It is no surprise that the West Coast has the highest number of cyclists in the country. Bikers hit the roads and trails every day in California, whether to ride along the coast or inner cities. Unfortunately, with the increase in riders comes an increase of accidents. Even when bikers practice safety and precaution, accidents still occur.
If you or a loved one have been in a bicycle accident when you are partly at fault, it is likely you still have a claim against the other party. Experienced bicycle accident attorneys can help you file a case against the responsible party to get the money you deserve. The San Jose Bicycle accident lawyer at Suits Litigation, Inc. is ready to discuss your case after you have sustained injury from a bicycle accident.
What is a Bicycle Accident Lawyer?
A bicycle accident lawyer is a personal injury lawyer that focuses part of their practice on helping those injured in a bicycle accident. Bicycle accident attorneys are typically well-versed in the bicycle accident laws in California, as well as personal injury statutes that may apply to the case.
A bicycle accident case follows the same path as most other personal injury cases, and a lawyer can help guide injured parties through that process. After sustaining an injury, the victim should focus on their injuries and allow a bicycle accident lawyer to handle their case.
Experienced bicycle accident lawyers will be able to gather evidence to build the case. This includes contacting any potential witnesses, working with the other side to see if a settlement will be possible, handling insurance adjusters, obtaining medical evidence, including any bills and costs incurred, and even hiring experts to help access the scene.
Why Do You Need a Bicycle Accident Attorney?
A bicycle accident attorney can help an injured victim get the money they deserve. Many cases involving bicycle accidents can involve a hit-and-run, victim blaming, or require more due diligence to collect the proper evidence to hold the responsible party liable. Bicycle accident attorneys know how to handle these situations and will be able to gather the necessary evidence for a strong case.
Further, after an injury, a victim’s recovery is the number one priority. No one should have to deal with insurance adjusters or file a personal injury case on their own. Without an attorney, the other party may try to take advantage of one’s vulnerable state by offering them a low amount or trying to get them to drop the case altogether.
Do not let other parties strong-arm you after an accident. When you have been seriously injured in a bicycle accident, then you deserve recompense for the injuries sustained. The most successful way to a resolution is to hire an experienced bicycle accident attorney that knows when to push the other side to get the highest amount of damages that are owed.
Types of Bicycle Accidents
There are many ways in which a bicycle accident can occur. Accidents can happen when cyclists are sharing the road with other vehicles. They can also happen when they are using dedicated bike lanes or other trails.
The most common type of bicycle accident occurs when a motor vehicle hits a biker on the shared roadway. However, this is not the only way an accident can occur. Sometimes, an accident will happen without a collision – in these events, shop owners or even city officials can be responsible for those costs after an accident. These types of claims would be known as premise liability claims.
The city and shop owners have a duty to keep the sidewalks, pathways, streetways, and alleys clear of any hazards. If an accident occurred because of a hole or crack in a surface, the party responsible for the upkeep can be held liable for any injuries that were sustained.
Additionally, pedestrians and other types of vehicles like motorcycles and scooters can also be responsible for injuries sustained in a bicycle accident. If the accident occurred because someone jumped in front of a bicycle or they were not obeying the proper road signals, then they can be held liable, as well.
Who is Responsible for a Bicycle Accident?
Just like any other accident, there can be one party or multiple parties responsible for injuries sustained in an accident. In the event of a bicycle accident, it can be difficult to find who was at fault, and sometimes, the biker and the other person or people involved all share liability.
If a bicyclist was following all the proper rules of the road and staying in their lane, and they were hit by a motor vehicle, then the driver of the vehicle should be held responsible. Unfortunately, it is not always that easy because the party may not admit they were at fault, and it will be one person’s word against another.
In these situations, evidence and witness testimony will be key. A lawyer can survey the area and ask for any camera footage, as well as contact any witnesses that may have been at the scene.
Proving Liability After a Bicycle Accident
When proving liability in a personal injury case after a bicycle against, the party bringing the case is required to present evidence that shows the other party was at fault. Proving liability in these situations typically requires that negligence be established. In most roadway accidents, negligence is usually the root cause.
Proving negligence requires the moving party to show all four elements: (1) duty, (2) breach of duty, (3) causation, and (4) damages.
In bicycle accidents, establishing duty is generally the easiest prong because all roadway users, whether a pedestrian, motor vehicle, or bicycle, have the same duty to one another. Next, it must be shown that the duty was breached in some sort of way—this can be through recklessness, distracted driving, excessive speed, disobeying a roadway sign, etc.
After establishing duty and breach, then it must be established that the breach of duty was the exact cause of the accident. Sometimes other mitigating factors can make it more difficult to show causation after a bicycle accident. Finally, there must be some sort of damages that occurred. If there were no injuries or property damage, then there is nothing to claim in a lawsuit. It should be noted that mental anguish can be included in damages.
Bicycle Laws in California
The California Vehicle Code (VEH) contains state laws governing where and how bikes may be operated. Bicyclists, for the most part, have the same rights and responsibilities as drivers of motor vehicles. A simple rule of thumb is that if you’re moving faster than traffic, you can ride anywhere a car can legally drive.
If you’re moving slower than traffic, you have the right of way to take the lane if it’s not wide enough for a bike and a vehicle to share side by side safely. Bicyclists are required by law to ride as close to the right side of the road as possible, except in certain circumstances.
If there is a bike lane, bicyclists should use these, but they are only required to do so by law when moving slower than traffic. If a biker can ride at the same speed as surrounding vehicles, then they are not legally obligated to use the bike lane, which can be a point of contention in some bicycle accident cases. However, if a biker is moving slower than traffic, then they must use the bike lane unless they are passing someone, avoiding a hazard, making a turn, or approaching the end of the lane or an unpermitted area.
Bicycle Accident Statistics in California
According to data from UC Berkeley, Santa Clara County where San Jose, CA is located is one of the top five counties for bicycle accidents. The top county for bicycle accidents is Los Angeles, which sees roughly three to four times the amount of accidents than other top counties in the state.
According to LAPD data, 312 people were killed, and 1,518 were seriously injured on LA roads in 2022. Six percent of those killed were involved in a DUI, 28% in a felony hit-and-run, 50% were pedestrians, and 6% were riding a bicycle. This can be skewed, as LA probably has the highest number of accidents in the state, but Santa Clara comes close in comparative data, especially in accidents involving cyclists.
More cyclists died in traffic accidents in California from 2016 to 2018 than in any three-year period in the previous 25 years. According to new data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 455 cyclists were killed in traffic accidents in California from 2016 to 2018. The figures equate to about 3.9 bike accidents per million people.
In more recent findings, there were 1,260 cyclist fatalities in one year, and in that same year, 425,910 bicyclists were injured. This data is in line and may even be 5% higher than the date reported for the highest peak in cyclist accidents. Not all accidents can be prevented, but as there seems to be an increase in serious injuries and death amongst cyclists when compared with other roadway users, all road users need to practice all safety precautions. This includes drivers checking their mirrors and blind spots before deviating from any lane.
Filing a Lawsuit After a Bicycle Accident
Before beginning any lawsuit in California, it is important to know if you are barred from bringing a claim due to time restraints. This is legally known as the statute of limitations. In California, the statute of limitations for any personal injury case and property damage case is two years from the date of the accident. However, if it is a wrongful death claim, then it is two years from the death and not two years from the accident.
If the case falls within the proper time period, then it is okay to proceed with the court process. First, the moving party should collect all evidence they can before submitting a complaint. They will need this evidence to help strengthen their suit. This will include obtaining all information from those involved, asking witnesses for testimony, taking photographs of the scene and any damages, and keeping receipts and bills from any emergency care or further doctor visits.
Obtaining all information will allow a party to build a strong case against those responsible for their injuries. Filing a legally sound lawsuit can be difficult, which is why it is important to consult with an attorney before doing so. Once the suit has been filed, then service on the defendant must be obtained. After obtaining service, then the case can proceed to normal litigation.
Litigation involves the other side filing an appearance, providing an answer to the claim, and going through a discovery process. Discovery can be the most time-consuming part of any lawsuit. As litigation proceeds, it is common that the parties choose to dismiss the case through an agreed settlement.
It is important to review any settlement offers with an attorney before accepting them. An experienced personal injury attorney will ensure that you receive the most for your injuries, and a settlement isn’t always the best option.
Hiring a San Jose Bicycle Accident Attorney
If you or a loved one has been in a bicycle accident at the expense of someone else’s negligence or recklessness, then you deserve to be compensated for your injuries. It is important to always seek medical attention after an accident. Not all injuries present themselves at the time of an accident. After consulting medical professionals, you should contact a bicycle accident lawyer to assist with your claim.
James Suits devotes his entire practice to assisting injured people and their families in obtaining the compensation they deserve. Each client and case is unique, and he will explain the specifics of your case and keep you updated at all times. Please contact us today for a no-obligation consultation.