The unprotected human body riding a 30 pound bicycle is no match for a large vehicle, and yet bicyclists must share the roadways with cars, trucks, vans and big rigs without fear of harm.
An avid cyclist himself, Eric has a great concern for bicycle safety, and over the years our firm has represented many injured bicyclists. It is an area of personal injury law that we are quite passionate about.
Bicycle Accident Statistics
According to the Department of Transportation, almost half of all bicycle deaths happen in California alone. Additionally, it is estimated that more than 500,000 emergency room visits were due to bicycle related injuries, which has resulted in billions of dollars in lifetime medical costs.
- In 2006, 773 bicyclists were killed, and an additional 44,000 were injured in traffic accidents.
- Bicycle deaths accounted for 13% of all non-occupant traffic fatalities in 2006.
- The average age of bicyclists killed in 2006 was 41.
- 14% of those killed on bicycles in 2006 were between the ages of 5 and 15.
It Helps to Have a Bicycle Accident Lawyer on Your Side
At Eric Ratinoff Law Corp, we understand the devastation a bike accident can cause, whether it’s a death, a broken bone or a traumatic brain injury. While these statistics don’t keep us from enjoying long bicycle rides along Sacramento’s American River, it does make us much more aware of the importance of wearing helmets & taking other safety precautions. If you’ve been involved in a bicycle accident, seek a lawyer that will represent you from start to finish.
Contact us at 916.473.1529
Personal Injury Damages Recovered in a Bicycle Accident
Injured bicycle riders have the same rights as any other person legally using the public roadways. The types of damages typically recovered in a bicycle accident include:
- Payment for pain and suffering
- Past and future medical bills
- Past and future lost earnings
- Emotional distress
Lawsuits seeking to re over damages for bicycle accidents with automobiles often involve similar issues as car accident lawsuits. Negligence is a key factor, meaning whether the driver of the car caused the cyclist’s injuries, or whether negligence of the cyclist caused or contributed to the accident. Both cyclists and drivers are responsible for obeying the rules of the road, and they also have a duty to exercise care for other drivers and pedestrians on the road. Bicyclists are governed by state law, and must adhere to state and local traffic laws. So if the bicyclist somehow contributed to the cause of the accident, his or her recovery may be reduced by the percentage of negligence they shared in causing the collision.
Examples of Negligence or Recklessness
Negligence on the part of the driver of an automobile can take many forms.
- Aggressive Driving: Speeding, running a red light, abrupt lane changes without signaling
- Careless Driving: Drifting into a bike lane, swerving, falling asleep at the wheel
- Distracted Driving: Texting, talking on the phone, or eating while driving
- Impaired Driving: Driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs
Examples of bicyclist negligence may include:
- Failure to Obey Traffic Laws: Riding the wrong way on a one-way street, running a stop sign
- Aggressive Driving: Turning abruptly into traffic or swerving in and out of traffic lanes
- Impaired Driving: Driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs
If a cyclist’s negligence caused injury to someone else, the cyclist may also be held liable for the other person’s injury. In accidents involving children on bicycles, however, courts hold drivers to a higher duty of care. Anytime children are present, the amount of care and caution that the courts deem as “reasonable” increases. This is also sometimes referred to as “unusual care”.
Bike Accidents at Intersections
45% of bike accidents involving cars occur at a traffic intersection. Intersections create higher risks for cyclists for a number of reasons. Cars often don’t expect to see bicyclists at intersections, so they often fail to look out for them. Drivers of cars sometimes fail to see bikes because they are smaller and can blend into the background. And often drivers underestimate the speed at which a cyclist may be riding when approaching the intersection.
Because bicycles are considered to be “vehicles,” just like motorcyclists, they must obey the rules of the road. So bike accidents that occur at intersections typically come down to right-of-way rules.
When there are no traffic signals, or if there is only a stop sign, generally the vehicle arriving first at the intersection has the right-of-way. If two vehicles arrive at the same time, the vehicle on the right has the right-of-way – with one exception. If the intersection involves a minor street intersecting with a major street, then vehicles traveling on the major street have the right-of-way.
When there are traffic signals, the flow of traffic must be determined by the signal. Sometimes signal sensors cannot detect the presence of a bicycle; in this case, the cyclist should wait until it is safe to cross against the light, or cross at the crosswalk.
Of course, there are other legal considerations that depend on the type of intersection and whether the car is turning or going straight. Always consult with an experienced bike accident attorney to discuss your rights and the details of the accident.
Bike Accidents at Stop Signs
9.7% of all intersection accidents occur at intersections with a stop sign – specifically, when the cyclist has a stop sign and the motorist does not. If the cyclist rides out into an intersection after stopping at a stop sign and rides in front of a car who has the right-of-way, the cyclist is most likely at fault. However, there may be other factors to consider. Many of these accidents involve pre-teen bicyclists, or children, who may not be able to accurately judge the distance and speed of approaching cars.
How Bicyclists Can Protect Themselves
- Always take extra precautions when riding in high traffic areas, especially at intersections
- Adjust your speed at intersections so you can brake quickly if necessary
- Always remain visible by using front and rear reflectors or lamps, as well as reflective and bright colored clothing
- Be on the lookout for cars and other bikes
- Ride defensively and always have an escape route
- Learn to execute emergency maneuvers to avoid crashes
- Avoid being in a car’s blind spot while approaching from behind or while waiting at traffic lights
- Never pass a car on the right at intersections or driveways. Either slow down to match the pace of the car, or take the lane and pass on the left
- Never ride against traffic
What to do if You’re in a Bike Crash with a Car, Truck or other Automobile
As a bicyclist, if you’re ever involved in a collision with a car, truck or larger vehicle, there are some important things you can do immediately to ensure the best outcome for yourself.
- Wait for Police to Arrive: It doesn’t matter if you feel fine, or if you’re in a hurry to get wherever you were going – even if you think you’re not injured, make sure you get a police report. Injuries can sometimes take hours to manifest, and they can later develop into serious and permanent problems. Leaving the scene prematurely can prevent you from ever identifying the driver who was at fault.
- Make sure you Speak to the Officer at the Scene: Sometimes the police officer will only get a statement from the driver without bothering to speak with the cyclist. Do everything you can to speak to the officer and make sure your side of the story gets recorded into the police report. If you have injuries, regardless of how minor they may seem at the time, make note of them. Be sure to ask the officer for instructions on how to obtain the police report so you can follow up a few days later to get your copy.
- Gather Names and Contact Information: If possible, get the name of the motorist, along with his or her address, phone number, driver’s license number, vehicle license number, and insurance information. If there are witnesses, get their names and contact information, as well. The police report may or may not contain this information, so be sure you try to collect it yourself. If you’re injured, ask a bystander to help you with gathering this information.
- Document Everything: If you have a camera phone on you, snap photos of the scene. Once you get home or to a safe location, make notes of everything you remember about what happened – the date and time it occurred, the weather conditions, the road and traffic conditions.
- Document your Injuries: Seek immediate medical attention, regardless if your injuries are minor or severe. Your medical records will document the extent of your injuries, and these will be critical to any personal injury claim you may have. Take photos of any physical injuries that are visible, and start a journal of how you feel, making notes every few days.
- Document the Damages: Take photos of your bike, helmet, clothing and anything else that was damaged in the collision. If you’re missing work or school, make note of the days and hours you’ve had to miss due to your injuries.
- Consult with a Personal Injury Lawyer: Although it may be a good idea to contact your insurance company in the event you have coverage for this type of incident, you do not have any responsibility to speak with the other driver’s insurance company. In fact, it’s best that you do not talk to the opposing side’s insurance company, as anything you say could be used against you later. It’s best to seek out the assistance and counsel of an experienced bike accident attorney and have them handle the insurance company. A good lawyer will provide guidance for you in moving forward with a personal injury claim. He or she will negotiate on your behalf with insurance company and, if necessary, file a lawsuit on your behalf within the appropriate time constraints.
Sacramento Bike Accident Attorney
If you have been injured in a bicycle accident, you or your caretaker should consult with a personal injury attorney as soon as possible. Hiring an attorney soon after your injury will ensure that important evidence and documentation may be properly collected, and that you receive the right result for your case. It’s also important to protect your legal rights before the statute of limitations expires, which dictates how long you have before you are no longer allowed to file a lawsuit regarding your injury. Although it varies state to state and depends on the type of injury and defendant, in some cases this time period can be as short as 6 months after the injury. This means time is of the essence when contacting a personal injury lawyer to protect your rights.
During your initial free legal consultation with Eric or another attorney from our team, we will listen to your story and ask a number of questions. You will have the opportunity and are encouraged to ask your own questions about the legal process, our experience with matters like yours, and anything else you want to know. Then we will discuss whether or not your potential case is a good fit for our firm, and if it is, we will explain our contract and fee agreement. While there is never any pressure for you to sign with our firm during this consultation, we are unable to conduct an investigation or do any work on your behalf until a contract has been signed.
We encourage all potential clients to do your research and make sure you hire the lawyer who you feel is best suited to represent you. A personal injury lawsuit is no walk in the park, and you want to be certain to make that journey with someone you trust.
If you choose to have our firm represent you in your claim, our bicycle accident attorneys will conduct a prompt and thorough investigation, collect the important evidence, and will deal directly and firmly with insurance companies. We know that investigating bicycle accidents calls for special attention to such important issues as visibility and accident reconstruction. We make sure that these important parts of the investigation are never overlooked.
Additionally, our lawyers do not charge a fee until we make a recovery on your behalf, and consultations are always free and confidential.
To contact an experienced accident lawyer for a free and confidential case evaluation, please fill out and submit the contact form on this page or call us locally at 916-473-1529 or toll-free at 866-527-4278.
Eric’s Op-Ed on Bicycle Helmets, Published in Napa Valley Register and Vallejo Times-Herald
As an avid bicyclist and an attorney who regularly works with clients who suffer traumatic brain injuries, I support state Sen. Carol Liu’s vision that all cyclists wear helmets as a matter of safety. Her proposed bill SB 192 would mandate that all cyclists wear helmets as well as wear reflective clothing at night. Read more at the Napa Valley Register