One of the most common causes of bicycle accidents that result in major injuries or fatalities in California is the negligence or carelessness of motorists. Under California law, anyone who is injured in a bicycle accident can file a personal injury lawsuit against the party who caused the accident and the resulting injuries. Also, family members who have lost a loved one in a bicycle accident may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit seeking compensation for their tremendous losses.
Duty of Care
Drivers have a duty of care or legal obligation to operate their vehicles in a reasonably safe manner to avoid accidents and injuries to others using the roadway including bicyclists. This includes following the rules of the road and being aware of their surroundings. When a driver behaves in a reckless manner and causes a bicycle accident, the at-fault motorist can be held financially responsible for the damages and losses caused. There are a number of different forms of negligence that could cause such bicycle accidents including impaired driving, operating a vehicle while distracted, failure to stop for a red light or stop sign, failing to yield the right of way and not paying attention before opening vehicle doors.
If a driver acted in a reckless or negligent manner and caused a bicycle accident, the injured victim can seek compensation by filing a personal injury lawsuit. Under California's negligence laws, a careless or reckless driver is liable for injuries to the bicyclist. California Vehicle Code Section 21209 prohibits motorists from driving in bike lanes. Therefore, a motorist who violates this law and as a result hits and injures a bicyclist is highly likely to be held liable in court.
Establishing Negligence in a Bike Accident
In order to recover damages in a bicycle accident case, the victim or his or her family must prove that the driver was negligent by showing that the motorist owed the bicyclist a duty of care and that the driver violated that duty of care due to his or her recklessness. In addition, the plaintiff must also prove that the driver's recklessness or negligence was a substantial factor in causing the bicycle accident and the victim's injuries or death. A driver's reckless could be demonstrated by showing proof of the driver's reckless actions. One example is when a driver fails to give a bicyclist at least 3 feet of space before passing. Other examples include driving at an excessive rate of speed, failure to yield, running a red light or stop sign and driving under the influence of alcohol and/o drugs.
Compensation for Damages After a Bicycle Accident
The value or worth of your bicycle accident case often depends on the nature and extent of your injuries, the degree of negligence on the part of the at-fault motorist and other factors. There are a number of common injuries a victim might suffer from in a bicycle accident, all of which might be due to the negligence of another vehicle. Depending on the facts and circumstances of your case, you may be able to seek monetary damages for the following losses:
Past and future medical expenses: This includes all the immediate expenses you incurred as a result of you bicycle accident injuries as well as the cost of ongoing treatment and care.
Cost of rehabilitation: There are a number of bicycle accident injuries that may require extensive rehabilitation. Victims may need physical, therapy, chiropractic care or other therapies. These costs can add up quickly and are often not covered by health insurance.
Lost income and loss of earning capacity: Bicycle accident victims can seek wages lost because of their injuries as well as any loss of earning capacity because of permanent injuries or disabilities suffered.
Pain and suffering: This includes the physical pain victims suffer in crashes as well as the emotional trauma victims and their families endure in the aftermath of a bicycle accident. In a wrongful death lawsuit, survivors of the decedent can seek compensation for damages such as medical expenses, funeral costs, lost future income and loss of love, care and companionship.
Steps to Take After a Bicycle Accident
File a police report. Make sure you report the incident to the police and retain a copy of the report for your own records.
Get medical attention. One of the most important steps to take after a bicycle accident is to seek prompt medical attention. If you are injured, call 911. If you have been injured, go to the emergency room. Do not decline treatment at the scene. A number of bicycle accidents involve injuries ranging from traumatic brain injuries and spinal cord damage to broken bones and internal organ damage. It is imperative that you see a doctor even if you "feel fine" after the crash.
Gather information. After a bicycle accident, it is important you get information from the scene including the license plate number of the vehicle that struck you, the name and contact information for the driver who struck you, his or her insurance information, photos and video of the accident scene and contact information for any eyewitnesses.
Do not admit fault. Be polite, but don't apologize for the accident. What you say after the accident can be used against you. Never admit fault because you cannot be sure of that until an investigation is complete. It is important that your lawyer get a chance to analyze the incident and get a fuller picture of what happened.
Taking Legal Action Against a Negligent Driver
If you have been injured in a bicycle accident caused by a reckless or negligent driver, please remember that you have legal rights. Even if you know that the driver was negligent, proving that by gathering and compiling evidence can be a complex process. This is why you need an experienced Los Angeles bicycle accident lawyer on your side if you decide to file a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit.
The knowledgeable bike accident lawyers at the Vaziri Law Group can help you pursue your legal rights after a bicycle accident. Call us for a free consultation and comprehensive case evaluation.