Bicycle accidents in California have become a growing concern due to the increasing popularity of cycling both for recreation and commuting. These types of accidents are a serious problem across the country—in 2020, an alarming 938 cyclists were killed in traffic crashes. Understanding the causes, common injuries, and legal implications of these incidents is essential. Equipped with this knowledge, cyclists can better protect their rights and seek appropriate remedies if involved in an accident.
Causes of Bicycle Accidents
Bicycle accidents often occur due to a combination of factors involving both cyclists and motorists. One of the primary reasons is driver negligence, where motorists fail to yield the right of way to cyclists, overlook them in blind spots, or misjudge their speed and distance. Distracted driving, where a driver is more focused on their phone or other in-car distractions than the road, has also been a significant contributor to accidents. Poor road conditions, such as potholes, uneven surfaces, or lack of proper signage, can further exacerbate these situations.
On the other hand, cyclists too can sometimes be at fault. Lack of proper safety gear, weaving between traffic, not signaling turns, or ignoring traffic signals can lead to accidents. Riding against traffic, instead of with it, can also increase the risk of collisions. Additionally, environmental factors like low light conditions, weather changes, or obscured visibility can make it challenging for both cyclists and drivers to recognize and respond to each other promptly.
Common Injuries Sustained in Bicycle Accident
Bicyclists are inherently more vulnerable on the road due to the lack of protective barriers compared to motor vehicles. One of the most serious injuries sustained in bicycle accidents is head trauma, which can range from minor concussions to severe traumatic brain injuries. Broken bones are also common, especially fractures of the wrists, arms, or collarbone, as cyclists instinctively try to break their fall with their hands. Abrasions, or “road rash,” are frequent as well, which occur when a cyclist slides across the pavement after a fall.
Apart from these, cyclists can also suffer from spinal cord injuries, especially if they are thrown off their bikes or struck from behind. Facial injuries, including fractures and dental injuries, often occur, especially if the cyclist isn’t wearing a helmet with a face guard. Additionally, internal injuries, such as damage to internal organs from the force of impact or handlebars, can be life-threatening. Sadly, because of the sheer difference in size and protection between a bicycle and most motor vehicles, even a minor collision can result in significant injuries to the cyclist.
California Bicycle Laws and Rights
In California, bicyclists are subject to many of the same rules and responsibilities as motor vehicle drivers. They are required to ride in the same direction as traffic, obeying all traffic signs, signals, and lane markings. Helmets are mandatory for riders under the age of 18, and it’s advisable for all cyclists due to the added protection they provide. Moreover, when riding at night, bicycles must be equipped with a white front light visible from a distance of at least 300 feet, a red rear reflector visible from a distance of at least 500 feet, white or yellow reflectors on pedals or the cyclist’s shoes, and white or yellow reflectors on each side of the front of the bike and white or red reflectors on each side of the back of the bike.
Cyclists also have specific rights in California. They are entitled to use the full lane when necessary for safety or when moving at the same speed as other traffic. If a bike lane is present, riders should use it, unless making a left turn, avoiding hazards, or approaching a place where a right turn is authorized. Motorists must provide a minimum three-foot clearance when passing cyclists, and “dooring,” where a vehicle occupant opens their door into the path of an oncoming bicyclist, is illegal. These laws and rights aim to ensure the safety and coexistence of cyclists and motorists on California roads.
What to Do After a Bicycle Accident
Immediately after a bicycle accident, your safety and health should be the primary concern. If you’re capable, move to a safe location away from traffic to prevent further injury. It’s crucial to seek medical attention, even if you believe you’re uninjured, as some injuries, like concussions or internal bleeding, may not be immediately evident. Always prioritize your well-being before addressing any other aspects of the incident.
Once you’re in a safe location and have tended to immediate injuries, document the accident scene. Take photographs of your injuries, the bicycle, the location, and any other vehicles involved. Gather contact information from any witnesses and the other involved parties. Reporting the accident to the police is essential, especially if there’s significant damage or injury, as an official report can be invaluable when pursuing compensation. Finally, consider consulting with a legal professional, especially if there’s uncertainty about your rights or potential liabilities.
Seeking Compensation: How a Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help
Seeking compensation after a bicycle accident can be important, especially when medical bills, repair costs, and lost wages become overwhelming burdens. However, navigating the claims process can be complex. Insurance companies often aim to minimize their payouts and might downplay the severity of your injuries or argue about fault. They are well-versed in tactics that can leave victims under-compensated or even unjustly blamed for the accident.
This is where a personal injury lawyer becomes invaluable. An experienced attorney will be familiar with the intricacies of bicycle accident claims and can advocate for your rights. They can gather evidence, negotiate with insurance adjusters, and, if necessary, take the case to court to ensure you receive a fair settlement. Having legal representation can level the playing field, increasing the likelihood of a favorable outcome and allowing victims to focus on their recovery rather than the stresses of litigation.
Get Help If You Are Involved in a Bicycle Accident
Facing the aftermath of a bicycle accident can be daunting, but you don’t have to go through it alone. Ensuring that your rights are protected and that you receive fair compensation is paramount. If you or a loved one has been injured in a bicycle accident, we encourage you to contact Ardalan & Associates for experienced, compassionate legal assistance.
Ardalan & Associates, PLC is a personal injury law firm based in Thousand Oaks, serving all of Southern California including Los Angeles, Ventura, Kern, and Orange Counties. We are committed to helping our clients involved in bicycle accidents seek justice and navigate their legal journey.