Whether you ride a bicycle for health, leisure, or commuting to work or school, you’re not alone. According to Peopleforbikes.org, San Jose ranks high among large U.S. cities for people who bike for transportation and recreation but significantly lower for how safe people feel while riding.
No matter how cautious you are on your bike, there’s always a risk that someone –a motor vehicle driver, a pedestrian, or even another bicyclist – can hurt you. Data reported by UC Berkeley shows there were 2,819 bicycle crashes in Santa Clara County between 2017 and 2021. Only Los Angeles, Orange, and San Diego Counties had more accidents.
When car and truck drivers purposefully or negligently kill or injure bicyclists, the results can be catastrophic, devastating riders and their families. Nationally, nearly one of every five bicyclists injured in motor vehicle accidents is under 14, and one bicyclist is killed every six hours due primarily to a traumatic head or brain injury. Physical injuries and emotional damage can last a lifetime, and medical expenses, lost income, and other financial hardships can take a heavy toll.
If you or someone you love was injured or killed while bicycling in San Jose or anywhere else in California, you need an experienced bike injury lawyer to ensure you receive the compensation you deserve – an attorney like James Suits of Suits Litigation, Inc.
What Are California’s Bicycle Laws?
Under the California Vehicle Code, bicyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as car, truck, and motorcycle drivers. But the law includes special rules for bicyclists.
If you’re moving as fast as automobile traffic as close to the right side of the road as practicable, you can ride on any thoroughfare you’d like except freeways and expressways, which are prohibited. If you’re riding your bike slower than traffic and the roadway isn’t wide enough for you and a vehicle to share the road, you are allowed to “take the lane.”
If you’re riding on a roadway with a bike lane and traveling slower than the traffic around you, you must use the bike lane unless making a left turn, passing, avoiding hazardous conditions, or approaching a place where a right turn is authorized. But once the bike lane separates from moving traffic because of posts, parked cars, or other obstacles, it’s no longer a “bike lane,” and you’re not obligated to use it.
Low-speed electric bicycles are becoming increasingly popular, and the law treats them like human-powered bikes. If you have a Type 1 or Type 2 electric bike (with a top assisted speed of 20 mph), you are allowed wherever regular bikes are allowed unless there are signs explicitly prohibiting electric bicycles.
San Jose has its own local rules about bicycles on sidewalks. You can ride a bike on any sidewalk in the city except for two areas with dedicated bikeways: San Fernando Street and 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Streets, and on Lincoln Avenue in Willow Glen. These roads are in business districts with busier sidewalks. Even in those areas, the law allows children 12 or younger and accompanying adults to ride their bikes on the sidewalks.
If you know the rules of the road for bicyclists, you’re better prepared to avoid accidents and crashes. But again, frequently, it’s the other person you need to worry about.
What Causes a Bicycle Accident?
Drivers who fail to observe the law or are negligent pose the gravest threats to bicyclists, including when they:
- Consume alcohol or take drugs.
- Drive on the wrong side of the road.
- Cut cyclists off when making turns.
- Open vehicle doors in cyclists’ paths.
- Exceed the speed limit.
- Fail to yield.
Other times, bike accidents occur because of unsafe road conditions, defective bike helmets and equipment, cyclists riding in a group, and collisions with pedestrians or stationary objects.
Bike Accident Injuries
Because bicyclists are exposed to the elements during an accident or crash, they can suffer various injuries ranging from minor to serious harm, such as:
- Head trauma, brain damage, and concussion.
- Spinal cord injury and paralysis.
- Eye injuries.
- Broken bones, fractures, and dislocations.
- Soft tissue damage.
- Cuts, scrapes, and “road rash.”
- Sprains and strains.
Depending on the injury, healing can take a short time, or the injuries can be permanent.
Compensation for Bicycle Accidents in California
If you or a loved one is injured on a bicycle because of someone else’s negligence or recklessness, you may be entitled to compensation for economic and non-economic damages.
Economic damages cover any financial harm you incur, including:
- The cost of past and future medical care and treatment.
- The loss of past and future income.
- Lost earning capacity.
- The cost of replacement services (for your household).
- Destruction of personal property and the cost to repair or replace it.
- Expenses for activities you can no longer perform.
Non-economic damages include physical and mental harm, such as:
- Pain and suffering.
- Emotional distress.
- Loss of enjoyment of life.
- Loss of consortium.
An experienced attorney can evaluate your situation and calculate an appropriate amount for your claim.
What To Do If You’ve Been in a Bicycle Accident
After a serious bicycle accident, there are steps you can and must take to ensure your wellbeing and preserve evidence:
- Do not discard, wash, repair, or repaint the bike.
- Calm yourself, check for injuries, and seek medical help if necessary or even if you have any doubts.
- If a motor vehicle was involved, instruct the driver to stay. If they refuse, note the make, model, and license plate.
- Call 911 and ask that the police come to the scene to complete a report.
- Take pictures if you have a smartphone, or ask a bystander to do so.
- Ask any witnesses to record their accounts of the accident as soon as possible and have them stay to speak with the police.
- Do not tell anyone the accident was your fault.
- Make sure the police file the accident report and obtain a copy.
Most importantly, talk to a knowledgeable personal injury lawyer.
Contact Suits Litigation to Discuss Compensation for Your Bicycle Accident
James Suits devotes 100% of his practice to helping injured people and their families recover the compensation they deserve. Each client and case is unique, and he will explain the details of your matter and keep you informed at every stage. Please contact us today for a free consultation.