline it. Your lawyer will engage in negotiations with the insurance adjuster to get a more favorable settlement. If this is not possible or the other party claims you are responsible for the accident, your lawyer will file a petition with the court for your damages.
During the trial, both sides will present their case before the jury with evidence supporting their claim. If blame is shared, damages will be awarded according to the degree of fault. If, on the other hand, the other party is found liable solely, they will bear the burden of the damages.
Compensable Damages in a Bicycle Accident
As earlier stated, bicycle accidents can result in some of the most catastrophic injuries you can sustain. Fortunately, you can get compensated for the damages by the insurance provider of the at-fault party. If their insurance coverage is not sufficient to cover your losses, you will seek the damages directly from the at-fault party.
When you suffer injuries from a bicycle accident in California, you can recover both financial and non-financial damages. Monetary damages are also known as economic and are supported by documents indicating the financial costs you have incurred due to the injuries. These damages include:
When you are injured, you will seek medical care for your injuries. The doctor's fees, tests, procedures, medicine, equipment, and anything else that goes into treating these injuries are compensable. The fee notes from your doctor, bills generated by the hospital accompanied by a detailed report of your treatment, and other hospital costs are attached to your claim. The insurance adjuster will study the request and investigate if it is accurate before awarding compensation.
Lost Wages and Ability to Earn
Recovering from your injuries may require you to miss work for some time. The income you lose as a result can be recovered through your damages claim. Because most bicycle accidents are catastrophic, the injuries can render you unable to work or end your career. As a result, you will lose income for the rest of your life, meaning you will depend on others. The income you suffer as a result is compensable in a claim.
Your lawyer will attach a letter from your employer indicating what you earn and have lost when you will not work. Similarly, a doctor's report and employer's letter are necessary for establishing that you are no longer able to work, and the accident is the reason for this. A calculation of what you would have earned is calculated, and you receive damages for it.
Damages to Property
The cost of repairing your damaged bicycle or replacing it is also recoverable. Documents showing the cost of repairs or a new bike must be attached to your claim.
Aside from these financial damages, the law allows you to receive compensation for other costs that are not quantifiable. Some of these include:
Pain and Suffering
Injuries from a bicycle accident will leave you with a lot of pain and suffering. Depending on the severity of the injuries, damages for this are determined and awarded.
If you died or a loved one died due to the accident, your family can receive compensation for the wrongful death.
Find a Bicycle Accident Lawyer Near Me
Bicycle accidents are some of the most dangerous accidents, leaving the victims with significant injuries. The financial and non-financial repercussions of these injuries are equally devastating to you and your family. However, you can find some financial relief by pursuing compensation for the losses you suffer from the help of an experienced lawyer. At San Diego Personal Injury Law Firm, we understand the challenges you face because of the bicycle accident and will work hard help you seek damages. Call us at 619-478-4059.