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Bicycle Accidents

bike accident cause - opening driver door without looking

Any bicycle accident lawyer can tell you that cycling accidents injure or kill thousands in the United States every year.

Many motor vehicle drivers foster a misconception that bicycles don’t belong in public roadways, which is simply untrue. Legally, cyclists have the same right to use the public roads as motor vehicles. Too often, motor vehicles don’t know, or don’t follow, these rules. And unfortunately, this bias often follows cyclists through the personal injury legal system.

If you were injured in a bicycle accident, you have every right to seek compensation from those responsible for your accident. You need the right bicycle accident attorney to succeed.

Bicycle Crash Statistics

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), there were 467,000 bicycle accident injuries in 2015, resulting in lifetime medical costs and productivity losses of $10 billion. In 2016, there were 840 bicycle crash-related fatalities in the U.S.

71% of these fatal bicycle accidents occurred in urban areas, where traffic is the heaviest, and slightly more crashes occurred during the daylight. Most bicycle fatalities happen during the evening rush hour, between 6 p.m. to 8:59 p.m.

In California, Los Angeles has had the highest amount of bicycle fatalities according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.



Causes of Bicycle Accidents

Motor vehicle accidents cause 90% of bike accident deaths, and are the most likely to result in catastrophic injury, simply because they are larger, heavier, and faster than a bicycle. Additionally, cyclists do not have as much protection as someone inside a car.

Some of the most common causes of collisions are:

  • A motor vehicle cuts off a bicycle when entering the roadway.
  • A motor vehicle makes a right turn and cuts off someone cycling straight in the bike lane.
  • A motor vehicle rear-ends a bike trying to maneuver around a car parked in the bike lane.
  • A driver of a parked car, truck or van opens a door in the path of a bicycler.
  • The cyclist is riding on the wrong side of the road, against oncoming traffic.
  • A motorist or a bike rider runs a stop light or stop sign.
  • The cyclist makes an unpredictable or hazardous move.

However, most bicycle accidents do not involve motor vehicles. Accidents involving cars constitute only around 30% of all bicycle injuries. The other 70%, caused by other issues, can still be very severe, and may result in successful lawsuits. Other bicycle injury causes are:

  • A cyclist falls off the bike due to a poorly-maintained roadway.
  • The bicycle is defective, damaged, or poorly repaired.
  • A cyclist falls off the bike due to an animal attack.
  • A cyclist collides with a pedestrian or another cyclist.
  • A cyclist falls off the bike due to loss of balance or inebriation.
  • A cyclist collides with an object, such as debris in the road, a curb, or tree

Decreasing Your Accident Risk

There are some things you can do to decrease the risk of bicycle accidents, or the severity of injuries when they happen:

  • Put a Lid on It! Wearing a helmet is the single most effective way to prevent head injury as a result of a bike crash. The Journal of the American Medical Association estimates that wearing a helmet when cycling reduces the risk of head injury by 50 percent, and the risk of injury to the head, face, or neck by 33 percent.
  • Make a Spectacle of Yourself: Many bicycle accidents with motor vehicles occur because the driver simply didn’t see the bike. Increase your visibility with lights on the front and back of your bicycle, as well as reflectors on the bicycle frame, tires, and pedals. Wear brightly colored or reflective clothing anytime you’re riding on the road, and especially if you are riding at night.
  • Don’t Drink and Drive — or Cycle: In 2016, 22% of fatal bicycle crashes involved intoxication, either on the part of the driver or the cyclist. Drunk cyclists experience all the same impairments that drunk drivers do, including changes in vision, reaction time, depth perception, and judgment. Drunk cycling, while not typically taken as seriously as drunk driving, is a criminal offense.

Who Can Be Held Liable in a Bicycle Accident?

Liability for a bicycle accident injury depends on the accident cause, and who was at fault.

  • If the driver of motor vehicle caused the accident, the cyclist may file a claim against the driver or the driver’s auto insurance company.
  • If the road was in poor repair or the bicyclist fell because of debris, the cyclist may file a claim against the government agencies responsible for designing or maintaining the road.
  • If a bicycle was poorly designed or repaired, the cyclist can file claim against the people responsible for manufacturing or repairing the bicycle for any accidents that occur because of their negligence.
  • If a dog jumped at a cyclist and caused an injury, the cyclist can file claim against the dog’s owner.
  • If a pedestrian or another cyclist caused an accident by violating the injured cyclist’s right-of-way, the cyclist can file claim against them.
bicycle accident cause - dangerous roads

Determining Liability in Bicycle Accidents

If a cyclist is at fault for an accident, he or she will be unable to collect any damages in the personal injury legal system. In fact, they might have to pay damages for any injuries they caused to the driver or other parties involved.

If both the bicyclist and the driver (or pedestrian or other cyclist) shared fault, he or she may receive damages at a diminished rate according to the rules of comparative negligence. Although the precise rules vary from state to state, the cyclist may receive damages reduced to the degree to which s/he was at fault.

For instance, if you were in a bicycle accident with a car, and the court determines that the motorist was 80% responsible for the accident, and you were 20% responsible. You will receive 80% of the damages to which you would have otherwise received.

Bicycle Accidents and Children

Drivers must show a greater duty of care (sometimes known as “unusual care”) when child cyclists are present, or when driving in areas in which children are likely to be found, such as schools or playgrounds — even if they do not see any children in the immediate vicinity!

The law recognizes that what “reasonable care” means to an adult might not necessarily constitute reasonable care to a child. The law holds children to a lower standard of conduct in a bicycle accident case, because they are not as capable as adults are of making responsible decisions.

At what age is a child legally expected to exercise care for their own safety? Generally, children under the age of four are not recognized as having the ability to be negligent. Older teenagers have greater legal responsibility. Laws are open to the court’s interpretation for children older than four but younger than fourteen.

So, is a driver automatically at fault in any accident involving a child cyclist? Not necessarily, for instance, if the driver could not reasonably have avoided an accident. However, the law weighs heavily on the side of child cyclists.

How to Win a Bicycle Accident Lawsuit

In a bicycle accident lawsuit, just as in any other type of lawsuit, you, the plaintiff, will have to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that it’s more likely than not that the defendant (the person who caused you the injury) was negligent. Negligence in the personal injury legal system has four elements: duty, breach, harm, and causation.

You must prove that the defendant had a duty to you (such as the duty to drive safely and with care for nearby cyclists), that they breached this duty, that you suffered some harm (such as an injury or damaged property), and that this harm was caused directly by the other driver’s breach of duty.

In some cases, it is enough for the plaintiff to prove that the defendant violated a traffic law (such as running a red light), and that this violation led to the plaintiff’s injuries. This legal standard is known as negligence per se.

Damages in a Bicycle Accident

The types of damages an injured cyclist may receive are:

  • Economic damages, which include quantifiable losses, such as medical bills, damaged property, and lost wages;
  • Non-economic damages, which include pain and suffering and quality of life issues; and
  • Punitive damages, which a judge or jury may award to punish an especially egregious offender, for example street racers, or drunk drivers.

Of course, the types of damages you collect will depend on the nature of your case and the quality of your legal representation.

Does Auto Insurance Cover Cyclists?

Typically, automobile insurance covers cycling accidents. If the accident was the automobile driver’s fault, the driver’s auto insurance will cover your injuries.

If you have personal injury protection coverage, you may also be eligible to receive damages from your own auto insurance. This is true even if you were riding a bicycle, as opposed to driving a car, at the time of the accident.

Your own medical insurance will also help cover damages for your injuries, but afterwards may seek reimbursement from the responsible driver’s auto insurance behind the scenes, through inter-insurance arbitration.

A minority of states, including New York, are no-fault insurance states. In these states, insurance companies are required to pay medical bills whenever anyone was injured in a crash, irrespective of who was at fault. If you have no-fault coverage in New York, then you may be eligible to collect damages up to the required legal limit.

What to Do If You Are in a Bicycle Accident

  • Make sure you are safe. If you are in the middle of a road or a bike path, move to the side, and out of the way of cars or other bicycles.
  • Call 911 to summon the police and emergency medical personnel, even if you don’t think you’re severely injured. The adrenaline rush after an accident can hide injuries, and some common types of accident injuries frequently have delayed symptoms.
  • If the accident was with another vehicle or a pedestrian, you should exchange information, including name, contact, license, and insurance information.
    • Try to not react with anger, but don’t apologize or say anything that can be taken as an admission of fault. Don’t say, “I’m OK,” or “I should have been more careful.” Just be polite and businesslike.
    • Do not negotiate or agree to a settlement with the other driver.
    • If the other vehicle flees the scene, try to get the most detailed description of the vehicle possible, including make, model, color, license plate, description of driver, and any damage, and report it to the police.
  • When the police come, make sure you report your version of events, and take the officer’s name, badge number and police report number. You can use this information to order your free copy of the police report later.
  • Collect evidence, if you are able to do so. Record the names and contact information of any witnesses.
    • Take photographs or video of your injuries, damages, and the accident scene.
    • If there is damage to you bicycle, helmet, or clothing, leave these as they are and don’t attempt to fix or clean them.
    • As soon as possible, write down some notes about how the accident happened, and where you and the car were situated at the time.
    • Is there is road damage, obstructions, or debris in the road, bike path, or far-right lane? Is the road signage confusing or missing? Take photographs and notes.
  • Even if you don’t go to a hospital immediately, be sure to see a doctor soon after your accident. This is important both for your health and for your case; medical bills and records are the backbone of a personal injury lawsuit.
  • Keep detailed records of all your losses after an accident, including lost wages and bills for damaged property, and even the less tangible ways in which your injuries interfere with your everyday life (i.e. non-economic damages).
  • Do not talk to the at-fault party’s insurance company, or lawyers representing them. Don’t accept any offer before having a lawyer review the case.
  • Hire an experienced bicycle accident attorney, and leave the advocacy and legal wrangling to your lawyer.

A legal firm that knows the personal injury system, and has experience negotiating with insurance companies will help you receive a much larger amount of compensation than you would otherwise. More importantly, they will take the burden off your shoulders so you can focus full-time on recovering from your injuries.

Top 5 Bicycle Laws All California Bike Riders Should Know

  1. Vehicle Code Applies to California Bicycle Riders


DIVISION 11. RULES OF THE ROAD [21000 – 23336]

CHAPTER 1. Obedience to and Effect of Traffic Laws [21000 – 21300]

ARTICLE 4. Operation of Bicycles [21200 – 21213]

(a) (1) A person riding a bicycle or operating a pedicab upon a highway has all the rights and is subject to all the provisions applicable to the driver of a vehicle by this division, including, but not limited to, provisions concerning driving under the influence of alcoholic beverages or drugs, and by Division 10 (commencing with Section 20000), Section 27400, Division 16.7 (commencing with Section 39000), Division 17 (commencing with Section 40000.1), and Division 18 (commencing with Section 42000), except those provisions which by their very nature can have no application.

(2) A person operating a bicycle on a Class I bikeway, as defined in subdivision (a) of Section 890.4 of the Streets and Highways Code, has all the rights and is subject to all the provisions applicable to the driver of a vehicle pursuant to Section 20001, except those provisions which by their very nature can have no application.

(b) (1) A peace officer, as defined in Chapter 4.5 (commencing with Section 830) of Title 3 of Part 2 of the Penal Code, operating a bicycle during the course of his or her duties is exempt from the requirements of subdivision (a), except as those requirements relate to driving under the influence of alcoholic beverages or drugs, if the bicycle is being operated under any of the following circumstances:

(A) In response to an emergency call.

(B) While engaged in rescue operations.

(C) In the immediate pursuit of an actual or suspected violator of the law.

(2) This subdivision does not relieve a peace officer from the duty to operate a bicycle with due regard for the safety of all persons using the highway.

  • Ride Your Bike With Traffic, Not Against


DIVISION 11. RULES OF THE ROAD [21000 – 23336]

CHAPTER 3. Driving, Overtaking, and Passing [21650 – 21761]

ARTICLE 1. Driving on Right Side [21650 – 21664]

Upon all highways, a vehicle shall be driven upon the right half of the roadway, except as follows:

(a) When overtaking and passing another vehicle proceeding in the same direction under the rules governing that movement.

(b) When placing a vehicle in a lawful position for, and when the vehicle is lawfully making, a left turn.

(c) When the right half of a roadway is closed to traffic under construction or repair.

(d) Upon a roadway restricted to one-way traffic.

(e) When the roadway is not of sufficient width.

(f) When the vehicle is necessarily traveling so slowly as to impede the normal movement of traffic, that portion of the highway adjacent to the right edge of the roadway may be utilized temporarily when in a condition permitting safe operation.

(g) This section does not prohibit the operation of bicycles on any shoulder of a highway, on any sidewalk, on any bicycle path within a highway, or along any crosswalk or bicycle path crossing, where the operation is not otherwise prohibited by this code or local ordinance.

(h) This section does not prohibit the operation of a transit bus on the shoulder of a state highway in conjunction with the implementation of a program authorized pursuant to Section 148.1 of the Streets and Highways Code on state highways within the areas served by the transit services of the Monterey-Salinas Transit District or the Santa Cruz Metropolitan Transit District.

Bike lane accident lawyers - torklaw

  1. Stop Before The Crosswalk


DIVISION 11. RULES OF THE ROAD [21000 – 23336]

CHAPTER 2. Traffic Signs, Signals, and Markings [21350 – 21468]

ARTICLE 3. Offenses Relating to Traffic Devices [21450 – 21468]

If an official traffic control signal is erected and maintained at a place other than an intersection, including a freeway or highway on ramp, this article applies, except those provisions that by their nature can have no application. A stop required shall be made at a sign, crosswalk, or limit line indicating where the stop shall be made, but, in the absence of that sign or marking, the stop shall be made at the signal.

  1. Stop Before The Crosswalk


DIVISION 11. RULES OF THE ROAD [21000 – 23336]

CHAPTER 1. Obedience to and Effect of Traffic Laws [21000 – 21300]

ARTICLE 4. Operation of Bicycles [21200 – 21213]

(a) No person shall operate a bicycle on a roadway unless it is equipped with a brake that will enable the operator to make one braked wheel skid on dry, level, clean pavement.

(b) No person shall operate on the highway a bicycle equipped with handlebars so raised that the operator must elevate his or her hands above the level of his or her shoulders in order to grasp the normal steering grip area.

(c) No person shall operate upon a highway a bicycle that is of a size that prevents the operator from safely stopping the bicycle, supporting it in an upright position with at least one foot on the ground, and restarting it in a safe manner.

(d) A bicycle operated during darkness upon a highway, a sidewalk where bicycle operation is not prohibited by the local jurisdiction, or a bikeway, as defined in Section 890.4 of the Streets and Highways Code, shall be equipped with all of the following:

(1) A lamp emitting a white light that, while the bicycle is in motion, illuminates the highway, sidewalk, or bikeway in front of the bicyclist and is visible from a distance of 300 feet in front and from the sides of the bicycle.

(2) A red reflector or a solid or flashing red light with a built-in reflector on the rear that shall be visible from a distance of 500 feet to the rear when directly in front of lawful upper beams of headlamps on a motor vehicle.

(3) A white or yellow reflector on each pedal, shoe, or ankle visible from the front and rear of the bicycle from a distance of 200 feet.

(4) A white or yellow reflector on each side forward of the center of the bicycle, and a white or red reflector on each side to the rear of the center of the bicycle, except that bicycles that are equipped with reflectorized tires on the front and the rear need not be equipped with these side reflectors.

The reflectors and reflectorized tires shall be of a type meeting requirements established by the department.

(e) A lamp or lamp combination, emitting a white light, attached to the operator and visible from a distance of 300 feet in front and from the sides of the bicycle, may be used in lieu of the lamp required by paragraph (1) of subdivision (d).

Orange County Bike Accident Lawyer

  1. Use Bike Lanes, If Available


DIVISION 11. RULES OF THE ROAD [21000 – 23336]

CHAPTER 1. Obedience to and Effect of Traffic Laws [21000 – 21300]

ARTICLE 4. Operation of Bicycles [21200 – 21213]

(a) Whenever a bicycle lane has been established on a roadway pursuant to Section 21207, any person operating a bicycle upon the roadway at a speed less than the normal speed of traffic moving in the same direction at that time shall ride within the bicycle lane, except that the person may move out of the lane under any of the following situations:

(1) When overtaking and passing another bicycle, vehicle, or pedestrian within the lane or about to enter the lane if the overtaking and passing cannot be done safely within the lane.

(2) When preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway.

(3) When reasonably necessary to leave the bicycle lane to avoid debris or other hazardous conditions.

(4) When approaching a place where a right turn is authorized.

(b) No person operating a bicycle shall leave a bicycle lane until the movement can be made with reasonable safety and then only after giving an appropriate signal in the manner provided in Chapter 6 (commencing with Section 22100) in the event that any vehicle may be affected by the movement


Q: How far away should the distance be between a car and a bicycle?

A: In California, the law requires drivers to give cyclists at least a three-foot separation. In other states, it may be more

Q: Are cameras on bicyclists recommended?

A: Yes! In the case of any accident, the footage can be used in court. Before cameras, court cases came down to word-of-mouth, witnesses, and whatever proof could be produced. However, with video footage, there are typically more answers and significantly fewer questions than in cases without video footage.

Q: Are bicyclists allowed to ride in the right-hand turn lanes?

A: Yes, and they are allowed to go straight from that lane. The right-hand turn lanes are essentially an extension of the bike lanes.

Q: Can bicyclists ride on the freeways?

A: In general, bicyclists are not allowed on freeways. However, there are freeway sections where bicyclists are allowed to ride and they are typically designated by signs.

Q: Can bicyclists ride side-by-side on the road?

A: There is no real verbiage in California law that prevents bicyclists from riding side-by-side however, they should be moving at the speed of traffic. If they are not moving at the same speed as traffic, it is still legal for bicyclists to ride side-by-side if there is more than one lane of traffic going the same direction. This ensures that traffic continues to slow properly by allowing cars to pass the side-by-side bicyclists.

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