Bicycle Accidents in California

bicycleA bicyclist was killed earlier Sunday, Feb. 23, in downtown LA when he was hit by a driver while crossing an intersection. The accident was classified as a hit-and-run, as the driver did not stop after colliding with the cyclist. Bicyclists being hit by drivers, particularly in intersections and on-ramps, unfortunately occurs all too often across California. A high percentage of bicycle accidents with cars occur at intersections. With this, nearly a quarter of bicyclist fatalities happen at vehicular intersections.

Because the use of bicycles is increasing across California, it is important to know some of the basic rules of legal liability with regard to bicycle accidents. It is also necessary to understand what to do if you find yourself in an accident.

Establishing Liability

According to California law, a bicycle must follow all the same rules of the road as motor vehicle drivers. This means that drivers must share the road with bicycles and treat them the same way they would treat other cars. It also means, however, that bicyclists must follow all of the same right-of-way rules as cars do – particularly in dangerous intersections.

These rules of the road may be obvious to many drivers, but they become much more difficult when a driver is reacting to a cyclist. When a driver encounters a bicyclist in an intersection with no traffic signals, the vehicle that arrives first to the intersection has the right of way. This is true, even if the vehicle that is first to the intersection is a bicycle.

If the intersection is regulated by traffic signals, then what vehicle may proceed is determined by the signal. There are, however, some complications with this, as the sensor in the road may not be able to identify a bicyclist and subsequently change the light. In this case, the bicyclist will have the right to cross against a signal. Local traffic laws typically determine the proper procedure in these scenarios.

What to Do if You Are in a Motor Vehicle-Bicycle Accident

Bicycle accidents with cars can be very frightening and unnerving. It is important to remember to document the accident as soon as it happens, as this may impact establishing liability and any lawsuits filed after the accident. Here are a few things you should make sure to do:

Call the police – Even if neither party is injured, the police should be called to document the accident. Often times, cyclists do not realize they are injured until a significant amount of time has passed after the accident. A cyclist could have internal injuries, or even cuts and bruises that went unnoticed during their initial assessment. Having the police at the scene of the accident will provide you with immediate documentation of what occurred.

Get the information – Get all of the information you can on the other party to the accident, and any witnesses who may have seen what happened. Even if the police take down all of this information, make sure to gather information for yourself, as well.

Keep documentation of any injuries – If you are injured, go to the hospital right away, no matter how minor the injuries may be. Simply seeking medical attention will show the parties to a future lawsuit that you were injured, and will help document the extent of your injuries.

If you or someone you know has been involved in a bicycle-motor vehicle car accident, contact the Appel Law Firm today, or call us at 925-938-2000.

Photo Credit: Jonas Tana via Compfight cc

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