Who’s Liable Following a NorCal Bicycle Accident?

If you bike through NorCal regularly, the odds of getting into a collision are relatively high. Distracted, drunk, and negligent drivers cause most bicycle crashes. However, many different parties could be liable for an accident, depending on the situation. Assigning liability to one or more of the following parties could require help from a personal injury attorney.

Northern California (NorCal) bicycle accidents happen more often than many residents realize. Data from the California Office of Traffic Safety shows that 231 bicyclists suffered injuries or died in traffic accidents in Sacramento in 2015. The number of fatal bicycle accidents has increased steadily in Sacramento year after year.

The Driver

The most common defendant in a NorCal bicycle accident claim is the driver that struck the bicyclist. All drivers in California owe a legal duty of care to other roadway users; they must take reasonable action to minimize the risk of accidents and injuries. Unfortunately, hundreds of NorCal drivers breach these duties every day. Negligent and reckless driver behaviors such as driving distracted, drowsy driving, and drunk driving greatly increase the odds of a Sacramento bicycle accident.

Injured bicyclists may file claims against at-fault vehicle drivers if they have evidence or proof of the drivers’ negligence, and a link between that negligence and the damage in question. Evidence can include eyewitness accounts of what happened, cell phone records that show the driver was texting/talking on a handheld device, and evidence from the scene of the accident (e.g., lack of brake marks to show the driver didn’t react in time to stop). A bicycle accident lawyer can help you collect and present evidence of a driver’s negligence during a bike accident case.

The Roadway Designer

Some bicycle accidents don’t stem entirely from driver negligence, but also from roadway design elements. Narrow, unsafe bicycle lanes, lack of bicycle lanes, and poorly designed intersections and crosswalks may contribute to a bicycle accident. Although the City of Sacramento has a Bicycle Master Plan in place to improve the safety of the city’s roads for bicyclists, bikers still face significant risks and hazards on daily commutes.

The following roadway risks could cause a bike accident and result in city liability for damages:

  • Potholes
  • Limited bicycle paths
  • Lack of protected or separated bikeways
  • Dangerous bridges with no pedestrian crossings
  • Overgrown bike paths
  • Debris in the road
  • Malfunctioning traffic lights
  • Dangerously designed intersection
  • Unsafe construction zones

Although Sacramento is relatively flat and good for biking, certain roads present major safety concerns. If the city knew or reasonably should have known about a road hazard but failed to remedy it, the city could be liable for a resultant bicycle accident and the victim’s damages. It is possible to file a personal injury claim against the government in California, but you must file an official notice within six months of the date of your injury for a valid claim.

A Product Manufacturer

It’s possible that a defective bicycle or vehicle part contributed to your recent accident. A broken bike chain, for example, could have made it impossible to stop before a red light. If this was the case, you may have a case against the part manufacturer. You generally do not need to prove negligence in a California product liability claim – you must only show that the part in question was defective and caused your accident or injuries. Oftentimes, a manufacturer and another party share fault for traffic accidents.

California Comparative Fault Laws

Defendants will often try to claim a bicyclist’s comparative fault for a collision in California. Comparative fault – or your own fault for the wreck – could reduce your compensation award by your percentage of liability. Hire an attorney for the strongest case possible.