The NCIPC estimates that each year 700 people die as a result of bicycle-related injuries. The recent increase in the cost of gasoline, combined with increased environmental consciousness, has resulted in more people choosing bicycles and motorcycles as alternative modes of transportation.
TYPES OF BICYCLE ACCIDENTS
Collisions with cars account for one-third of all bicycle accidents, and they account for the majority of serious injuries and deaths. Common causes of accidents involving motor vehicles include:
- Drunk driving
- Failure to safely pass a cyclist
- Unsafe turns
- Failure to yield the right of way
Automobile drivers generally are not on the lookout for bicyclists. When an automobile is involved in a collision with a cyclist, the automobile driver generally will claim that it is the bicyclist’s fault. As such, rider error is blamed for the accident; the car drivers will claim that the bike rider caused the accident and therefore should be responsible for any damages or injuries arising out of the accident. Bike riders are held to the same degree of care as motorists and must comply with California Motor Vehicle Code regulations related to bicyclists.
After an accident, it is important to get a police report. Do not leave the scene of the accident without waiting for a police officer to arrive and process the scene. If you are unable to give a statement at the scene due to injury, you may be able to contact the investigating officer at a later date to give your statement. Therefore, he will have both sides of the story when making any conclusions regarding fault, and not only have to rely on a statement from the driver of the vehicle, which is likely to be biased in the driver’s favor. The opinions of the investigating officer in the report are inadmissible in court toprove fault, but the facts included in the report, including any statements, can be admissible. It is therefore important to obtain the police report as soon as it is prepared and correct any errors or misstatements before they can be used against you.
Careless conduct on the part of the cyclist is frequently cited as a contributing factor in an accident. Excessive speed, unsafe lane changes, cutting in front of cars and other reckless maneuvers are all examples of careless conduct. Also, failure to wear a helmet can reduce any award for a bicycling accident involving a head injury. California if a comparative fault state, which means that a plaintiff’s damage awards are reduced by the percentage the jury or judge finds the plaintiff to be at fault. Furthermore, California law requires all bicyclists under the age of 18 to wear a helmet. Head injuries account for 75% of all serious injuries and fatalities from bicycle accidents.
Improper maintenance of a bike can also be the cause of an accident and can be attributed to the rider because many cyclists prefer to perform their own assembly or maintenance. Items to keep an eye on include improper tube or tire installation or pressure, loose parts, or component fatigue. Riders should examine their bike before every ride to ensure that the bike is in good condition, with all components properly installed and maintained according to the manufacturer’s specifications.
Some safety precautions to follow when bicycling include the following:
- Always wear a helmet.
- Obey all traffic controls.
- Ride your bicycle near the right-hand edge of the road.
- Never carry another person on your bicycle.
- Always use hand signals when turning or stopping.
- Look out for cars at cross streets, driveways, and parking places.
- Be careful when checking traffic and don’t swerve when looking over your shoulder.
- Give pedestrians the right-of-way.
- Keep your bicycle in good condition.
- Always ride carefully.
CALIFORNIA BICYCLE LAWS
- Bicycle Defined: A bicycle is a device upon which any person may ride, propelled exclusively by human power through a belt, chain, or gears, and having one or more wheels. Persons riding bicycles are subject to the provisions of this code specified in Sections 21200 and 21200.5.
- Helmet law: Helmets are mandatory for people under 18 years of age.
- Drunk bicycling: Riding a bicycle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs is punishable by a $250 fine. However, if you are under 21 but over 13 years of age, your driving privileges will also be suspended.
- To view California Vehicle Code sections that apply to bicycles, click the following link: http://dmv.ca.gov/pubs/vctop/vc/tocd11c1a4.htm
IF YOU HAVE BEEN INJURED IN A BICYCLE ACCIDENT, SEEK LEGAL ADVICE
Personal injury matters are extremely time-sensitive. It is important to act promptly to preserve evidence, investigate the cause of the accident, and to file a lawsuit prior to the deadline imposed by the statute of limitations. If you or a loved one has been involved in a bicycle accident, contact James R. Gillen at (877-619-3095).