If you hit a bicyclist with your car, you may be held liable for the injuries, damages and losses sustained by the victim. While you may have sustained property damage and injuries as a result of the collision, it is important that you also prepare to defend your rights and become familiar with bicycle laws in your city and state as well as insurance coverage as it relates to your particular case. Under California law, motorists are required to share the roadway with bicyclists. Bicyclists have the same rights as drivers of other vehicles in California. However, they also have a responsibility to share the roadway safely with other vehicles. If you hit a bicyclist with your vehicle, here are a few things to consider.
The Damages a Cyclist Can Receive
If a bicyclist has been injured in a collision with your vehicle, it is likely that he or she has suffered serious injuries. Bicycle collisions often result in injuries such as head trauma, contusions, broken bones, internal organ damage and spinal injuries. In such cases, motorists can be held liable for any of the following damages in a bicycle accident case:
Cost of emergency care: This may include ambulance or air transportation, depending on the seriousness of the injuries as well as any immediate care and attention victims need or end up receiving in the emergency department.
Diagnostic expenses: This includes cost of x-rays, CT scans, MRIs or other tests that may be required to evaluate the victim's injuries.
Surgery-related expenses: If the victim requires surgeries after the crash, you may be liable for those costs as well. In cases where victims suffer serious head injuries such as bleeding in the brain or skull fractures, emergency surgery is often required.
Hospital bills: If the injuries are severe, victims may be hospitalized for several days until they can be moved to a rehabilitation facility. These costs could add up very quickly as well.
Cost of rehabilitation: Victims may require rehabilitative treatment such as physical therapy, occupational therapy and chiropractic care.
Ongoing care and treatment: In cases where a cyclist has suffered long-term disability or catastrophic injuries, he or she may require ongoing treatment as well as nursing care. These costs could add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Medication and medical equipment: Damages in a bicycle accident also include prescription drug costs and expenses related to medical equipment.
Loss of income: In addition to lost income as a result of being unable to work, injured victims may also seek compensation for loss of earning capacity, particularly if the injuries result in long-term disabilities.
Pain and suffering: Injured bicyclists can also seek compensation for the physical pain and mental suffering endured as a result of the accident.
Be sure to view our Personal Injury Claim Calculator to learn more about what an injury claim might be entitled to, or simply fill out the form on this page to schedule a free consultation.
Motorists and bicyclists must share the roadway. According to California Vehicle Code Section 21200, bicyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as drivers of other vehicles. For example, bicyclists are required to follow traffic signs, obey posted speed limits, stop at stop signs and bike on the right-hand side of the road. However, if you hit a bicyclist with you car, the victim could make claims for damages ranging from property damage to serious personal injuries. If the bicyclist is killed in the collision, a family member or survivor of the decedent could file a wrongful death lawsuit against you.
Motorists would be well advised to keep share-the-lane laws in mind to prevent bicycle accidents:
- Drivers in California are required to give bicyclists at least 3 feet of clearance when passing them. Where 3 feet of clearance is not available because of roadway or traffic conditions, the driver must slow down and pass only when it is safe to do so.
- Both motorists and bicyclists are expected to use signals while switching lanes or turning. Bicyclists must use hand signals to indicate their intentions.
- Motorists should always maintain a safe distance from bicyclists at all times.
- Always look out for bicyclists before opening your car door.
- Always follow the rules of the road including yielding right of way and stopping for red lights and stop signs.
If you strike and injure a bicyclist, the law requires you to remain at the scene of the accident. If you leave the scene, you could be looking at a criminal felony hit-and-run charge, which could mean possible prison time and hefty fines.
Adhering to Traffic Laws
Both motorists and bicyclists are required to adhere to vehicle and bicycle traffic laws. This means everyone should obey posted speed limits. In addition, California's Basic Speed Law says that everyone should drive at a speed that is safe, given the traffic, roadway and weather conditions. Bicyclists must use hand signals and motorists should use turn signals while turning or changing lanes. Motorists should pass with care and only where allowed.
Bicycle Personal injury Claims
After a bicycle accident, in California, the victim has two years from the date of the accident to file a personal injury claim. However, in some cases, that time limit could be more or less. If the bicycle accident victim is a minor, the claim could be filed up to two years after he or she turns 18. If the injury claim is against a governmental entity such as a city, county or other government agency, a notice of claim must be filed within 180 days of the accident. Bicycle accidents have the potential to result in serious injuries. So, it is important that injured victims seek the counsel of an experienced Los Angeles bicycle accident attorney to obtain more information about the claim process. While a significant number of personal injury claims are settled or resolved out of court, some do go to trial. So, if you hit a bicyclist with your car, you should be prepared to defend yourself in court.
Insurance Company in a Bike Accident
If you strike and injure a bicyclist, your liability insurance will cover the cyclist's property damage and bodily injury as long as a determination is made that the driver was at fault. This means that if the driver is responsible for the crash, your car insurance will cover the cyclist's damages as it would in an accident involving any other vehicle. If the bicyclist is at fault, your liability insurance is not likely to cover the cyclist's damages because you may not be considered at fault. Other examples of cases where a cyclist may be found at fault is when they fail to signal properly, when they roll through a stop sign, ride the wrong way or fail to use the bike lane.
When it comes to bicycle versus vehicle accidents, the fault is determined in percentages. Because California is a comparative negligence state, which means the law allows bicycle accident victims to collect damages even if they were partially to blame for the crash. While bicyclists can recover damages when they are partially at fault, the court reduces their financial award to reflect their degree of responsibility. In a civil trial, a judge or jury will listen to arguments from both sides before determining each party's percentage of fault.
Your Legal Rights After a Cyclist Accident
If you hit and injured a bicyclist with your vehicle, there is a strong possibility that the bicyclist may suffer serious injuries and losses. As a motorist in California, it is important that you know and understand bicycle laws and traffic laws that are meant to protect all Californians. However, it may be in your best interest to have a legal expert on your side who is familiar with laws pertaining to bicycles and bicyclists. The experienced bicycle accident lawyers at the Vaziri Law Group can help protect your rights when you hit a cyclist with your vehicle. We can help assess you case and evaluate your legal options. Call us today for a free and comprehensive consultation.