Most people in Los Angeles CA use bicycles for sports and transport. The usage has caused an increased number of cyclists on the highways and roads. This rising number means that motorists and bicyclists should be careful. However, regardless of diligent caution on the bicyclists’ part, they can’t always foresee, nor are they capable of controlling the acts of motorists with whom they share the roadway. When a motorist is negligent or when an auto or bicycle is faulty, crashes can occur, causing significant injuries and even death. Bicycle riders whose bodies aren’t protected against the impact of an accident are particularly vulnerable in accidents like this.
After a bicycle crash, you might not understand what legal options and rights you have, whether you have a valid case for a personal injury lawsuit, or you should file the claim. It’s critical at this point to understand your situation from a legal perspective. The help of an expert lawyer is essential in helping you make informed decisions. Usually, if you’re injured, handling all the legal details of your case isn’t a task you can take on when undergoing medical treatment. That’s when attorneys at the Los Angeles Car Accident Attorney could step in and fight aggressively for the damages you deserve from the liable party.
Bicycle Accident Laws
Basic knowledge of California road accident laws will help you know your rights when involved in a bicycle accident. This way, you will also know how to go about recovering damages for your injuries. According to California law, any person that rides a bicycle on a highway or street has the same rights and responsibilities as a person operating a vehicle.
By this, it means you have to obey all the traffic signs/signals, ride on the right side (meaning you shouldn’t ride while facing traffic), obey posted stop signs and speed limits, etc. Additionally, as a bicyclist, you have the legal duty to share the roadway with drivers and other road users, and you owe them a duty of care just like they owe the same duty to you.
The following guidelines may establish your duty of care:
- If you are cycling slower than the speed of normal traffic, you should cycle as near the curb on the right-hand side as possible, or use a bicycle lane, except in justifying conditions. These conditions include cases like:
- Overtaking a motorist, pedestrian, or another bicyclist heading in your direction and driving close to the lane,
- To reasonably evade hazards like parked vehicles, road debris, and moving objects that are within the lane, and
- Preparing to turn left at a driveway or an intersection.
- If you are cycling on a one-way street or road with more than one lane, you may cycle close to the left edge of the road or curb.
The city of Los Angeles has taken progressive measures to install bicycle lanes along major roads and throughout the city. Understanding how to use the lanes is critical. As mentioned above, you should always use a bicycle lane if you are riding slower than traffic. If you must leave the bicycle lane, you must wait until it’s safe to do so, and you have to give the correct hand signal to nearby autos to warn them that you are deviating from the lane. Also note that if you are riding on a public road, you have to cycle in the traffic direction. Riding against traffic is illegal under the law.
Possible Injuries in a Bicycle Accident
Whereas using a helmet and other safety gear like flashes, proper clothing, and lights may lower the risk of sustaining injuries after a bike crash, significant harm is likely to arise. Common bicycle accident-related injuries are:
- Back, neck, or head trauma
- Rib, arm, and leg fractures
- Traumatic brain injury
- Spinal cord injuries, including herniated discs
- Internal bleeding
- Severe abrasions, also known as road rash
- Broken bones
- Eye injuries
- Dental fractures
- Dislocations or strains
These injuries may require extensive intervention, for instance, orthopedic surgery, diagnostic tests like MRIs, X-rays, & CT scans, and treatment. Remember, you can recover damages for any injury you sustain in a bicycle accident provided it’s not entirely your fault.
From Whom Will You Recover Your Bicycle Accident Damages?
Recovering damages depends on which party is liable for the collision. Whichever party is negligent may be held responsible. But first, you must prove the negligence of the party in question. To do this, you have to show that:
- The party owed you a duty of care
- They breached that duty
- The violation of the duty caused the accident that led to your injuries
- You suffered damages as a result of those injuries
Here are the different parties you can sue for compensation:
Several factors can show a driver ought to be held responsible for your bicycle accident injuries. As we mentioned earlier, the law provides that everyone who uses public roads owes a duty of care to the other road user as regards traveling on those roads. Generally, the duty of care is defined as the lawful duty to avoid harming other people by exercising reasonable care, and it exists in plenty of situations.
In the case of a bike crash involving an automobile, if the motorist was negligent in exercising their duty of care, it can be the basis of legal liability. Instances a driver’s failure to exercise a duty of care towards you as a bicyclist include:
- Failing to yield the right of way to you
- Failing to give you a three-foot space for safety
- Reckless driving
- Driving while intoxicated with alcohol or drugs
- Running a stop sign
- Distracted driving
- Hitting you from behind
- Turning into you while making a turn
- Exiting a driveway right into your path
- Overtaking you and obstructing your path
The Government Entity In Charge of Controlling and Maintaining the Road Where the Accident Happened
Road conditions are a common cause of bicycle accidents. Most bicyclists will usually blame themselves if they’re involved in an accident due to cracks on the roadways or potholes. But according to the law, the government entity or property owner may be held liable for negligently causing bicycle crashes if they do not keep the roadways in good condition. Road conditions that may cause bicycle collisions are cracked cement, potholes, lifted asphalt, loose gravel, damaged road signs, and uneven sidewalks.
Property owners can be held responsible for failing to maintain their pavement or asphalt surfaces. The property, in this case, includes private, city, or commercial.
The Bicycle Manufacturer/Retailer
We have bicycle accidents that occur as a result of a faulty bike or bicycle part. A bicycle part may break, leading to a crash or being unable to brake. You may fail to know what transpired or who is to blame. As per the law, the company responsible for designing, selling, or manufacturing, the defective bicycle product is accountable for the injuries resulting from the product.
Bicycle Accidents Compensation Claims
After a collision, you may qualify to bring a compensation claim for the following:
These include all visible physical injuries, like what we mentioned above. They also include invisible psychological injuries like depression and distress, provided they can be proven to have been caused by the bicycle accident.
You’re entitled to seek compensation if any of your personal property was destroyed during a bicycle accident. Personal items may include your helmet, clothing, mobile phone, etc.
If your bicycle can be repaired and the cost to repair it is lower than its value before the crash, you can sue for the repair expenses. And if the repair cost is greater than the bicycle’s worth before the crash or it is destroyed beyond repair, you may sue for compensation that’s equivalent to its worth before the crash.
Proving Your Bike’s Worth
Unlike cars, there’s no simple method to calculate a bicycle’s value, particularly if it was substantially modified or the model was discontinued. For most people, biking is a costly activity. They spend a significant amount of money on improved tires, performance bicycles, cranks, bag systems, specialized clothing, and onboard computers. In case of a bike crash, the value of these items may be added up. You will be required to give the required written estimates and paperwork to claim for bicycle damage. Therefore, after the collision, you ought to do these:
- Compile as lots of receipts as you can. Your bike shop/shops may have records of your improvements and purchases
- Take photos of the damage to your bicycle
- Obtain several estimates of the bicycle repairing cost or replacement for your gear
This info will help you substantiate the extent of your bicycle damage, which may maximize the value of your bicycle crash claim. When you work with an injury lawyer, they will assist you in documenting your losses and fighting for your deserved compensation.
Steps You Can Take To Strengthen Your Bicycle Accident Claim
In most ways, you have to treat your bicycle accident claim like any other personal injury case. This means for you to elevate your chance at bringing a successful claim or lawsuit, there are specific things you’ll have to do. They include taking these steps:
Receive Immediate Medical Attention
Immediately after the bike crash, if you can, you ought to move off the roadway and ensure you are out of danger. Assess your injuries, and if you’re severely injured, call 911 or request someone to make the call for you for an ambulance to take you to the hospital. And even if you aren’t severely injured, ensure you still go to the hospital for the doctor to check you up. Minor injuries may worsen by the day if they are not quickly attended to. In other cases, you could be injured, but the injuries are just taking too long to show any signs. For instance, it could take a long time to realize you have internal injuries. Thus, even if you don’t feel hurt, you should still have yourself checked so the doctor can diagnose all the injuries you have sustained and treat them accordingly. Undergoing medical treatment helps to establish a clear link between the crash and your injuries.
Meanwhile, when still at the accident scene, collect as much information as you can. Ask the people at the site if they saw the events that happened before and after the crash. Also, ask them if they will be willing to come forward as witnesses. Take the names and contact details of the witnesses willing to testify so you can track them down once you decide to file your claim. Also, note down the name and contact details of any other person involved in the collision. If the crash is a result of a negligent driver, take down their name, contact information, insurance details, vehicle plate number, VIN, model, make, and color.
Another thing you need to do in gathering information is to take photos of the accident scene, including pictures of skid marks, gouge, potholes, damaged traffic signs/signals, etc. Also, photograph the damage to your bicycle & vehicle and your injuries. Since you may not have a camera with you, your phone can do just fine. Ensure you take the pictures at several angles, so you capture most of the details.
Contact the Police
You should call the police to the accident scene and file a police report. The police also need to compile a report of the account of events before, during, and after the accident. Ensure you cooperate with the police and provide the details you think will be helpful for your case. After they have compiled their report, request them for a copy since you may need it when you file your claim.
Document Critical Information
Keep a copy of the police report and the ambulance and medical reports. Also, ensure the information you collected at the scene is well stored since they will act as supporting documentation when bringing a claim.
Contact a Bicycle Accident Attorney
You must contact a lawyer immediately after being in a cycling accident. Do not try to deal with the liable party’s insurance provider by yourself. For one, remember that insurance companies are in this for business and to make profits. They may not know much about accidents. For these reasons, the company will try to make you agree to a lower settlement offer. Without a skilled injury lawyer, you may accept the company’s offer and receive an undervalued settlement, which may make you lose valuable benefits. Don’t settle your claim for less than you truly deserve. It would be best if you let a lawyer help you with the negotiation process.
Don’t Admit Liability
It’s common for individuals to apologize after a crash, even if they didn’t do anything wrong. Remember, your words could come back to haunt you if you admit that you were to blame for the bicycle collision. The defendant can use those words against you. If the other party involved in the crash is pressuring you to agree that you are at fault, tell them to call your attorney.
In an injury suit, which party is liable is a question of fact for the jury. Do not admit guilt, particularly if you aren’t 100% sure of what led to the crash. The at-fault party may have been acting negligently, and you didn’t realize it. Let your attorney handle the liable party and their insurance provider so he/she can obtain the compensation you deserve for your losses and injuries.
Don’t Sign Any ‘’Release’’ of Claims or Medical Authorization
It’s common for insurance providers to contact victims of bicycle accidents and ask them for medical authorizations. These refer to blanket authorizations that insurance providers use to look into your full medical history. Their reason for doing this is to try and blame your injuries on an earlier incident or crash you may have had previously to limit your compensation amount.
Similarly, you shouldn’t agree to record a statement with the insurance adjuster if your lawyer is not present. As we mentioned before, another approach the insurance company uses is making a low and quick offer and making you release your claims by signing a settlement agreement. All you need to do is tell the insurance adjuster that you first need to consult your attorney and speak to them or sign any document until you do so.
Compensation for road accident claims/lawsuits varies significantly based on the facts surrounding your crash and how severe your injuries are. However, you may be able to recover damages for:
- Medical costs, including the expenses of physician’s appointments, physical therapy, assistive devices (for example, ramps and crutches), prescription medication, etc. Medical bills include past, present, and future costs related to your injuries
- Lost wages
- Pain & suffering
- Cost for property damage (replacement and repair)
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of future earning capacity
- Emotional distress
- Out-of-pocket expenses
- Loss of consortium
- Additional travel expenses if your bicycle is your main means of transport
Wrongful Death Damages
If a person dies as a result of a bicycle collision, the surviving members of his/her family may seek damages by bringing a wrongful death suit. The family members permitted by law to bring a wrongful death claim include:
- Surviving spouse of the decedent
- The deceased’s children
- The surviving domestic partner of the dead victim
- Grandchildren (if the children are deceased)
- Any other person that would be eligible to inherit the decedent’s property as per the state’s intestate succession laws
Wrongful death claims or lawsuits allow the family members we have mentioned above seek compensation for:
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Financial earning the dead victim would be receiving as income if they were alive
- Loss of companionship, love, support, and affection
Recovering Damages If You Are Partly to Blame for the Crash
Most motorists don’t understand the challenges bicyclists experience with vehicles daily. Bicyclists may have several close calls when riding on the roads. Even when it’s the driver’s fault, they may blame the cyclist.
If the motorist or any other liable party blames you for the crash, don’t be quick to admit guilt. Fault in a crash is a challenging question to answer. Agreeing that you may have caused the crash may mean you’ll have to pay for your medical expenses and even pay the driver for the damage to their car.
In most cases, the cyclist and driver may share a given degree of liability for causing the crash. In this case, the compensation will be awarded according to the percentage of fault of each party. California uses the comparative fault law, which provides that if two or more parties share fault for an accident, the jury will apportion liability and damages. This means your damages award will be reduced based on your percentage of fault.
Statute of Limitations for Bicycle Accident Lawsuits
Any person involved in a cycling accident in California has only two years to file a suit for damages. The two-year timeframe is what we call the statute of limitations, and it starts running from the time the accident occurred or the date you discovered that you were injured as a result of the accident. If you don’t file your case within this time, the court may dismiss your claim.
However, exemptions apply in specific cases. For instance, if the victim is mentally incompetent or is rendered incapable of bringing a claim, the statute of limitations may be extended. And if the victim of the accident is a minor, they will have to wait until they are eighteen years old to bring a claim. This means the statute of limitations won’t run until the minor reaches eighteen years.
If you are bringing a claim against a government entity, note that they are given additional protection. Therefore, the statute of limitations, in this case, is only six months counted from the date of the collision.
Hire a Competent Personal Injury Attorney Near Me
When you work closely with a bicycle accident attorney after a crash, you have higher chances of obtaining the maximum compensation amount. This is because an attorney will fight for you and ensure the insurance company doesn’t undervalue your damages. At Los Angeles Car Accident Attorney, our goal is to negotiate the best possible settlement for our clients based on the unique circumstances surrounding their cases. We also have an in-depth understanding of road accident laws, the impact of a road crashes, and the associated expenses. We will not let you down and will help return your life back to normal. Call us today at 424-237-3600 for a cost-free consultation.