According to an NHTSA report, the majority of fatal bicycle accidents in California occur in urban areas. The report further adds that out of those cases, almost half of them happened during the day. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that in 2016 more cyclists died in California than any other state. This is worrying considering the number of people cycling each day.
If you are a bicycle rider, you must be careful when on the roads to avoid injuries or fatalities. It is also essential to know the facts about bicycle accidents, including your legal rights, in case you are involved in an accident. You can reach out to attorneys at Los Angeles Car Accident Attorney if you have any questions concerning bicycle accidents.
Causes of Bicycle Accident
Bicycle accidents happen due to several reasons, such as:
Bad Road Conditions
Most accidents are due to the conditions of the roads. Some of the bad road conditions include potholes, cracked cement, loose gravel, and lifted asphalt constitute a significant contributor to road accidents. It is common for a cyclist to blame themselves for such accidents but the California premises liability law, states that those who own these properties are liable.
Negligence of Motorists
A negligent driver is the one who knowingly violates the traffic laws even when they could lead to harm or death to pedestrians. A negligent driver is liable for the injuries they cause you.
Most bicycle accidents occur near or at an intersection. This is because most drivers are not on the lookout for bicycles trying to go through the crossway.
Open Car Doors
Some accidents are also due to violation of California Vehicle Code CVC 22517. According to CVC 22517, the motorist should not open the door on the side of moving traffic unless it is safe to do so. Even though this is a law, many people are still breaking the rules and opening the door on the side of oncoming traffic.
You are more likely to be involved in an accident if you are in competitive riding, unlike a person who is not. Competitive riding is a sport that involves riding a bicycle alongside other cyclists to cover a set distance.
Pre-existing Psychiatric Condition
If you have a psychiatric condition, you are more likely to be involved in an accident than a person without. This is because the condition affects your behavior and thinking capacity which is critical when on the road.
Cycling in the Summer
You are also likely to be involved in an accident during summer, unlike in other periods. This is because many people ride during the summer, which increases the likelihood of an accident. Also, since summers are hot, you are prone to dehydration, a risk factor for an accident.
Violate the Standard of Care
A driver is liable when he/she fails to provide care to you on the road. The standard of care simply means failing to provide reasonable care that could prevent harm or injuries against a person. A driver is negligent if he/she fails to or acts in a certain way that an otherwise reasonable person would.
Types of Cyclist’s Injuries
Cyclists’ injuries are serious, and some can be deadly. Here are all the injuries you can experience in a bicycle accident.
Head involved injuries are injuries that affect your skull, scalp, and brains. The injuries are pretty common in accidents, and they can range from minor to a traumatic injury. The treatment option will vary depending on the severity of the wounds.
Types of Head Injuries you’re likely to experience in an accident include:
- Fractured skull
- Nerve damage
- Blood Clots
Head injuries are serious, and some could be fatal. For this reason, you need to look out for the signs that could help detect them. The signs include:
- Blurred vision
- Memory loss
- Pupil dilations
You are likely to experience facial injuries more than head injuries in a bicycle accident. This is because helmets only protect your head and not your face. Some of the facial injuries you are likely to experience in the accident include:
- Nasal damage
- Facial Fractures
- Jaw Dislocation
You can also suffer organ injuries if you are involved in a bicycle accident, especially if it is a severe impact vehicle accident. Some of the internal injuries include:
Your liver could also sustain serious injuries during the accident. The injury occurs when the force of the impact is strong enough to damage the liver or if a sharp object from the accident penetrates through the skin to the liver.
A spleen injury occurs when there is a blow to the lower part of the abdomen. A spleen injury is serious because it can rupture and put your life at risk.
A kidney injury is serious if it is lacerated in an accident. A lacerated kidney will leak urine and blood which can put your life at risk.
Perforations of the lungs occur when there is a high impact hit to your chest. The symptoms could range from mild to intense. Some of the signs you need to look out for are, shortness of breath, discoloration of the lips and nails, and fever.
Neck and Back Injuries
You know you have a lumbar sprain if you cannot pinpoint the source of the pain in your back. The pain commonly occurs when you have been hit from the rear of the bicycle.
Lumbar Spine Injuries
Lumbar spine injuries occur on your lower back. The injuries affect the spinal cord. They range from minor injuries that could be treated through physical therapy to fractures that need surgeries.
Facet Joint Injuries
Facet joint injuries are those that affect the facet joint or the spinal cartilages. The injuries are serious because they cause the spinal fluid to leak.
Dental fractures are also a common injury you can experience in a bicycle accident. When a vehicle hits you and you are thrown on the ground, the impact could lead to dental fractures, especially if you didn't have a helmet. Some of the types of dental fractures include:
- Fractured teeth
- Dislodged teeth
- Avulsed teeth
- Root fracture
You may also have your ribs broken from the accident. Broken ribs occur when the bones in your rib cage are broken or cracked from the car's impact or the ground. Even though most broken ribs are simply cracks, a fully broken rib can damage your blood vessels. Some of the symptoms of a broken rib include pain when breathing in, laughing, or coughing.
Factors that Could Lead to Bicycle Accidents
- Your Age — If you are a young person between 5- 19 years, you are more likely to suffer minor injuries than a person who is between 50 to 90 years.
- Time — You are likely to be involved in an accident if you ride at night. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that most bicycle fatalities occur between 4 and 8 in the morning.
- Sex — Studies also show that men are more likely to be injured or die in a bicycle accident than women.
- Presence of Helmet — You are more likely to survive or suffer minor injuries with a helmet on than a person without one.
- Presence of Alcohol — You are more likely to suffer serious injuries or even die if you drink and ride your bicycle.
- Location — The area you ride your bicycle also determines the likelihood of an accident occurring. Studies show you are likely to be involved in an accident if you ride in an urban area or areas with non-intersections.
Damages You Can Receive in an Accident
You are entitled to receive damages following a bicycle accident lawsuit. You could receive economic or non-economic damages for your suffering. Economic damages are those that have receipts and documents to prove. Some of the economic compensation you can expect to receive include:
- Medical Expenses,
- Lost wages,
- Loss of future income,
- Compensation for property damage.
Non-economic damages are those that don’t have documentation to back them up. They include:
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of consortium
- Emotional distress
Determining Fault in a Bicycle Accident
When involved in a road accident, determining fault is challenging and takes time. In California, the fault in an accident is determined by the negligence of the parties involved. Negligent driving means one party violated the duty of care.
When the police arrive at the accident scene, he/she is expected to take down your statements and that of the driver. However, in most cases, the police may fail to take your statements and automatically conclude that you are the fault party. Therefore, you should provide your statements to the police even when they have not asked for it. Some of these ways, the driver, violates the duty of care includes:
Driving Under the Influence- Driving under the influence of either drugs or alcohol is a violation of California law. When you consume drugs or alcohol, they impair your judgment making it difficult for you to focus on the road, leading to accidents.
Reckless Driving- Reckless driving is defined as driving without regard to pedestrians' safety or the motorist on the road. It involves failing to follow traffic rules and signals.
Distracted Driving- Distracted driving is driving while your mind focuses on something other than the road. Activities that may cause distractions include texting and answering phone calls, among others.
You also have a duty of care as a bicyclist on the road. When riding your bicycle on a shared road, you should follow all the rules, including traffic laws and signals. You should also be alert and aware of your surroundings. Failure to follow these laws could lead to an accident. Here is how you act negligently when on the road.
- Riding the bicycle under the influence.
- Failure to follow the traffic laws.
- Not staying in your lane when on the road or failing to use the bicycle designated areas.
- Failing to signal to other cyclists or motorists when you want to make a turn.
It may be hard to know who is at fault between the two of you unless a more experienced person is involved. Police officers will help shed light on the case, especially after the necessary investigations. Also, a personal injury attorney will help understand the events that led to the accident and the person at fault.
A personal injury attorney will conduct an independent investigation and find the liable party. Anyone who is found liable should compensate the other party for the losses incurred. However, in some cases, both you and the other driver could have contributed to the accident. But even with this, you still deserve compensation according to California’s comparative negligence laws.
Steps to Take After a Bicycle Accident
Seek Medical Attention
The first step you should take after you have been through an accident is seeking medical assistance. Being checked up by a medical doctor will help diagnose and prevent any injuries that may pose a risk to your life and health. If no one is around to help call for help, you can call 911 and ask for medical support.
Don't Admit to Guilt
One way to avoid losing compensation in an accident is not admitting liability for the accident. Even if you were the one wrong, don’t admit it. Keep in mind that anything you say can be admitted as evidence against you in court.
Collect the Necessary Evidence
You should also gather enough evidence that can help you when you file a lawsuit. Some of the evidence you need to collect include:
- Witnesses information- Collect the names and contact information of all the witnesses of the accident.
- License Plates- Write down all the license plates of the vehicles present at the accident scene.
- Drivers’ Information-Ensure you write down the details of the driver who hit you. Details such as the car model, make, and the identification number of the vehicle.
Cooperate with the Police
Ensure you cooperate with the police when they question you about the accident. The police may follow up about the case even long after you've left the scene of the crime. By cooperating with them, you are establishing a rapport that could work in your favor. The police can provide copies of the accident report.
Avoid Signing Medical Authorizations
Sometimes insurance companies may ask you to sign medical authorizations, which are simply a way for them to dig through your medical history. Insurance companies may not want to compensate you for the accident, so they will dig through every possible record to find evidence that will support that.
Find an Attorney
An attorney will help you navigate through all the steps involved in the case. He/she will also help you file a lawsuit and ultimately win the suit and receive compensation for your injuries. Research all the legal firms in your arrears and choose the best representation for your case.
You must seek compensation for the injuries you have suffered due to someone else's negligence. You need to prove that a driver violated the vehicle code for you to receive compensation. You must also show that the driver violated the duty of care by acting negligently, and the negligence led to your injuries.
Ensure you also call a personal injury attorney to help you file the lawsuit. Keep in mind that that statute of limitations for a bicycle accident is two years in California. This might seem like a long time, but the time can help really pass by quickly, especially if you suffered serious injuries or the defendant seems uncooperative.
You also have two years to file a lawsuit if your family member died due to injuries sustained from a bicycle accident. California allows for certain members of the family to bring a lawsuit against a defendant. The family members of the deceased include:
- The spouse/domestic partner.
- The children or grandchildren.
- Stepchildren who depended on the deceased financial support.
- The parents of the
- The heirs listed under the laws of intestate succession.
Some of the damages you can expect to receive from a lawsuit include:
- Domestic help.
- Funeral and burial expenses.
- Lost income and benefits.
- Intangible support such as love and affection.
Steps in a Personal Injury Lawsuit after a Bicycle Accident
Before filing a lawsuit, you need to determine the fault party. An accident could have multiple liable parties or just a single individual. Also, the liable party could be a government organization or a business. Determining the liable party will help you know who to file the suit against. Filing a personal injury lawsuit involves several steps, which include:
Consulting an Attorney
When you have hired an attorney for your case, he/she will take the time to review your case and understand all there is to know about the case. Your attorney will ask questions about your medical records, the accident reports, and the treatment options for your injuries. The attorney will also want to know whether the injuries are minor or long term. Once the attorney has all the facts in a place, he/she will decide whether to proceed with the case.
At the investigation phase, your attorney will gather all the relevant facts concerning the accident. He/she may go through CCTV surveillance to determine how the accident occurred and who is at fault. The attorney may also question the witnesses of the accident to learn what happened.
Not all cases have to go through the court for you to receive compensation. During the early stages, your attorney will write a demand letter to the driver's insurance company. A demand letter outlines the facts of your case, including all the damages and the compensation you expect from the insurer. The insurance company will review the letter and either reject and provide a counteroffer or agree. If the insurer/defendant agrees to the demand, they will pay upfront, but if not, your attorney will file a suit.
Filing a Lawsuit
Your attorney will file the suit within the California statute of limitations. Keep in mind that a lawsuit is only necessary when there is no agreement between you and the defendant about a settlement.
During the discovery, stage attorneys from both sides will collect relevant evidence to avoid any surprises in court.
A mediator will attempt to help you reach an agreement and settle the matter without going to trial. The defendant may also settle at this point, but if not, the case will proceed to trial.
During a trial, a judge or jury will evaluate the case to determine whether there is enough evidence showing the defendant to be liable. If the evidence is enough, the defendant will pay the amount set by the jury as compensation for your injuries.
The amount you receive for compensation will depend on several factors such as the seriousness of your injuries, your future medical expenses, and how the injuries have affected your earning capability, among others.
Find a Bicycle Accident Attorney Near Me
California has experienced an increase in the number of injuries and fatalities that arise from bicycle accidents. The increase is alarming, considering the number of people using bicycles as a means of transport every day. You should reach out to an attorney who can help you with the case if you are involved in an accident. At the Los Angeles Car Accident Attorney, we will diligently represent you in court while you recuperate at home. Call us today at 424-237-3600 for a case review and legal counsel.