California Bicycle Accident Lawyers
The California Bicycle accident lawyers at The Reeves Law Group recognize that bicyclists pay a much higher price than a motor vehicle occupant injured a crash caused by an inattentive or careless driver.
Bikes provide no protection from injury, so bicyclists hit by drivers tend to suffer devastating injuries. These injuries can affect their marital relationship, parenting ability, livelihood, and enjoyment of life experiences. We understand the profound consequences of a serious bicycle accident. We work tenaciously to obtain the financial compensation available to cycling accident victims under California law.
Bicyclists are considered vehicle operators and must obey the same traffic laws that apply to drivers of motor vehicles. Further, drivers are expected to share the road with cyclists, who have the same right to use the roads as operators of motor vehicles.
When drivers of cars, trucks and SUVs fail to exhibit courtesy toward bike riders by allowing three feet of clearance when passing, looking before opening car doors, or observing right of way at intersections, the consequences for cyclists can be catastrophic.
How Common Are Bicycle Accidents?
Federal data from the National Highway Traffic Administration (NHTSA) reveals that collisions between motor vehicles and bicycles claimed the lives of 677 people and caused injury to another 48,000 people in 2011. Based on this data, bicycle crashes account for two percent of all vehicle related injuries and fatalities.
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Although this data is concerning, the more disturbing aspect of this report is that the number of riders who died in cycling accidents increased by 9 percent from the previous year. In other words, the frequency of severe bike accidents is not improving despite an increased emphasis on roadway features like bicycle lanes and traffic laws designed to make the roads safer for cyclists.
It might be tempting to assume that the majority of bicycle accidents involve children who lack experience traveling alongside motor vehicles. However, the increased focused on fitness and the environment has spurred an increase in the average age of bicyclists who die in cycling accidents. The average age of bicyclists involved in fatal crashes, according to the NHTSA, is 43, with children 16 and under accounting for ten percent of bicycle accident fatalities and twenty percent of cycling injuries.
While only one percent of all trips undertaken involve bicycles, riders face a higher risk of experiencing a collision in an accident than occupants of motor vehicles, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Financial data reported by the CDC reveals that along with the high cost of in human injuries and loss of life, the economic cost of bicycle accidents during a recent one-year period amounted to $5 billion for health care expenditures and loss of productivity.
What Are the Primary Factors Involved in Cycling Accidents?
Bicycles are much smaller than passenger vehicles, so motorists all too often fail to notice cyclists. The fact that bicycles can travel in small spaces that cannot accommodate a car, truck, or SUV enhances the risk that drivers who are distracted, intoxicated, or otherwise careless will fail to notice a bicycle.
There are conflicting statistics on what percentage of collisions between a cyclist and a motorist are caused by motor vehicle operators. However, there is no dispute that driver indifference, or even hostility, toward bicyclists plays a factor in a substantial number of such accidents.
A study conducted by the University of Toronto found that cyclists were responsible for only ten percent of collisions between bikes and motor vehicles. While motorists often blame “aggressive cycling,” such as blowing through stop signs or red lights and failing to adhere to right of way rules as the cause of bicycle accidents, the researchers found that the most common bicycle accident scenarios involved the following unsafe driving conduct by motorists:
- Proceeding into an intersection without stopping properly or before it is safe to do so
- Overtaking a bicyclist unsafely
- Opening the door of a vehicle into an approaching bicyclist
Based on the study, the researchers concluded that substantially more crashes between motorists and cyclists were the product of aggressive driving than aggressive cycling.
Admittedly, there is conflicting research, with some studies finding that bike riders were responsible in close to half of all collisions with cars. The disparity in these results may have a lot to do with the traffic safety features implemented in different cities. While some municipalities are bike friendly, others are less interested in infrastructure improvements that make the roads safer for cyclists. There are many factors that can contribute to a bicycle crash which include:
- Alcohol and drug impairment
- Distracted driving
- Failure to adjust driving in adverse weather conditions
- Speeding or traveling at a speed that is unsafe give road/traffic conditions
- Negative attitudes toward bicyclists
- Drivers unsafely merging into the path of cyclists (e.g. left turns in the path of approaching bicycle)
- Roadway hazards like potholes that might be unnoticeable to motorists
- Bicycle defects
Who Is Responsible for Financial Compensation for Bicycle Injuries?
A driver who is texting and driving or otherwise engaged in unlawful or unsafe driving practices will often be the party against who a bicycle accident lawsuit must be pursued. However, there are other parties that may also bear financial responsibility. A few of the other parties who might be liable for a bicycle accident include:
Municipalities/Government Entities: Public entities that fail to design, construct or maintain safe roadways may be liable for bicycle accidents. Road defects and potentially dangerous features like unmarked dips can be virtually unnoticeable to motorists but pose serious hazards for bicyclists.
Government entities that design or construct roadways that they know or should know pose an unreasonable risk of harm to bicyclist can be liable for foreseeable accidents. Unsafe roadway cases involving bicyclists require an investigation of prior accidents or near accidents in the vicinity and any efforts by the public entity to implement infrastructure improvements to eliminate hazards at the location.
Bicycle Manufacturers: Certain defects, such as a faulty chain or faulty brakes, can cause a cyclist to lose control of a bike and tip or travel into the path of an approaching vehicle. The company that designs, manufacturers or sells the defective bike or component might be a viable defendant.
Car Owners: If a vehicle owner entrusts a motor vehicle to a driver that the owner should know is not competent based on licensing status, past driving record, intoxication, or other reasons, he or she may be named in a personal injury lawsuit.
Third Party Drivers: A negligent driver might initiate a chain reaction by causing another motorist to engage in evasive action to avoid a collision. If this results in the swerving driver hitting a bicyclist, the driver who started the chain reaction collision may be liable for damages.
Businesses for Employees in the Scope of Employment: When a careless or inattentive employee slams into a bicycle while performing tasks for the benefit of an employer, the business may be responsible under the doctrine of respondeat superior, which literally means, “Let the employer answer”.While this is not a comprehensive list of every party that might be financially responsible for injuries or fatalities experienced in a bicycle accident, an experienced bicycle accident attorney will carefully investigate the facts and circumstances of your case to identify all viable defendants. Because some parties may lack insurance or be underinsured, diligent efforts to identify potential defendants with adequate insurance coverage provide the best opportunity to receive maximum compensation for your bicycle accident claim.
Cycling Accident Lawsuits Necessitate Bicycle Experts
If you ride a bicycle on a regular basis, you know that the risks faced by riders differ substantially from those that confront motor vehicle occupants. Successful litigation of a bicycle accident lawsuit involves the use of expert witnesses who can analyze the following to develop a clear explanation for the jury or judge regarding the factors that caused the accident:
- Physical evidence
- Vehicle damage
- Law enforcement reports
- Traffic camera footage, and
- Witness statements.
We may also use medical experts who can help a jury understand the severity and disability associated with your injuries, or economic experts that can help a jury calculate the future economic loss from injuries that impair your future earning potential.
Compensation for Catastrophic Bicycle Accident Injuries
The human body is simply not designed to withstand the impact of thousands of pounds of metal nor the force of impact from being thrown onto hard concrete by a vehicle traveling at 35 mph or more. When bicyclists are struck by a motor vehicle, they often suffer severe life-changing injuries that include:
- Head and facial injuries
- Loss of limbs
- Compound fractures
Even injuries that will heal like broken bones, road rash, dislocations, torn ligaments or tendons, and similar injuries are generally more severe for cyclists because they have limited options for safety equipment.
California law does require that anyone under the age of 18 who is riding a bike wear a helmet at all times. Although bicycle helmets are not required for adults, they can significantly reduce the risk of traumatic brain injuries and fatalities in bicycle collisions.
Bicycle helmets absorb the shock of a crash when your head hits the ground or a motor vehicle. While your brain can be seriously shaken during the sudden deceleration associated with such an impact, the foam around the helmet forms a cushion to protect the head. The helmet can also reduce the likelihood of head fractures by dispersing the force of impact.
There have been a multitude of studies on the effectiveness of bicycle helmets in reducing the severity of head injuries. These studies consistently reveal that helmets can significantly improve bicycle crash outcomes. One study of actual bicycle crashes concluded that helmets were 63-88 percent effective in reducing the risk of head and severe brain injuries for cyclists across all age groups.
Prompt Legal Advice Can Facilitate Recovery of a Full Spectrum of Damages
At The Reeves Law Group, our experienced bicycle accident lawyers recognize that the debilitating nature of bike accident injuries can lead to ruinous medical bills and the inability to continue in your chosen occupation. We carefully investigate bicycle accidents often with the use of bicycle crash experts so that we can identify all of the parties that might be responsible for your injuries and determine the appropriate basis for imposing liability.
When multiple violations of the rules of the road might be relevant, we analyze which basis for liability will be most beneficial to our client. Some of the damages that we might seek include:
- Costs of treatment and rehabilitation
- Pain and suffering
- Lost income
- Impaired earning ability
- Property damages (i.e. bike or items being transported)
- Adverse effects on enjoyment of life experiences
- Costs of burial/funeral (wrongful death lawsuits)
- Exemplary or punitive damages (reckless or intentional conduct e.g. drunk driving)
The California bicycle accident lawyers at The Reeves Law Group represent injury victims with the compassion and diligence that has allowed us to obtain many successful outcomes for our clients. We welcome your call so that you can schedule an immediate free consultation to learn about your rights and remedies at (800) 644-8000.
Pucher J, Buehler R, Merom D, Bauman A. Walking and cycling in the United States, 2001–2009: Evidence from the National Household Travel Surveys. Am J Public Health 2011;101(S1):S310-S317)
Attewell RG, Glase K, McFadden M. Bicycle helmet efficacy: a meta-analysis. Accid Anal Prev 2001;33:345-52.