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Bicycle Accidents and Your Rights

Paul W. Ralph
Paul W. Ralph

Attorney At Law

Bicycle accidents are unfortunately a fairly common occurrence in Southern California. When a rider or driver is negligent, a serious accident can occur. Riders have an obligation to follow the rules of the road, while motor vehicle drivers must do the same while keeping a lookout for bike riders. Because bicyclists are sometimes difficult to see, it is not uncommon for riders to be injured by motor vehicles traveling the same direction or turning left in front of them. In fact, according to a local news report, a tragic bicycle accident happened earlier this week which proved to be fatal for the 62-year-old rider.

California Law and Bicycle Riders in the Street

Bicyclists are usually injured or killed when they collide with a motor vehicle on a roadway. Both bicyclists and drivers must use reasonable care when operating their vehicles on the roadways they share. As for motor vehicle drivers, the basic rule is that they must “use reasonable care in driving a vehicle. Drivers must keep a lookout for pedestrians, obstacles, and other vehicles. They must also control the speed and movement of their vehicles. The failure to use reasonable care in driving a vehicle is negligence.” Judicial Council of California Civil Jury Instructions, No. 700, Basic Standard of Care. Likewise, under California Vehicle Code section 21200, a person riding a bicycle on a street or highway “has all the rights and is subject to all the provisions applicable to the driver of a vehicle[,] [e]xcept those provisions which by their nature can have no application.” In addition to this general rule, California Vehicle Code Section 21202 requires bicyclists (unlike motor vehicle drivers) to ride as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway, with certain exceptions such as when the rider is turning left.

In the recent accident above, the driver of a motor vehicle was traveling the same direction as the bicyclist when the fatal collision occurred. While we don’t know yet what caused the driver to hit the bicyclist, the fact that the motor vehicle driver fled the scene seems to suggests the driver realized he was at least in part responsible for what happened. Fleeing the scene of an accident is usually associated with “consciousness of guilt.” Ultimately, the fault for the accident will be determined after the accident has been reconstructed in order to determine the precise actions of the cyclist and driver that contributed to the collision.

Damages Recoverable in Bicycle Accident Cases

Under California law, there are two categories of damages generally available in bicycle and other injury cases. Those two categories allow the injured party to recover economic and noneconomic damages resulting from the accident.

As for the noneconomic damages, those generally include both past and future physical pain, mental suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, disfigurement, physical impairment, inconvenience, grief, anxiety, humiliation, and emotional distress. There is no fixed standard for deciding the amount of these noneconomic damages, but juries are required to award only a reasonable amount based on the evidence and common sense. Judicial Council of California Civil Jury Instructions, No. 3905A. Physical Pain, Mental Suffering, and Emotional Distress (Noneconomic Damage. The pain and suffering damages usually bear some rationale relationship to the economic damages suffered.

The economic damages permitted under California law include past and future medical expenses, as well as past and future loss of earnings. Regarding medical expenses, they must be reasonable in amount and reasonably necessary as a result of the injury accident. Judicial Council of California Civil Jury Instructions, Nos. 3903A.Medical Expenses – Past and Future (Economic Damage), and 3903C. Past and Future Lost Earnings (Economic Damage).

Determining the “value” of a bicycle injury claim requires an analysis of what damages may be recovered at trial under the law stated above. Every injury case starts with an assessment of “trial” value which is then discounted for settlement purposes. When an injury claim is settled, such as one involving a bicycle accident, the settlement figure is always reached by arriving at a compromise both sides are willing to accept.

Contact an Orange County Bike Accident Attorney

If you or a loved one were injured in a bicycle accident, seeking the advice of a seasoned personal injury attorney is likely the best first step to take toward obtaining compensation for the injuries and damages suffered. Mr. Ralph has more than 30 years of experience at handling personal injury cases involving bicycle and motor vehicle collisions. His office is centrally located in Orange County for the convenience of his clients. Mr. Ralph’s services are provided on a contingency basis so if there is no recovery there are no fees. He can be reached for a free consultation by calling the number below or simply sending a message with the details of your potential case.

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