Thousands of bicyclists are injured or killed each year in traffic accidents. Bicyclists and motorists share the road. They both have a responsibility and a duty of care to follow traffic laws and safely operate their vehicles. When a bicycle accident occurs in California, who is responsible? In this article, our California bicycle accident attorney discusses several matters related to fault for bicycle accidents.
Highlights from our bicycle accident article include:
- Bicyclist Responsibilities When Riding on California Roads
- Motorist Responsibilities Toward Bicyclist
- What Should a Bicyclist Do After a Bicycle Accident in California?
- Bicycle Safety in California
Bicyclist Responsibilities When Riding on California RoadsArticle 4 of the California Vehicle Code (CVC) addresses the operation of bicycles in California. According to CVC §21200(a), bicyclists have the same rights and are subject to the same provisions applicable to a motorist when operating a bicycle on a highway or a Class I bikeway, except provisions that by their nature can have no application to a bicyclist. In other words, a bicyclist must adhere to the same travel laws as a driver in most cases.
Therefore, a bicyclist must:
- Never operate a bicycle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
- Use proper turn signals to indicate when turning.
- Ride to the right in the same direction of traffic.
- Allow for the right-of-way of pedestrians in crosswalks.
- Never operate a bicycle on a roadway that is not equipped with a proper brake.
- Use headlights and other lights when bicycling at night.
There are other laws specific to bicyclists in California. All bicyclists should refer to the California Driver Handbook to learn the traffic rules for bicyclists. Additionally, bicyclists should check with their city and town agencies to inquire about special bicycle rules that could apply in those jurisdictions.
If a bicyclist breaks traffic laws or is negligent, the bicyclist could be charged with causing an accident. The bicyclist could also be liable for damages if the bicycle accident is the rider’s fault. Under California’s comparative negligence laws, compensation for a bicycle accident could be reduced by the percentage of fault for causing the accident assigned to the rider.
Motorist Responsibilities Toward BicyclistMotorists owe a duty of care to bicyclists to operate motor vehicles safely. Drivers must obey all traffic laws and act reasonably to avoid causing a bicycle accident.
Furthermore, special rules regarding sharing the road with bicyclists exist in California to help protect riders. For example, the Three Feet for Safety Act requires that drivers passing a bicycle do so with at least three feet between the vehicle and the bicycle. If a driver cannot comply with the law, the driver is expected to slow the speed of the vehicle to remain behind the bicyclist until it is safe to pass. Drivers are also prohibited from encroaching on a bicycle lane until the vehicle is within 200 feet of a turn.
If a motorist is at fault for causing a bicycle accident, the motorist can be held liable for losses and damages caused by the accident. Common damages awarded in bicycle accident cases include:
- Medical expenses
- Loss of income
- Physical pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Mental anguish
- Permanent impairment or disability, including scarring and disfigurement
- Other financial losses and expenses
A California bicycle accident attorney can review the evidence in a claim to determine the cause of the accident and identify the liable parties. The attorney can also assist in documenting damages and losses to calculate the value of a bicycle accident claim correctly.
What Should a Bicyclist Do After a Bicycle Accident in California?
Report Bicycle Accidents
As with any traffic accident, calling 911 is the best way to report the bicycle accident and request emergency medical assistance. It is necessary to seek medical care as soon as possible to document your injuries for a claim. It is also necessary to have an official report of the accident for insurance purposes. It is also extremely helpful if you need to file a personal injury lawsuit.
Document the Accident Scene
Whenever possible, document the accident scene by taking photographs and making a video of the area while waiting for police and EMS. Also, ask bystanders for their names and contact information. Your attorney can contact eyewitnesses for statements that the police officer may have overlooked.
Keep Detailed Records
While you are recovering from your injuries, keep detailed notes regarding all contact with insurance companies, doctors, and other individuals regarding your bicycle accident. You should also keep copies of all invoices, doctors’ bills, and other evidence of financial losses and expenses related to the accident.
Talk to a California Bicycle Accident Lawyer
It is best to speak to a California bicycle accident attorney as soon as possible to discuss your legal rights. Avoid providing a statement to the insurance company or signing releases or other documents until you have an opportunity to meet with a personal injury lawyer. The statements you make and the steps you take after a bicycle accident could hurt your ability to recover full compensation for your injuries. It is best to have competent legal advice before making any decisions regarding your claim.
Bicycle Safety in CaliforniaState and local authorities work together to improve safety for bicyclists throughout California. Riders must take steps to protect themselves from injury when they ride. Therefore, it is a good idea to review and follow bicycle safety tips. The California Department of Motor Vehicles has safety tips and other bicycle safety information on its website.
Additionally, you can find information about bicycle safety in San Mateo County online, including updated information for the City of San Mateo’s Bicycle Master Plan. You can request information for the Safe Routes to School Program from the Burlingame School District if you have a child who will be riding a bicycle to school. Bicyclists in Burlingame may also want to attend the Bicycle/Pedestrian Advisory Committee meeting held the second Thursday of each month.
Bicyclists are encouraged to check with their local and city leaders for bicycle safety information relevant for their area.