- Consider the Laws Relevant to Bicyclists and Bicycle Accidents
- The Common Injuries resulting from Bicycle Accidents
- The Reasons behind Bicycle Accidents
- Who could be Liable for Bicycle Accidents?
- Understanding Negligence and the Right to Sue
- Relevant Bicycle Accident Lawsuits
- Does Insurance Coverage Cover Bicycle Accidents?
- William Zimmerman v. CSAA Insurance Group.
- Recovering Compensation for a Bicycle Accident
- Important Steps to Follow after a Bicycle Accident
- The Statute of Limitations
- Seek Legal Assistance Today
Bicycling is a common activity. People ride bicycles as a form of exercise, a form of last-mile transportation, a form of main transportation, and a form of fun – for example. Regardless of the reason behind riding a bicycle, bicyclists are constantly at risk for being involved in accidents – both with vehicles and pedestrians, for example. Were you or a member of your family involved in a bicycle accident? If you suffered injuries or a member of your family lost his or her life, you might have considered the possibility of pursuing a personal injury claim against the party liable for the damages suffered. Although many parties affected by bicycle accidents have the right to take action against the parties liable for their damages, many of these parties never takes action – due to an overwhelming lack of information.
Consider the Laws Relevant to Bicyclists and Bicycle AccidentsThere are many laws that apply to bicycling in the state of California. These laws are outlined by California Vehicle Code (CVC). All bicyclists should be familiar with all of the following laws:
- CVC 21200: bicyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as the drivers of motorized vehicles.
- CVC 21200.5: it is illegal to ride a bicycle under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- CVC 21201 and 21204: bicycles must be equipped with brakes, handlebars not higher than the cyclist’s shoulders, and must be small enough to effectively handle. During the night, bicycles should have a white headlight visible from the front of the bicycle, as well as a red rear reflector, white/yellow pedal reflectors, and side reflectors. Riders must have permanent bicycle seats. Any passengers that weigh under 40lbs (usually infants/toddlers) must have a seat which retains them and protects them from any moving parts.
- CVC 21202: all bicycles traveling slower than normal traffic must ride as close to the right curb as possible. Exceptions to this rule include when the bicyclist is passing, preparing to make a left turn, or avoiding dangerous road conditions.
- CVC 21203: it is illegal for bicyclists to hitch rides on vehicles (hold onto vehicles while on a bicycle).
- CVC 21205: bicyclists cannot carry any items that prevent them from keeping at least one hand on the handlebars at all times.
- CVC 21208: bicyclists must use the bike lane to ride except when passing, avoiding dangerous conditions, or making a left turn.
- CVC 21760: drivers of motorized vehicles must give bicyclists at least three feet of space between the bicycle and vehicle when passing.
- CVC 21650: bicyclists must always travel on the right side of the road, in the same direction as traffic.
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The Common Injuries resulting from Bicycle AccidentsAccording to information relayed by JAMA Network Open, traumatic brain injuries (TBI) account for approximately two-thirds of all hospitalizations and three-fourths of deaths in terms of bicycle crashes. This means that TBI is the most common cause of both morbidity and mortality in these accidents. The site also highlights the fact that helmets have been proven to reduce the risk of bicyclists suffering TBI by as must as 88%. Unfortunately, many cyclists do not wear helmets – even though helmets represent the difference between life and death. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), wearing a helmet – besides reducing the risk of a head injury – also reduces the risk of death. Statistics show that just 17% of all bicyclists that died in 2014 were wearing helmets; the majority of fatalities (60%) were not wearing helmets. Besides traumatic brain injuries, bicycle accidents could result in a number of other injuries. Other of the most common injuries associated with bicycle accidents include head injuries, neck injuries, back injuries, facial injuries, shoulder injuries, arm injuries, hand injuries, spinal injuries, hip injuries, pelvic injuries, leg injuries, knee injuries, and foot injuries, for example. Although most of these injuries seem minor, they can be fatal – depending on the details of the accident.
The Reasons behind Bicycle AccidentsWhat are the common causes of bicycle accidents? Bicycle accidents happen for a number of reasons. Even if you have been riding for most of your life, you are at risk of suffering an accident at any time. Although all bicycle accidents are different, consider some of the most common causes of bike accidents:
- Reckless drivers: all drivers have a specific duty of care towards all parties that share the road, including bicyclists. Drivers must ensure that they are providing bicyclists with enough space, for instance. They must follow all traffic laws and exercise caution to ensure that they are not endangering themselves or other parties, as well as not creating the possibility of an accident.
- Reckless bicyclists: although most bicyclists do everything within their reach to remain safe while cycling, some bicyclists recklessly put themselves in danger. Some bicyclists weave in and out of traffic, getting too close to vehicles, and ignoring all traffic laws. When bicyclists are reckless, they put themselves in danger of being involved in an accident.
- Poor road conditions: bicycle accidents could be caused by dangerous road conditions. Potholes, cracked concrete, and a number of other hazards can cause bicyclists to lose control and fall. Other poor conditions, such as uncontrolled intersections with poor lighting, for instance, can also contribute to bicycle accidents.
- Defective bicycles: in many cases, bicycle accidents occur due to defects. Defective bicycles can suddenly malfunction and cause cyclists to fall. Some common defects present in some bicycles are found in the brakes, frame, and handlebars, for example.
Who could be Liable for Bicycle Accidents?Regardless of the specific cause of your bicycle accident, it is likely the accident occurred due to the negligent actions of a party. If your accident was caused by any of the reasons listed above, could you take legal action to recover compensation for the damages resulting from the accident? Without a doubt, you have the right to take action against the party liable for causing your accident. Consider the following statements:
- Drivers could be liable for the damages resulting from bicycle accidents if their negligent actions contributed to or directly caused the accident.
- Bicyclists could be liable for the damages resulting from bicycle accidents if it was their negligent and reckless actions that contributed to or directly caused the accident.
- Cities, counties, and transportation agencies could be liable for the bicycle accidents caused by poor road conditions, given that these parties failed to maintain roads and address existing hazards.
- The companies that manufacture and sell bicycles could also be liable for the damages resulting from bicycle accidents, as long as the accident was caused by a defect in the bicycle.
Understanding Negligence and the Right to SueDo you have the right to file a personal injury accident claim? Do you have the right to sue after being involved in a bicycle accident? The answer to these questions depends on whether you could prove that the damages suffered due to the bicycle accident were directly caused by a party’s negligence. If your accident was directly caused by the negligent actions of a party, you likely have the right to sue. To establish negligence (and liability) you will have to establish all of the following:
- A party owes you a duty of care. All drivers on the road owe a duty of care to bicyclists. Drivers have the duty to drive carefully and follow all traffic laws to ensure that they do not cause accidents that could harm innocent parties. In terms of bicyclists, drivers must ensure that they stay at a safe distance, for example. They must also check for bicyclists before making any turns, for instance.
- There was a breach of duty. By driving recklessly, speeding, driving distracted by a phone, or driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, drivers are breaching their duty of care to all parties on the road, including bicyclists.
- The breach of duty caused an accident. The reckless behavior in which the driver was participating caused an accident with a bicyclist.
- The accident resulted in harm. The bicycle accident harmed the victim. The accident led to a number of injuries or the death of the bicyclist.
Does Insurance Coverage Cover Bicycle Accidents?If you were involved in a bicycle accident, are your damages covered by insurance? The answer to this question depends on a number of factors, including the cause of your accident and the party liable for the harm that you suffered. Regardless of the specific cause of your accident, you can be certain of one thing. If the party that negligently caused your accident carries insurance that covers personal injury accidents, your damages will likely be covered under said policy. If you carry uninsured/underinsured insurance coverage in your policy, you might be able to access additional recovery if the liable party’s insurance limits are too low to cover all your damages. After being involved in a bicycle accident, you might have encountered difficulties with insurance companies. Insurance companies might deny your claim, refuse to pay, and outright delay the process of rightfully compensating you. Whatever the case, you can be certain that bicycle accidents can be covered by insurance policies.
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Relevant Bicycle Accident LawsuitsUnfortunately, bicycle accidents are very common, and they are often caused by the negligent actions of parties. Because bicycle accidents are so common, there is a lot of information available regarding past bicycle accident lawsuits. Although no two lawsuits are the same, it can be helpful to have some general information on past lawsuits. Consider the following information concerning past cases. Peter Reed v. Paramount Construction Services LLC, Michael Lewis Quinn. On January 22, 2014, the plaintiff – Peter Reed – was riding his bicycle on Santa Monica Boulevard. The bicyclist was approaching the intersection (Kings Road/Santa Monica Blvd.) when a truck – operated by Michael Quinn – made a left turn in front of him. Reed collided with the right, rear part of the truck – falling onto the road and suffering injuries. He suffered an arm injury. Reed filed a claim against Quinn for negligently operating the truck that caused his accident, alleging that Paramount Construction Service carried vicarious liability for the actions of their employee. Although the truck was 83% through the left turn when Reed entered the intersection and the collision occurred and the defense claimed that the bicyclist should have yielded to the truck, the jury sided with the plaintiff and placed 50% liability on each Quinn and Paramount Construction Services. The claim resulted in $40,000 in past medical expenses, $6,000 in future medical expenses, $20,000 in past pain/suffering, $25,000 in future pain/suffering, and $20,000 for lost income – totaling $111,000. Angel Martinez v. Phuong Phipps. On July 29, 2013, the plaintiff – Angel Martinez – was riding his bicycle on the sidewalk in the Santa Ana area. As she entered a crosswalk, he was struck by the vehicle operated by Phipps. Martinez entered the crosswalk on a flashing red-hand signal. Phipps had the green light, granting him the right of way. The accident resulted in the victim’s neck injuries, shoulder injuries, knee injuries, and wrist injuries. The claimant filed a claim against Phipps claiming that it was his negligence that caused the accident; however, the defense maintained that the plaintiff was also negligent for the accident, both because he entered the crosswalk as the pedestrian signal was flashing a red hand and he entered the crosswalk too fast on his bicycle. The case resulted in $34,195 for past economic damages, $30,000 for future economic damages, and $180,000 for non-economic damages – totaling $244,195. However, the award was affected by Martinez’s comparative liability. Because the plaintiff was found to be 50% at-fault for the accident, he was only eligible to receive $122,097.50.
William Zimmerman v. CSAA Insurance Group.On September 18, 2016, William Zimmerman, was participating in a long-distance bicycle relay race. In such events, it is customary for support vehicles to trail behind bicyclists. According to the claim, the driver in the support vehicle fell asleep at the wheel, crashing into Zimmerman. Zimmerman suffered injuries to his right shoulder, right foot, and right knee. Zimmerman needed surgery to address his shoulder injury. The liable driver’s insurance company paid Zimmerman $100,000 – the policy limit. Zimmerman then sought additional compensation through the underinsured-motorist supplemental provision on his personal insurance policy. This resulted in an additional $100,000. Jane Guardado v. TJ Park, Inc.; Five Star Parking, Inc.On August 6, 2013, the victim, Jane Guardado, was bicycling in Los Angeles when she collided with the open door of a vehicle. The car had been parked on the street by a valet parking employee from Five Star Parking, Inc. The valet parking service was contracted by TJ Park, the operator of a nearby restaurant. The accident resulted in sprains to Guardado’s neck and lower back. The victim filed a claim against TJ Park and Five Star Parking. TJ Park’s defense was able to prove that the valet attendant was not a TJ Park employee; therefore, TJ Park was not liable for his actions. The defense also claimed that Guardado was also negligent as she could have avoided the car door after she noticed that it was opened. The jury concluded that the victim’s damages totaled $25,000 (only for past pain and suffering). Liability for the victim’s accident was placed on Five Star Parking, which defaulted. Melissa Ann Rose v. County of Fresno and David Bray v. County of Fresno (separate lawsuits arising from the same incident). On March 19, 2017 Rose and Bray were bicycling with a few other bicyclists. They were all riding in the designated bicycle lane. A hazard in the bike lane caused Rose to lose traction and fall into a traffic lane. She was struck by a vehicle. Bray, who was riding his bicycle behind Rose, steered to the right to avoid Rose and traffic; he hit deep sand and fell. Although the bicyclists traveling in front of Rose and Bray were able to avoid the hazard safely, Rose failed to act in time – resulting in the accidents. Rose suffered arm and shoulder injuries. Bray suffered wrist and finger injuries. Both Rose and Bray separately filed claims against the County of Fresno. They claimed that the county’s negligence contributed to their accidents. They alleged that the county failed to maintain the bike lane, leading to their injuries. The jury determined that the county was negligent in failing to address to hazardous conditions on the bike lane – hazardous conditions of which they had been aware for many months. The jury determined that the hazard on the bike lane contributed to both Rose’s and Bray’s injuries. The jury also found that Rose’s negligence contributed to her accident and to the harm she suffered. In Rose’s case, the county was found to be 75% liable; Rose was found to be 25% liable for her own injuries. In Bray’s case, the county was found to be 70% liable, while Rose was found to be 30% liable. Rose was awarded $189,008 (not accounting for the deduction made for her 25% liability for the accident), and Bray was awarded $209,882. Scott Dawson, Whitney Dawson, and Conor Dawson v. Lisa Smith and Dignity Health dba French Hospital Medical Center. On July 14, 2016, Bridget Dawson, the plaintiff’s decedent, was bicycling in the designated bike lane. She was struck from behind by the vehicle operated by Lisa Smith. The collision resulted in the victim being ejected from the bicycle, leaving her with fatal injuries. The victim’s family members brought forth a lawsuit against Smith and her employer Dignity Health (which operated French Hospital Medical Center). They claimed that Smith negligently operated the vehicle; they also claimed that Dignity Health was vicariously liable for Smith’s negligent actions. The jury found that although Smith was distracted at the time of the accident, she was not distracted by a work call. Rather, she called work a few seconds after the accident to inform them of the accident. Smith was commuting to/from work; therefore, vicarious liability did not apply. The jury found that Smith was solely liable for the accident – and ultimately, for the death of the victim. The plaintiffs recovered a total of $350,000. Conclusion. Based on the sample lawsuits above, you could see that bicycle accident claims usually result in recovering some sort of compensation. It is important to note that some of these cases consisted of multiple parties found liable. In some cases, parties that were thought to be liable weren’t really liable. In other cases, the injured victim was also found liable. Many people fail to take action after personal injury accidents because they do not know who is liable – or because they know that they had some fault in their own accident. After suffering a bicycle accident, do not allow uncertain liability determine your choice to not pursue a claim. Even if you are partially liable for your injuries or multiple parties share liability for your accident, you still have the right to be compensated.
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Recovering Compensation for a Bicycle AccidentDepending on the specific details of your bicycle accident claim, you might be eligible to recover compensation. In general, the victims of bicycle accidents are eligible to recover some of the following types of compensation:
- Medical expenses: compensation for all the costs associated with treatment for your injuries, including past medical costs and future medical costs.
- Property damage: compensation awarded for the damage to your personal property (e.g. your bicycle or any other property damaged during the accident).
- Lost income: compensation for the wages lost as a direct result of the bicycle accident.
- Pain and suffering: compensation for the mental and emotional distress caused by the bicycle accident, including past/future pain and suffering.
- Loss of consortium: compensation awarded to family for the loss of ability to have a normal ability with the victim, either because of death or severe injuries.
- Funeral and burial costs: compensation awarded to family for the expenses associated with death services.
- Punitive damages: compensation awarded as punishment to defendants (not often awarded).
Important Steps to Follow after a Bicycle AccidentYou were involved in a bicycle accident; now, what? What are your options? What should you do? Is there anything in particular that you should do? After being involved in a bicycle accident, filing a claim might be the last thing on your mind. If you suffered injuries, your priority will likely be to seek medical attention. If a member of your family was killed in a bicycle accident, your priority will likely be to prepare the funeral/burial and to focus on your mental/emotional wellbeing, for example. Even if filing a claim is not the first thing on the mind of affected parties, there is specific things that the parties involved must do to ensure that they have the tools necessary to file a claim if they every decide to do so. Consider the following recommended steps the parties affected by bicycle accidents should follow:
- Seek medical attention for your injuries: if you suffered concerning injuries, you should contact emergency services to ensure that you are promptly treated. Seeking medical care ensures that there is a clear relationship between your accident and your injuries. If you delay medical evaluation, it could be difficult to prove that your injuries were caused by your bicycle accident.
- Take photos of the scene of the accident: if you are physically able to do so, you should take photos of the scene of the accident, including the damage sustained by all the vehicles involved in the collision (as well as your damaged bicycle). Clear photos of the scene of the accident will help experts better understand how the accident occurred. (Note: you should also check for any surveillance cameras that might have recorded the collision.)
- Take photos of your injuries: if you suffered visible injuries, you should take photos of your injuries. These photos should clearly show the extent of your injuries. It is important to take photos of your injuries before and after treatment.
- Gather the information of the parties involved: you should collect as much information as possible. This could include vehicle descriptions, license plate numbers, vehicle identification numbers, driver’s license information, and insurance information, for example. You should also ask for contact information.
- Speak to witnesses and collect their information: if there were any witnesses to the bicycle accident, you should approach them and ask them for their contact information. In many cases, witness testimonies make the difference between winning and losing a claim.
- Call the police: you will need to contact the police and file an accident report. The authorities will speak to the parties involved and take the necessary information to file the report. You should make note of the name of the officer that files the report.
- Seek legal assistance: you should consider the possibility of seeking legal assistance to learn about your right to take action against the party liable for your accident and the harm that you suffered. You must be cautious to only allow a knowledgeable bicycle accident lawyer with many years of experience to handle your claim.
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