Bicycle riding remains a conventional and one of the most widespread ways of transportation or leisure activity. In the recent past, bicycle riding has become a sport fancied by many riders and enthusiasts worldwide. Today, some companies run bike-sharing programs, making it possible for anyone to acquire and ride one at a fee.
Therefore, it has necessitated California to develop rules and regulations governing bicycle riding. These rules are vital for riders and other road users so that in case you are a victim of a bicycle accident, you can have redress.
Understanding these laws will assist you to know your responsibilities as a rider on the road. They will also enable you to receive legal protection if you are a victim, as sometimes, recklessness from other road users may be the cause of the accident. You want to talk to a bicycle accident attorney if you are victimized on the road.
California personal injury laws permit you to file a lawsuit in court if you or your loved ones are injured in a bike accident. At the Los Angeles Car Accident Attorney, we will help you find justice if you are a victim and claim damages from a Los Angeles court.
Overview of Bicycle Laws on Personal Injury in California
The California Vehicle Code section 21200 details the general laws that pertain to bicycle rider’s road use. These laws apply to all California road users. The rules are specific on what is required of you as a rider and the legal protections you benefit from if you are a road accident victim. Accidents on the road may be caused by negligence from other users, such as drivers, or recklessness from pedestrians.
In both cases, it is crucial that you first understand your responsibilities and what the law says about what is required of you on the road. Obedience to these statutes is vital if you stand a chance in court if you sue other road users when you are in an accident.
Regulations on Helmet Use
Helmet use is vital when riding a bicycle in California. The helmet usage laws are specific on who and who isn't required to use this essential equipment. According to the law, no one below 18 years is permitted to ride a bike without a helmet. Further, the helmet must be worn correctly and fitted appropriately to guarantee its proper functions. Passengers on a bicycle restraining seat and those seated in a trailer-towed bike are as well required to put on a helmet.
The helmets must meet certain standard thresholds for their proper and safe use by riders and their passengers. They are rated on whether they comply with the standards set out by the American Society for Testing and Materials (abbreviated as ASTM). They can also be approved if they meet the safety protocols set out by the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (the CPSC).
There aren’t regulations on the wearing of helmets for riders above the age of 18 years. However, you should wear one as it reduces the chances of sustaining head injuries by about 50% in case you are involved in an accident. Importantly, ensure that the helmet meets the CPSC standards so that you are guaranteed safety on the road.
Additional Bicycle Equipment Requirements
Additional regulations are meant to address the requisite equipment that a rider must adhere to while on the road. Some of these equipment requirements may develop a sharp focus in demanding damages to ascertain the road usage offenses.
The law prohibits you from operating a bicycle on the road if the bike has a faulty brake system. As a standard, it must have brakes that will be handy in initiating a one braked wheel skid on a level, clean and dry pavement. It would be best if you also positioned the handlebars appropriately. They shouldn't be a hindrance forcing you to elevate your hands so much that they stretch to shoulder level to enable steering.
Additionally, there are regulations on the size of the bike that one should ride. Generally, the law prohibits you from riding a bike that is so big that it limits you from bringing it to stop safely, putting it in an upright position, supporting it on one foot on the ground, and initiating a restart safely.
Further, riding the bike in the dark comes with additional requirements. For starters, the bicyclist must ensure that the bike has a light fitted correctly in front that illuminates where you are going. The light must be visible from at least 300 meters away, from the sides and in front. You can attach the light to the bike or yourself.
Red reflector lights are also a requirement. They can be flashing or solid red lights that should be visible 500 meters away. You are also required to have a yellow or white reflector on your pedals. Each of them should be visible from 200 meters out. You can attach them to the shoe or on the ankle. They must meet the requirements of the state of California on quality standards.
Laws Regarding where to Ride your Bicycle
Vehicle Code of California, in section 21202, sets out the regulations on the right side that you should ride while on the road. It would help if you kept to your lane and side to avoid being a victim of a road accident. You are required to keep to the right side as close as possible while on the street.
You are exempt from this rule is when;
- Initiating or preparing to create a left turn
- Overtaking or passing another rider
- You are making attempts to avoid an accident.
- On a narrow street that sharing isn’t possible, or
- You are in an area that allows you to make a right turn.
With this understanding in mind, let us look at the specific instances you should sue when involved in a personal injury.
When is it Possible to Sue if Involved in a Bicycle Accident in California?
As earlier noted, both the rider and the other road users are obligated to follow and stick to the California Vehicle Code laws. However, regardless of how careful you follow these rules, you might be a victim of a bicycle accident in some cases. It means that another user caused the accident and you sustained minor to severe injuries or your bicycle was damaged in the accident.
If in an accident in which you are the victim, the other party may be obligated under the law to pay you monetary damages. These costs cover the compensatory element of such a case to recover the costs associated with another person’s negligence or recklessness. You should immediately seek the services of a qualified bicycle accident attorney to file and win a lawsuit that will compensate you for the damages and injuries sustained. Specific damages that you may recover include:
- Physical injury damages such as disfigurement or at times loss of body parts such as a limb
- Bicycle damages
- Wages lost or lost capacity to earn
- The medical bills that you incurred or have to incur for your treatment
- Costs of your counseling sessions or from occupation therapy
- Damages due to scarring
- Suffering and pain associated with the extent of your injuries
These damages may be fine-tuned to the aftermath of the accident, meaning they can take the shape of compensatory terms for injuries sustained or for loss of life.
Damages Based on the Extent of the Injuries
As a victim, the law permits you to recover damages based on the extent of the injuries sustained. For instance, if you have minor harms, you may cite the costs of emergency medical bills, loss of earnings for a day or two if you couldn't report to work, or even counseling. There are, however, bicycle injuries whose severity may be enormous and may call for prolonged medical care.
Typical bicycle accident injuries that would constitute a lawsuit include abrasions, broken bones, neck, head injuries, hand fracture, dental fracture, dislocations, eye injuries, concussion, or internal bleeding. You can as well sue for loss of consortium. You will be basing your arguments on the loss of intimacy, support, and companionship from your domestic partner or spouse due to the accident. In your lawsuit, you will be asking the court to award you non-economic compensatory damages. If successful, you will receive damages for the loss of marital relations and intimacy from your partner.
Punitive Damages in Bicycle Accidents
Under California laws, you can file a lawsuit seeking punitive damages for injuries sustained in a bicycle accident. These damages seek to punish the offender for specific egregious conduct that resulted in the accident. Such behavior may be that the driver wanted to run over the cyclist willingly and intentionally. According to the Civil Code 3294 of California’s laws, you are allowed to seek such damages. Such is in a case where the defendant was acting under malice, fraud, or oppression, mostly where intentional harm and recklessness was the goal.
Unlike compensatory damages, punitive damages are awarded based on the defendant’s extreme conduct and not your losses. Therefore, they do not address your losses or injuries but seek to punish and forbid the defendant’s actions. If you receive punitive damages, they will typically be an addition to the court's compensatory damages.
There are instances where the accident was caused by a driver or involved in a motor vehicle. In this case, it is vital to engage your attorney to initiate legal processes against the insurance company. In most cases, insurance firms are always trying to take the least liability and pay fewer claims. With good representation, you can recover damages that reflect the extent of the accident.
At times, you may be involved in an accident due to a poorly done road, cracked cement, or a stray animal such as a dog that you unfortunately hit. You may be confused about who should be liable for the damages occasioned to you in such cases. Similarly, speak to your bicycle accident attorney to evaluate the merits of the case to file a suit against responsible parties so that you receive compensation. It is required of property owners to ensure proper maintenance of their lawns, pavements, and asphalt. You can receive damages if proven that they were negligent.
Many times, cases involving bicycle accidents have a joint meeting point. They all boil down to negligence. Therefore, you must understand the basics that constitute a liability to receive better compensation for injuries.
Liability Basics for Bicycle accidents in California
Rules of the road are supposed to be obeyed by both cyclists and drivers. Pedestrians are as well obligated to observe general road safety rules and regulations. The rules include traffic laws as well as being aware of and practicing ordinary care. Unfortunately, this is not usually the case, and whichever party disobeys or overlooks the rules may cause accidents that would involve other parties.
Similar to motor vehicle accidents, bicycle accident cases take the direction of existing state laws and road traffic laws. As earlier noted, you may file a lawsuit against a party who caused the accident under negligence. In the suit, the jury will interrogate two main aspects in determining the merits of the case. They are;
- Did you sustain the injuries due to the driver’s negligence or recklessness?
- Did your negligence cause the accident?
Negligence or Recklessness Caused by the Driver
This form of negligence is common and can be in many different ways. For instance, a driver is presumed to have been negligent if they were speeding or drifted into the bicycle lane. At times a driver may ignore the road signs, such as the stop sign and the absolute disregard of other users, causing a bicycle accident. Such a case can be treated as recklessness, and you can file a lawsuit to recover damages.
In such a case, you need to convince the court that the defendant violated a duty owed to you as a road user. Typically, an automobile driver owes everyone on or near the road the duty of care. When an accident occurs, and you are the victim, such care stands violated and forms grounds for a lawsuit. Such a suit has its merits in the accounts of eyewitnesses or any other specific evidence you can present in court.
If a car accident caused the bicycle accident, it is presumed to be "negligence per se." For instance, if the vehicle's driver involved in the accident was speeding, speeding will be cited as evidence of negligence. Therefore, it means that the burden of proof shifts to the driver and he or she has to prove that they did not cause you damages or injuries.
Negligence on Your Side
There are times that you might act negligently and end up causing an accident that resulted in your sustaining injuries. Such instances may include that you abruptly turned into traffic, or you were on the wrong way or ignored a stop sign. If you sue for damages, in this case, it might be hard for you to be awarded, such as you were the one in the wrong. Such negligence is referred to as comparative or contributory negligence.
Additionally, you may be sued if you rode negligently and caused injuries to another person.
Liability if your Child is Involved in a Bicycle Accident
Unfortunately, the majority of bike accidents involve children. The law recognizes children bicycle riders as people below the age of 18 years. Drivers must observe an increased duty of care to children bicycle riders. It means that children are subjected to lower standards of carefulness on their part while riding bicycles.
As earlier discussed, drivers owe you a duty of care in bicycle accidents and can be sued if they violate this fundamental obligation. It is regardless of the age of the rider. In children's bicycle crashes, the level of duty of care, and precaution increases. It is a presumption that drivers would expect children to cross the road or panic while riding a bicycle suddenly. It implies that a child riding a bike should be a reason for the driver to exercise "unusual care" on the road or neighborhood streets.
However, in some instances, the accident might be caused by the negligence of your child. The law doesn't presume that drivers are always negligent when a bicycle accident involves a child. If the driver can prove that they exercised all the necessary care, precautions, and concerns, the court can absolve them of negligence.
Generally, the law allows you to sue if your child is involved in a bicycle accident. In the event of the death of your child or spouse in a bicycle accident, you can sue for damages. You would receive damages for funeral and burial expenses, loss of companionship compensation, or loss of financial earnings if the victim would have been productive and made earnings if he or she survived the accident.
Liability if Pedestrian Negligence Caused the Accident
There are instances where a pedestrian or another rider causes the accident that causes you sustained injuries. The law provides that you can sue the pedestrian to recover damages. A pedestrian may occasion the accident through:
- Walking while at the same time texting
- Having headphones on without concern from bicyclist warning
- Stepping into the lane without notice
- Suddenly running in front of the bicycle rider.
- Knocking the cyclist off the bike deliberately.
- Not able to control their dog making the cyclist bump into it
You will have to prove that the pedestrian acted out of negligence because they owed you the duty of care, they breached the duty of care, and that negligence was the leading cause of the accident.
Liability if the accident was Due to a Defective Bike
If you are a victim of a bicycle accident that involved a defective bicycle, you may find redress under California laws. At times, some parts on the bike may break and cause you to crash, injuring yourself. You may not immediately know who should be held liable for the accident. According to California laws detailing product liability, you can sue the designer, manufacture, or bike supplier. You do not need to prove that the person or company that manufactured the bike was negligent.
Under strict liability, you can sue the company or person for design and manufacturing defects and failure to warn you of the defects. You will need to prove to the court that;
- The defendant is the designer, manufacturer, or distributor of the bike
- At the point of sale, the product had the defect
- You exercised necessary caution and care while using the bike
- Due to the defect, you sustained injuries
It is a common practice for people involved in an accident to apologize immediately. At times, they do so even when they weren't the ones in the wrong. If you are a victim of a bicycle accident, do not admit fault. Whatever you say may, later on, may come to haunt you when pressing charges for damages. Being "at-fault" is a preserve of the jury to determine, and admitting fault might put you in fewer chances of finding justice, especially when you know well that you weren't at fault.
It is vital that you immediately contact your bicycle accident attorney to handle the case on your behalf.
Find a Bicycle Accident Attorney Near Me
Being a victim of a bicycle accident can be damaging, not just physically but also mentally. The effects may cause you untold pain, accruing medical bills, trauma, or even result in a loved one’s death. The law allows you to press for damages and chase compensation for the injuries sustained.
Contacting a bicycle accident attorney is crucial to ensure that you receive the compensation you deserve. At Los Angeles Car Accident Attorney, we have helped clients involved in bicycle accidents in Los Angeles fight for compensation. Do not hesitate to call us at 424-237-3600 to discuss your case in detail.