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Bicycle Accident Liability

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Who is responsible for my bicycle accident? Do I have the right to sue for compensation? How can I prove the other party was at fault? For answers to these and other questions you may have in the aftermath of a bicycle-car collision, call the Salamati Law Firm today for a free case review. When it comes to bicycle accidents involving motor vehicles, bicyclists are on the losing end of the physics equation. They are virtually unprotected and travel on a relatively unstable object when going up against fast-moving steel cages. This leads to bicyclists making up a relatively high number of traffic deaths; in 2014, more than 700 people were killed in bicycle crashes with motor vehicles, making up 2% of all traffic deaths.

Traffic deaths are even higher in California, where the weather invites people to ride bicycles regularly, and highest in large cities like Los Angeles where a lot of people choose the bike for transportation but the roadways are built to favor passenger vehicles. This paves the way for questions of bicycle accident liability – who is at fault if you or a loved one is injured in a bicycle accident? There is more than one potential answer and it depends on the facts of the case.

Attorney Sean Salamati is a Los Angeles bicycle accident attorney who helps personal injury victims receive compensation from those responsible for their suffering. If you have questions about who may be liable for your bicycle accident, call us for a free consultation.

Who is at fault – the bike or the car?

It is a common mistake to believe that either the bike or the car is automatically at fault in a collision. The truth is each operator is under a legal duty to act reasonably – following all traffic laws and proceeding in a way that does not harm others. If either the driver or the cyclist breaches this duty and someone is injured because of it, they may be negligent and liable for the injuries.

That being said, studies have found that it is more often the driver of the passenger vehicle that is at fault in a crash with a bicycle.

Some of the more commonly-occurring scenarios include:

  • Driver fails see the bicycle
  • Speeding
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • Careless maneuvering
  • Cyclist rides on wrong side of the road
  • Cyclist fails to yield the right-of-way

In some cases, there is yet another party at fault. Just a few of the countless scenarios to consider:

  • A municipality or business may improperly handle road construction, creating a hazard that causes the accident
  • A product defect creates a dangerous flaw in the car or bike
  • A driver not physically involved in the accident makes a driving maneuver that causes the collision

It is not always easy to spot the potentially liable parties in an accident, so it is a good idea to consult with a personal injury attorney as soon as possible after a collision because delay may allow the statute of limitations to run against a would-be defendant.

How to avoid bicycle accidents

There are a lot of dangerous encounters that can become almost routine to someone who rides a bicycle regularly, but these are the situations to navigate with extra caution.

Some of the more common ways bicycle-passenger vehicle accidents occur are:

  • Bicycle t-bones car making right turn in front of bike
  • Bicycle is broadsided by car making a right turn
  • Driver or passenger of parked car opens door into path of bicycle
  • Bicycle in wrong lane is struck by oncoming vehicle making a right turn

Some of the ways to reduce the likelihood of being struck include:

  • Use a headlight and rear blinker to increase visibility
  • Always try to make eye contact with the drivers of turning or oncoming vehicles and signal your turns
  • Ride with traffic, not against, and stay off of sidewalks
  • Pay attention to blind spots and avoid them
  • Never move to the left without looking behind you; get a mirror

Side of road bike laws

The State of California has taken steps to protect cyclists on the road by enacting the Three Feet for Safety Act. The Act, which took effect in September 2014, requires passing motorists to keep three feet away from bicycles when passing on the road. The law also requires drivers to slow down to a reasonable and prudent speed while passing.

A driver who violates the Three Feet for Safety Act may be punished by a fine, starting at $35 plus $154 in fees. Drivers who injure a cyclist face a $220 fine. Breaking a law specifically designed for safety and, as a result, causing an injury, can also form the basis for a type of liability claim known as negligence per se. In this type of case, the injured plaintiff does not need to prove that the driver acted unreasonably, just that he disregarded the law and in doing so, caused the injury that the law was intended to prevent.

Legal options for bike accident victims

Being able to prove liability is a key requirement in a bicycle accident case. The clearer the case that an injured party can present under California law, the greater their chances of receiving maximum compensation. Attorney Sean Salamati is a California personal injury lawyer with expertise in proving bicycle accident liability.

If you or a loved one has suffered an injury in a bicycle accident, do not delay; call our office at 888-259-4060 for a no-cost consultation to discuss your case and possible legal options.

More information on bicycle crash liability

  1. NHTSA, Traffic Safety Facts 2013 Data: Bicyclists and Other Cyclists, https://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/Publication/812151
  2. Los Angeles Times, L.A. drivers have high rate of fatal pedestrian, cyclist crashes, http://articles.latimes.com/2012/oct/02/business/la-fi-mo-auto-traffic-deaths-20121001
  3. BicycleSafe.com, How to Not Get Hit by Cars, http://bicyclesafe.com/
  4. KTLA, Gov. Brown Signs Law Requiring Cars Give Bikes 3 Feet of Clearance, http://ktla.com/2013/09/23/gov-brown-signs-law-requiring-cars-give-bikes-3-feet-of-clearance/#axzz2tnYSMzzj
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