This page details what to do after a bicycle accident. If you were seriously injured and the accident was another person’s fault, you should consult with a bicycle accident lawyer like Sean Reis to find out your legal rights. The information on this page will help the non-lawyer understand some of the legal aspects of a case, but it is not a substitute with speaking with an experienced attorney.
This page reviews:
- Common bicycle injuries
- The rights of cyclists
- What you should do after a bicycle accident
- What NOT to do after a bicycle accident
- What a bicycle accident lawyer can do for you
- Bicycles vs cars, trucks, & motorcycles
- When you should contact an attorney
- The common causes of bicycle accidents
- When is a Driver Negligent?
- How to prevent bicycle accidents
Bicycle usage has been increasing. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of bicycle commuters increased 60% from 2000 to 2012 and with that increase in usage there has been an increase in bicyclist fatalities in California from 2009 to 2013.
Bicycle Accidents Are Unique in the World of Personal Injury
It goes without saying, that in a bike versus auto accident, the cyclist is at a significant safety disadvantage. Bike riders have no seatbelts, cabin enclosure, or airbags. Cars furthermore outweigh riders by thousands of pounds.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC), in 2010, 800 bicyclists were killed and more than 500,000 sustained injuries. Half of these cyclists were younger than the age of 20. According to the CDC, 26,000 of the bike-related injuries experienced by adolescents and children are traumatic brain injuries requiring emergency department care.
Cycling injuries can include:
What About Laws Protecting Cyclists’ Rights?
When it comes to cyclists and motor vehicles sharing the road, the law is clear that bike riders have the same rights as cars. California Vehicle Code §21200(a) states:
“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…”
While the law gives cyclists the right to use the same roadways as cars, there are folks (both cyclists and motorists) who don’t fully appreciate the implications of this law. This can result in tragedy on the highways, with cyclists usually sustaining the brunt of the damage.
What Should You Do When a Bicycle Accident Occurs?
If you need medical attention get it immediately and make sure that you give your physician as many details as possible about your injury and the pain you are feeling. The extent of your injuries may not be immediately apparent so be sure to tell your doctor as many facts as possible.
If you were struck by a vehicle, you should obtain the insurance information, registration, license plate number, and driver’s license number from the driver involved in the accident. Also, obtain the names and contact information of all witnesses. This may help your claim tremendously.
Take pictures of the accident, damage to the vehicles, and, if possible, injuries. Your photographs may be the best evidence down the road so don’t forget that your cell phone probably has a camera.
File a written report as soon as possible. If anyone is injured in the bicycle accident, Cal. Veh. Code 20008(a) requires the driver submit a written report to the California Highway Patrol within 24 hours, but you do not wait for the driver to take the initiative. Keep your damaged bicycle, helmet, shoes, and clothes as evidence.
Even if you fail to follow these steps, be sure to call a bicycle accident lawyer for a consultation. An experienced attorney may be able to give you immediate advice that could help your legal claim significantly.
What NOT to do After a Bicycle Accident
- Do not sign anything without your attorney.
- Do not talk to the insurance companies of the driver of the vehicle. They are out to minimize your compensation and will ask you questions the answers to which may harm your case.
- Do not discuss the accident with anyone except your physician or attorney. This can be vitally important.
What Will a Bicycle Accident Lawyer Do for You?
First, Sean Reis will develop a plan of action. He will immediately advise you on what steps to take, how to conduct yourself, what information you need to collect, etc.
Second, your attorney will attempt to decipher who, or what, is at fault. The driver may have been texting. Or maybe the driver suddenly swerved and ran into you because of an issue with their vehicle. Did the accident occur because the driver does not maintain the vehicle as they should? What if your bicycle has a hidden defect? Maybe it was not even a car, but a pothole that the city has failed to fill? A bicycle accident lawyer will be able to help you figure out which of the parties involved the claim should be brought against.
Third, your bicycle accident lawyer will speak with the insurance companies and file your case if you are not offered fair compensation for your injuries. Your attorney will guide you through the process of discovery and take the case to trial, if necessary.
Finally, a good bicycle accident lawyer will maximize the compensation you receive from the insurance company. The goal will be to put you back where you would have been had the crash never occurred. This may include compensation for emotional distress, loss of intimacy due to the accident, lost income from rehabilitation, and, possibly, punitive damages. The insurance company of the driver(s), manufacturer or city, will avoid bringing up those losses as they try to write you the smallest check possible. Your bicycle accident attorney, however, will pursue every avenue of recompense available.
Bicycles vs. Cars, Trucks, & Motorcycles
Most bicycle accidents involve some sort of vehicle. Can they be at fault? Absolutely.
Basic Standard of Care. A person must use reasonable care in driving a vehicle. Drivers must keep a lookout for pedestrians, obstacles, and other vehicles. They must also control the speed and movement of their vehicles. The failure to use reasonable care in driving a vehicle is negligence. CACI § 700
When Should You Contact a Bicycle Accident Lawyer?
Once you have addressed your medical needs and/or the law enforcement officer on the scene, call a bicycle accident lawyer. Do not call the insurance company of the driver because they would love to speak with you before you have legal representation. Remember, they are out to minimize the amount of money they will pay you. Call your bicycle accident lawyer first and they can advise you on what to say and how to say it so as to best position your case for the maximum compensation possible.
What are Common Causes of Bicycle Accidents?
The California Highway Patrol has identified the following seven common causes of bicycle accidents. There can be a number of different reasons. However, in many cases an accident happens when a driver assumes he or she automatically has the right of way when crossing paths with a cyclist, or a cyclist doesn’t follow the traffic laws:
- The bicyclist riding on the wrong side of the road. If you are riding on a roadway and going slower than the speed of traffic, you are supposed to ride as close as is practicable to the right-hand curb.
- The driver of an automobile makes an unsafe left or right turn. A driver might turn left in front of an oncoming cyclist after incorrectly assuming he or she does not have to yield to oncoming traffic. Or a drive might make a right turn in front of a cyclist attempting to go through an intersection.
- A bicyclist riding from a driveway or sidewalk steers into the path of a car.
- The driver of a parked automobile opens their door as a bicycle passes. This is commonly referred to as “dooring.”
- When a bicyclist weaves or leaves the edge of the road or bike lane that they are supposed to be in.
- The bicyclist makes an unsafe left turn. For instance, a bicyclist subject to all laws applicable to drivers.
- The bicyclist is riding without a headlight, taillight, or reflectors. Every bicycle operated at night on a public street must be equipped with a headlight that is visible for 300 feet to the front and sides of the bicycle.
In a recent case where a car leaving a parking lot hit a bicyclist, the bicyclist did not violate traffic laws by riding on the sidewalk in the direction facing traffic (i.e., on the left side of the road). Vehicle Code § 21650 permits a bicycle to be ridden on a sidewalk, and an different statute requires a bicyclist to ride in the same direction as traffic only when on a roadway (or in the shoulder). Thus, a bicyclist may ride in the direction facing traffic when on a sidewalk.
When is a Driver Negligent?
An injured cyclist who files suit against a driver will need to prove that the driver was negligent when the accident occurred. California Civil Jury Instructions 700 state:
“A person must use reasonable care in driving a vehicle. Drivers must keep a lookout for pedestrians, obstacles and other vehicles. They must also control the speed and movement of their vehicles. The failure to use reasonable care in driving a vehicle is negligence.”
The instructions further state:
“The driver of a motor vehicle is bound to use reasonable care to anticipate the presence on the streets of other persons having equal rights with himself to be there.”
What Can You Do to Prevent Bicycle Accidents?
- Before any ride, do not forget to check you ABC’s! Air in your tires, Brakes working properly, and the bike Chain is secure.
- Wear a helmet. Does it actually prevent a car from hitting you? No, but you will be happier in life if you walk away from an accident being able to remember the faces of your loved ones.
- Proper lighting and reflectors for nighttime rides.
- Ride defensively. You probably do not trust the actions of other drivers on the road when you are in a car, so why would feel safer on a bike?
- It goes without saying, but follow the laws of the road. Stay on the right-hand side, use hand signals, and obey signage.
Free Consultation & Contingency Fee
We provide hope for seriously injured people. Our San Diego personal injury attorney offers everyone a free consultation. If your case is accepted, our wrongful death attorney will be compensated via a contingency fee; that is a percentage of what the lawyer recovers for your claim. You do not pay legal fees out of pocket. Moreover, if your case is accepted, your counsel will front the costs of the case on your behalf. He will recover these costs at the end of the case when it settles or there is a trial verdict in your favor.
 Cal. Veh. Code 21201(d)