Hundreds of thousands of people are injured every year in bicycle collisions in California, with more than a hundred fatalities occurring annually. A collision between a bicycle and a car, truck or bus is likely to cause severe injury to the rider, including serious fractures, brain damage and spinal cord injuries.
Bicyclists have all the rights and responsibilities of drivers of motor vehicles. These responsibilities include the prohibition against driving under the influence of alcohol. A cyclist who is riding on the roads and highways with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or more, or even less if the person’s riding is impaired, can be arrested for DUI.
State law places specific requirements on bicycles and their riders. A bicycle operated on the roadway must be equipped with a brake, and if operated at night, be equipped with a head lamp, rear and side reflectors and reflectors on each pedal. The rider may wear a lamp and reflectors on the shoes or ankles in lieu of these items, however. A bicycle helmet is only required for riders under 18 years of age.
Cyclists are required to ride as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or road edge unless passing or preparing for a turn, or when necessary to avoid road hazards or other conditions. Where a bike lane exists, the cyclist is to ride in that lane, subject to the same exceptions.
Causes of Accidents
As with motorcycles, the main issues involved in bicycle accidents are negligent drivers, road faults and the rider’s own errors.
Negligent or reckless drivers who do not respect the idea that they share the road with smaller vehicles are often at fault in motorcycle and bicycle accidents. Rather than making an aggressive, spontaneous decision to maneuver around a bicycle, an automobile driver should take care to make sure that a passing move is safe for both the cyclist and other vehicles in neighboring lanes.
Crowding the bicycle can cause the cyclist to lose balance or to be forced off the road. A move out of the lane to pass a bicycle may also involve the automobile in a collision with another vehicle, or force adjacent vehicles to take sudden action to avoid a collision.
All drivers need to be aware of the presence of bicycles on the road. When a car up ahead swerves or changes lanes rapidly without signaling, it is probably to avoid an obstruction in the road, or possibly to get around a slower-moving bicycle that the cars behind have not yet been able to see. Keeping an adequate distance between cars and scanning the road ahead are important defensive tactics to avoiding a collision with a cyclist or with another vehicle.
The smaller the vehicle, the more sensitive it will be to defects in the roadway. Cracked or ungraded pavement, loose gravel, and other debris can all cause a bicycle to flip, where larger vehicles might pass by without noticing any change in the driving conditions. Besides the dangers of a spill, cyclists face real risks of collisions with motor vehicles when avoiding the sudden appearance of road hazards. Construction zones and road repair are especially dangerous places for bicycles to navigate, particularly in the presence of cars and other motor vehicles.
A cyclist must drive with care when riding on highways and roads traveled by bigger, heavier, and faster vehicles. Being visible to other drivers is key, and includes wearing bright or reflective clothing. A cyclist should always signal turns and other intentions well in advance, and ride in a predictable manner as much as possible.
Even if a cyclist is involved in a collision with an automobile while riding with less than the required degree of care, it is possible that the driver of the automobile was also not paying enough attention to the road. In this case, the court will apportion a percentage of fault to each person, but either may still sue for injuries caused by the negligence of the other.
Even if the cyclist was not at fault in causing the accident, if he or she was not wearing a helmet or pads and suffered significant injury, it is possible that the court would consider the rider negligent in that regard, and limit any recovery accordingly. Where the potential for a comparative negligence defense exists, it is important to retain an experienced personal injury attorney who will fight to see that the plaintiff is not burdened with an unfairly higher percentage of fault.
The Nagelberg Bernard Law Group represents people injured in all types of accidents on the streets of Los Angeles and along the roads and highways of Southern California, including accidents involving bicycles. Whether the accident involves personal injury or wrongful death, we stand up for victims and their families and fight to see that they get the medical care and compensation they need.
If you or someone you love has been injured in a bicycle accident, contact us for a free consultation.
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