Cycling is an excellent form of exercise and a great way to enjoy the San Francisco Bay Area’s beautiful weather and scenery. Unfortunately, negligent or reckless drivers can cause collisions with cyclists that lead to severe injuries and even death. Generally, a cyclist is far more likely to be harmed in an accident than a driver or passenger in a vehicle.
According to the California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS), there were 133 bicycle fatalities in the state in 2019. Of the total number of traffic fatalities in California that year, 3.7 percent were cyclists. In San Francisco in 2019, there were 51 serious injuries and one fatality among bicyclists.
At the Scott Carr Law Firm, we understand how difficult it can be to recover from a cycling accident, especially when you’re worried about the financial cost of medical treatment and lost income. We help California residents and their families pursue fair compensation from negligent or reckless drivers who cause cycling accidents.
If you or a loved one has been injured or killed in a cycling accident, contact the Scott Carr Law Firm’s San Francisco office at 415-799-2229. You’ll get compassionate advice on pursuing compensation through a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit.
Causes of Cycling Accidents in California
Under the California Vehicle Code, a person riding a bicycle is allowed to ride in the travel lane of a roadway when there isn’t a bicycle lane present. Bicycles aren’t allowed on freeways.
Cyclists are required to follow all the rules of the California Vehicle Code when they are on roadways (just like cars and trucks). This means that cyclists can be at fault for accidents if they engage in reckless or negligent behavior:
- Riding against traffic
- Not obeying road signs, stop signs, or traffic signals
- Not signaling when necessary (e.g. making a left turn, passing)
- Riding under the influence of drugs or alcohol
Likewise, there are many motor vehicle driver behaviors that can cause collisions with bicycles:
- Not yielding to cyclists as required by law
- Distracted driving
- Ignoring traffic signals
In California, the top five primary crash factors in fatal and serious injury crashes were the following:
- Unsafe speed
- Improper turning
- Automobile right of way
- Wrong side of the road
- Traffic signals and signs
Collisions between vehicles and bicycles are often complex and caused by more than one factor. In many cases, the cyclist and the driver(s) share the fault/liability for the accident.
Liability in California Cycling Accidents
As indicated, cycling accidents can be caused by the driver, the cyclist, or both. Under California’s “pure comparative negligence” law, each party involved in an accident is assigned a percentage of fault/liability. For example, if you run a stop sign while cycling and are hit by a speeding car, both you and the driver would be partly liable (you for ignoring the stop sign, and the driver for speeding).
Your percentage of liability affects the amount of damages you can collect. A personal injury attorney can help you understand what sort of compensation you can expect based on the details of your case.
Personal Injury Lawsuits and Damages
If you file a personal injury lawsuit after a cycling accident in California, you can seek two types of damages: economic and non-economic. Unlike many other states, California does not place a cap on economic or non-economic damages in personal injury lawsuits.
Damages that are intended to cover the victim’s real financial expenses related to the accident are categorized as “economic”:
- Loss of income
- Reduction of earning capacity
- Medical bills for treatment (e.g. diagnosis, tests, physical therapy, medications)
Victims can also pursue non-economic damages for intangible consequences of the accident:
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment
- Reduced physical/sexual affection
Since these things don’t have an objective financial value, the jurydetermines the amount of non-economic damages to award to the victim. However, a victim who is partly at-fault for the accident can only collect non-economic damages up to their percentage of liability. For example, if a victim is 30 percent at fault for an accident with $40,000 in non-economic damages, they can only collect 70 percent of the money ($28,000).
Statute of Limitations in California
In California, there is a statute of limitations for personal injury lawsuits. You must file within two years of the accident unless there was a government party involved (e.g. a police car). If your cycling accident involved a government vehicle, you only have six months to file.
This time limitation can make the idea of initiating a personal injury lawsuit stressful. In California, it is the plaintiff’s burden to prove the defendant’s liability, even for insurance claims. Hiring a personal injury attorney can help reduce the stress of the whole process. Even if you aren’t sure whether you have a personal injury case, you can contact a lawyer to get advice on your legal options to pursue compensation.
Injuries Caused by Cycling Accidents
Cyclists can suffer serious injuries in a crash with a motor vehicle:
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Skin abrasions
- Broken bones
In some cases, these injuries are so severe that they cause long-term or permanent disability.
The Scott Carr Law Firm Helps Victims of Cycling Accidents
Bicyclists have relatively little protection compared to occupants of a car or truck, so in a collision, cyclists can suffer serious injuries. In many cases, the liable party’s insurance company offers a claim settlement that’s not enough to cover medical bills and long-term issues like disability, loss of earning potential, and emotional distress. Sometimes a personal injury lawsuit is the only way to get fair compensation from a negligent or reckless driver who caused an accident.
The Scott Carr Law Firm helps California families seek financial compensation for the devastating consequences of pedestrian accidents. Schedule a free consultation at our San Francisco office to discuss your case. The number is 415-799-2229.