The state of California has extensive laws that protect bicyclists and their right to ride in both urban and rural areas. In the city of Los Angeles, CA there are an estimated 228,000 bicycle riders on roads and trails on any given day. Most bicycle excursions end safely and happily, but there are also many accidents and injuries to bicycle riders. Los Angeles Personal Attorney wants to help inform everyone who shares the road – motorists and bicyclists alike – as to the laws that govern cycling in Los Angeles, CA.
Los Angeles Personal Attorney also desires to help victims who have been seriously injured in bike accidents all across California.
California Has Lots of Bicycle Accidents
California is the most populous state in America and has lots of citizens that enjoy the great outdoors. This includes those who love to ride bicycles for pleasure as well as those who use bicycles as a means of transportation for work and family activities. With so many bicycle riders in the city of Los Angeles, CA, it would certainly be fair to say that most bicyclists are well aware that roadways can be dangerous, and often take precautions and ride carefully in order to help prevent accidents. However, accidents do happen, even under the best conditions. When either bicyclists or motorists are careless, incidents and collisions can happen, and people can get hurt.
When you are involved in an accident involving a bicycle – whether the accident is due to negligence by a motorist, or dangerous road conditions, or even your inattention as a bicyclist – it is important to have a qualified personal injury attorney review your situation. You may be entitled to damages under California law, or you may need help in your own defense if you are the driver at fault.
Can I Sue After a Bicycle Accident in California?
Whenever an accident involving a bicyclist occurs in California, whoever is responsible for the accident can be held liable for damages as a result of the accident. The recovery of money for these damages is usually accomplished through filing a personal injury lawsuit, even if there is an insurance company (or companies) involved.
The types of damages that can be recovered for damages in a bicycle accident may include damage to your bicycle or other equipment, physical injuries to yourself or others who may have been hurt as a result of the accident, any wages that are lost from work, and medical bills that are incurred as a result of the accident.
If your accident happened in an encounter with a motor vehicle, it is wise to speak with a qualified bicycle injury attorney first before accepting an offer from the insured motorist’s insurance company. Insurance companies generally seek to settle quickly and for as little money as possible; you may be entitled to a larger settlement. Another benefit of working with a personal injury attorney is the fact that they will communicate with the insurance company for you. You do not have to deal with the hassle.
It may be that your bicycle accident was caused by environmental or structural factors such as a pothole in the roadway, a section of cracked cement, or even an animal that was off-leash and contributed to your accident. Any of these situations – and a considerable number of others – could entitle you to compensation.
Important First Steps After a Bicycle Accident
The most important step to be taken after a bicycle accident is to be sure that you are evaluated by a medical professional. If you have been injured, it is best to call 911 or to ask someone to call for you.
Bicycle accidents offer result in injury to the back, head, or neck; these conditions can be serious and should be evaluated by a doctor. Even if you feel okay after the accident, pain from these conditions often shows up later, so it is a good idea to get checked out.
As soon as you are able, you should also gather information from the other persons involved in the accident. If a motor vehicle has hit you, be sure to get the vehicle’s license plate number, the driver’s insurance information, along with the driver’s name and method of contact. Other information that is helpful to obtain, if possible, is the model, year, make, and color of the vehicle, as well as the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number). If there are witnesses to the accident, try to get names and contact information on them, as well.
Should your case go to court, the more information you have the better. After you are sure you are okay and are in a safe area, you might want to take pictures with your smartphone or another camera, including pictures of the vehicle, your bike, the area, and even your injuries.
One common practice after an accident is for people to apologize to the other driver or person involved in the accident, even before the fault is determined. It is important for you never to admit fault, even if you are trying to be gracious. If the other person in an accident is pushing you to admit fault, you can respond by telling them they will need to speak to your attorney.
Get the facts you need and exchange any information you need to, but it is probably best to limit other conversation. Your words may come back to haunt you later.
Accidents Caused by Terrain or Other Factors
Sometimes, there is not another vehicle involved in a bicycle accident; rather, the terrain or other physical elements contributed to the accident. California has a section in its Civil Code 1714(a) that provides for premises liability. Property owners, including municipalities and government entities, are required to maintain their property in reasonable condition so as to ensure the safety of other persons; one aspect of this code is that regular inspections must be conducted, and potentially dangerous conditions must be repaired. If dangerous conditions do exist, the property owner must give adequate warning of the conditions.
If and when injuries occur on this property, legal authorities will look to see if the property owner was negligent in any of these basic duties. If they are negligent, the injured party is entitled to sue for damages.
For bicyclists, particular examples of this type of negligence on roadways and bike paths might include:
- Loose gravel
- Uneven sidewalks
- Cracked cement
- Lifted asphalt
- Damaged road signs
All property owners are required to maintain their property in a safe manner, whether the property is private, commercial, or even government property.
Accidents on Public Roadways
A recent report in the Los Angeles Times showed that the city of Los Angeles, CA has been held responsible for significant damages to bicycle riders and their families due to dangerous road conditions. The year 2017 saw 17 claims paid in excess of $19 million.
One victim’s family was awarded $12 million for the death of a loved one who was struck by a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy who was texting while driving. Distracted driving is illegal in California.
Another victim received a judgment of $9.1 million after being injured while following road instructions for bicyclists to move from the bike travel lane in order to avoid construction debris on the Pacific Coast Highway. As the cyclist moved into the travel lane, he was struck by the mirror of a passing truck, lost control of his bicycle, and veered off into a crash that resulted in a brain injury that left him unable to work.
According to statistics compiled nationally, Los Angeles County ranks fourth in the United States in the number of cycling fatalities for the three-year period 2014-2016, ranking behind the entire states of Florida, New York, and California as a whole.
Los Angeles is not alone in terms of city and county governments that have failed to properly maintain their public roadways. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) estimates that the state of California has more than 195,000 miles of public roads with approximately half of those in poor condition.
What Type of Damages Are Available in a Bicycle Injury Lawsuit?
If you have been injured in a bicycle accident in which another party was at fault, there are a great number of potential injuries you could have sustained, and several associated compensatory damages that you may be entitled to. These could include:
- Broken bones
- Dental fractures
- Abrasions, or “road rash”
- Head and neck injuries
- Eye injuries
- Dental damage
- Strains or dislocations
- Internal bleeding
Associated losses that often come with these types of injury (known as compensatory damages) could include:
- Lost wages
- Occupational therapy
- Medical bills
- Lost earning capacity
- Disfigurement or loss of limb
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of consortium (if you are married or legally partnered)
Though more difficult to prove, you could be eligible to file a lawsuit that includes punitive damages if you can demonstrate outrageous or extreme conduct by the liable party. This would be in a scenario such as a motorist willfully attempting to run down a bicyclist, for example.
Are There Wrongful Death Lawsuits for Bicycle Accidents?
The estate of a person who was killed in a bicycle accident in California cannot file a personal injury claim; however, family members of a deceased victim are entitled to file a lawsuit for wrongful death.
Those who can file a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of another person in California include:
- A surviving spouse
- A surviving domestic partner
- Children or grandchildren
- Any person who would be entitled to the decedent’s property by the laws of California intestate succession
The types of damages that can be included in a wrongful death lawsuit could include burial and funeral expenses, compensation for the loss of companionship and support, and the financial earnings the person who passed away would have accumulated if they had survived.
How Do I Know if a Motorist Was Responsible for My Crash?
There are a number of factors that could indicate that a motorist should be held liable for your bicycle accident. California law requires all people who use public roadways to provide what is known as the duty of care with regard to travel on those roadways. The duty of care is present in many situations and is generally defined as the legal obligation to avoid injuring others by exercising reasonable care.
In the situation of a bicycle accident involving a motor vehicle, if the driver of the motor vehicle was negligent in providing this duty of care, that could serve as a basis for legal liability. Some examples of failing to provide a duty of care while driving a motor vehicle could be:
- Failure to yield
- Not giving cyclists a 3-foot space for safety
- Running a stop sign
- Reckless driving
- Distracted driving
- Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol (DUI)
- Turning into a cyclist while making a turn
- Passing a cyclist and obstructing the cyclist’s path
- Exiting a driveway into the path of a cyclist
- Hitting a cyclist from behind
What If a Pedestrian Caused My Accident?
A pedestrian can cause a bicycle accident and be held liable just as a driver of a motor vehicle can be liable. There are several situations in which a pedestrian could fail to exercise the duty of care and would thus be liable for personal injuries sustained in a bicycle accident:
- Stepping into a bicycle lane
- Walking while texting
- Not paying attention due to listening to headphones
- Deliberately knocking a bicycle rider off their bike
- Failure to control a pet
- Running out in front of a cyclist
What If My Bicycle Was Defective?
California maintains product liability laws that protect consumers against faulty equipment and merchandise. If your accident was due to a bicycle part malfunctioning, you could have a case against the entities that manufactured, designed, or sold the product.
Liability claims in California are based on a straightforward set of facts that must be present and proven in court. These include:
- A defective product was designed, manufactured, distributed, or sold by an entity
- The product was defective when it left the possession of the entity
- The person who received the product used it in a reasonably foreseeable manner
- The person who received the product suffered harm or injury as a result of the defect in the product
How Do I Know If I Should Hire a Bicycle Accident Personal Injury Attorney?
If you have been injured in a bicycle accident – or any accident for that matter – it is always wise to consult a qualified personal injury attorney for a professional opinion. In most cases, there is no cost for this service.
There are some particular indications that make it important for you to consult an attorney in the case of injury in a bicycle accident, however. These include:
- You received physical injuries in the accident. You will have medical bills for the treatment of injuries and, if the injuries prove to be severe, the costs could be extremely high. The injuries may result in you losing time at work and lost income; you may be entitled to have these bills paid and your lost wages covered.
- The other party is denying fault. Some cases of fault and liability are simple, and the process moves forward without much trouble. However, some people will deny they were at fault and may even try to pin the accident on you. An attorney can take the pressure off of you by managing the process of determining fault and any subsequent damages that will need to be paid.
- There is a third-party payer involved, like an insurance company. The other parties in your accident may have insurance and you may be pressured to accept a quick settlement of your claim. While this seems like a good option, the insurance company is likely to seek to settle for a lower amount than you may be entitled to and may want to limit liability for long-term damages you have not thought about. A qualified personal injury attorney can help you think through your rights and organize your claim to be sure you receive all of the compensation to which you are entitled.
- The injuries you sustained have caused you pain and suffering, or perhaps permanent disability. This is one of the most significant signs that you should retain an experienced attorney who understands bicycle accident personal injury claims. Any offer you might receive from an insurance company will most likely exclude the kinds of compensation that would cover these long-term losses.
Find a Bicycle Accident Personal Injury Attorney Near Me
With such a wide variety of laws affecting the bicyclist’s right to share the roadways in Los Angeles, CA it is easy to see how accidents and infractions can occur. If you have been injured in a bicycle accident and need expert legal advice as to your rights and entitlement to possible compensation, the legal staff at Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorney stands ready to assist you.
You can reach a qualified bicycle accident personal injury attorney at Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorney by calling 424-231-2013.