Many people living in and around Folsom, California, enjoy riding bicycles. While some do so for exercise or pleasure, others use bicycles as alternative transportation to and from work. Both options are an environmentally conscious choice to save money, limit fossil fuel consumption, and engage in daily exercise. While there are many benefits to bicycling in California, it is also inherently dangerous when bicyclists share the road with motor vehicle drivers.
Drivers in California must treat bicyclists on the road as other motorists. Bicyclists have the right to take a lane and occupy space in a lane just as a car would. They must move with the flow of traffic like another car. However, there are some roads where bicycles are not allowed, such as highways and freeways. With these exceptions aside, it’s generally accepted that drivers should yield to bicyclists and show them the same courtesies they would show to other motor vehicle drivers. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Bicycle accidents happen in California more frequently than many people realize.
WHY HIRE THE LAW OFFICES OF BLACK AND DEPAOLI, PC?
When you need to take legal action for a personal injury, it is essential to work quickly to ensure your claim meets the applicable statute of limitations. In California, you have two years from the date an injury occurs to file a personal injury claim to recover damages from the incident. An attorney can help injured bicyclists determine the full scope of their injuries and help identify potential defendants in the claim.
At the Law Offices of Black and DePaoli, PC, our legal team has extensive experience with bicycle accident claims in the Folsom area. If you need a bike accident personal injury lawyer in Folsom, California, our team can provide the resources and legal acumen to reach a satisfactory result. Your attorney will fully explore every potential channel of compensation available with your claim and help you maximize your recovery.
A DECLINE IN BIKE ACCIDENTS, BUT AN INCREASE IN FATALITY
Notably, while statistics show a decline in bicycle accidents over time, the United States has experienced an uptick in fatalities following these accidents. For example, in 2018, the United States saw a total of 857 fatalities from bike accidents. This is up significantly from the year prior, when there were only 777 bike accident fatalities in the nation. Alarmingly, this trend is on a steady rise.
Why could this be? One possibility involves the increasing popularity of bicycling for commuting or daily travel. In part, this influx of cyclists also implies an increase in new, less experienced cyclists on the road. Those new to bicycling might not be familiar with certain safe biking practices. This could lead to a greater likelihood of experiencing an accident.
It should also be noted that 70% of fatal cycling accidents occur in urban environments. Due to the increasing popularity of bicycling and advocacy for the practice within cities, a good portion of the increase in cycling overall occurs in urban spaces. Cities also feature far busier and more dangerous roads, resulting in a higher likelihood of experiencing a fatality after a bike accident.
Simultaneously, cities experience multiple obstacles when it comes to installing brand-new safety features for cyclists. Despite the increase of cycling within urban areas, cities struggle to keep up with the demand for better infrastructure. Even if cities advocate and plan, many of them have yet to improve infrastructure for bicyclists. These changes will be vital in helping to stop the rise of bicycle accident fatalities.
POTENTIAL DANGERS OF BICYCLING IN FOLSOM, CALIFORNIA
According to a 2016 report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), California is the most dangerous state in the country for bicyclists. This report indicated that bicycle accidents represented about 4% of the state’s total fatal accidents for 2016 and that the majority of fatal bike accidents, about 71% of them, occur in urban areas.
When bicyclists have accidents with motor vehicles, it is almost always the bicyclist who suffers worse injuries. A bicycle affords a rider no protection whatsoever from the force of a crash. Additionally, the bicyclist will experience not only primary injuries from the impact of the crash but also secondary injuries from hitting the pavement after falling from the bike. These injuries can be severe and sometimes fatal. Anyone who experiences a bicycle accident in Folsom or loses a loved one to a fatal bike accident in the area should contact a bicycle accident personal injury attorney in Folsom, California, as soon as possible to discuss potential legal options.
Most bicycle accidents involving motor vehicles happen because the driver of the motor vehicle does not notice the bicyclist in time to avoid a crash. Other accidents occur due to aggressive driving, driving under the influence (DUI), or failing to show a bicyclist the courtesy due to another motorist on the road. When a bicycle accident occurs due to negligence, the injured party can file a personal injury claim against the negligent party responsible for causing the accident.
WHAT ARE THE MOST COMMON CAUSES OF BICYCLE ACCIDENTS?
Sadly, much of the time, bicycle accidents occur as a result of a motor vehicle driver’s negligence. It is a driver’s duty of care— whether they are operating a car, a truck, or any other motor vehicle— to remain mindful and reasonably preserve the safety of others on the road. As a result, drivers must remain aware of cyclists and their rightful presence on the road.
Colliding with a bicyclist is not excusable simply because the driver failed to see them. If the bicyclist is obeying traffic laws, it is the driver’s responsibility to account for them. Failing to notice a bicyclist and causing a crash constitutes negligence. In these cases, seek legal counsel from a bicycle accidents lawyer.
Below are some of the most common causes of bicycle accidents on the road:
- Distracted driving or driver inattention. As stated, if a driver of a motor vehicle fails to pay proper attention to the road, then they may cause an accident with a bicyclist. Distracted driving can take a variety of forms. For example, if a driver is texting or talking on the phone while driving, they are considerably more likely to collide with a cyclist due to inattention. Even a moment of inattention can be enough to cause a devastating accident, resulting in serious or even fatal injury in the cyclist. Distracted or inattentive drivers are also more likely to clip bicyclists, adding to a cyclist’s stress on the road.
- Dangerous conditions on the road. Drivers of motor vehicles are not the only ones who have a duty of care. It is vital that cities do their due diligence to maintain safe road conditions at all times, reducing the likelihood of avoidable accidents. When a city fails to correctly maintain bike lanes and roads, allowing them to fall into mild or even extreme disrepair, accidents become increasingly more likely to occur. Failing to clearly mark bike lanes is another instance where poor road maintenance could lead to severe bicycle accidents, and the same goes for uneven pavement, cracks, or potholes left in the road. These issues make it easier for bicyclists to fall or potentially find themselves in oncoming traffic.
- Failing to yield to the bicyclist’s right of way. When a driver fails to yield to a bicyclist at an intersection, accidents often occur. Although this may seem like a simple or even common driving mistake, it is far from innocuous. Rather, failure to yield has the potential to lead to serious or even fatal accidents with law-abiding cyclists. A driver failing to yield sometimes occurs due to reckless or hurried driving, but it can also occur when a driver is simply ignorant of local traffic laws. Again, this is not excusable confusion but driver negligence, plain and simple. Frequent intersection collisions are the reason intersections are considered the most dangerous portion of a bicyclist’s ride. Researchers estimate that around 45% of bicycle accidents occur at intersections.
- Cars making a right turn. When a motor vehicle performs a right turn, they often pass right through city bike paths—and the paths of cyclists traveling in the same direction. In this instance, the vehicle moves past the bicyclist before slowing down as they prepare to make a right turn. Unfortunately, the cyclist is left without anywhere to go. If the driver fails to look before turning right, the inattentive action can lead to an accident with a bicyclist and is an act of negligence on the part of the driver.
- Vehicle “doorings”. Dooring accidents are considerably more common in urban areas, than in rural areas, due to the relative prevalence of parked vehicles along the sides of the road. If a driver parks their vehicle and opens the door without looking both ways, there is a chance a bicyclist could crash directly into the open car door. This is yet another act of simple negligence by the driver of the vehicle, which could have been prevented by taking precautions like looking both ways before opening a car door.
- Defective parts. Some bicycle accidents occur due to defective bike parts or other mechanisms. When this defective component malfunctions, a subsequent accident may lead to the potentially serious injury of the cyclist. In cases of bicycle malfunction, it is possible for the cyclist to file a claim against the responsible manufacturer with the assistance of a bicycle accident attorney.
INJURIES MOST COMMONLY SUSTAINED DUE TO BIKE ACCIDENTS
Similar to any accident on the road, a bicycle accident can cause myriad different injuries on the part of both the bicyclist and motorist. However, when a car collides with a cyclist, it is almost guaranteed that the bicyclist will suffer the brunt of the injury. While the vehicle driver is protected by the mass of their vehicle, a cyclist is not afforded this advantage. Even with a helmet and other safety necessities, a cyclist’s body remains exposed to injury.
Unfortunately, many bicyclists receive catastrophic injuries from a collision with a motor vehicle. Examples of potential injuries resulting from a cycling accident include but are not limited to:
- Brain injuries. Even in the case of a responsible cyclist wearing a high-quality helmet, there is still a risk of concussion or another form of traumatic brain injury during a bicycle accident. In fact, injuries of this nature typically occur without visible damage or injury to the skull. If a cyclist is launched off their bike, a head-first landing will ensure that their helmet and their skull are stopped immediately—however, this is not the case for their brain. The brain is suspended within the skull and continues its movement even after the cyclist’s head strikes a surface. If the brain contacts the interior of the skull forcefully, the trauma can result in pressure, bleeding, swelling, lesions, or hemorrhaging. A cyclist who suffers a traumatic brain injury may even require emergency surgery in order to relieve pressure and swelling of the brain. Sometimes brain injuries can take years to heal or may result in permanent damage.
- Injuries to the neck or back. Various spinal cord injuries are a common result of a traumatic bicycling accident, as are other injuries to the neck or back. While the cyclist’s helmet may lessen the force of the impact on their skull, it does not protect their spine, neck, or back. As the cyclist’s head collides with the ground, movement in the rest of the body continues. As a result, the cyclist’s spine must endure an enormous amount of force. In especially severe instances when the spine absorbs too much force, it is possible for vertebrae to fracture or burst. Severe “burst fractures” can result in paralysis. In addition, injuries impacting the discs separating the vertebrae, including annular tears or herniated discs, can leave cyclists experiencing long-term pain, difficulty moving, and an inability to return to normal activities.
- Orthopedic injuries. Bone injuries are also common following the ejection of a cyclist from their bike. Injuries of an orthopedic nature can take on a variety of forms, including broken limbs, fractured shoulders, sprains, dislocations, and more. In the case of severe bike accidents, cyclists may need to seek emergency surgery. Sadly, however, emergency surgeries are typically a stopgap measure—they will prevent the injury from worsening, but they are not likely to fix the issue on their own. Cyclists who have undergone emergency surgery for orthopedic injuries will likely require extensive physical therapy. Further, the victim may also require other surgeries in the future to achieve a more permanent fix or lasting comfort.
- Road rash. When a cyclist involved in an accident skids across concrete or pavement, skin tears away from the underlying tissue, resulting in an incredibly painful wound. Since road rash exposes a large area of internal tissue, muscle, or even bone, cyclists risk infection and scarring. These abrasions must be washed, any debris removed, and bandaged as soon as possible to prevent infection. In severe cases of road rash, the victim may require skin grafting to replace large areas of damaged or missing skin.
IT IS WORTH GETTING AN ATTORNEY FOR A BICYCLE ACCIDENT?
After you experience a bicycle accident, securing the services of a skilled bicycle accident lawyer is essential to help you navigate your personal injury claim. In fact, hiring an experienced personal injury attorney is your first step to achieving the compensation you deserve for your injuries. Here are just some of the reasons why injured cyclists should hire a bike accident attorney:
- You received injuries. Injuries sustained during bike accidents are often severe, due to the nature of a bicycle. In most cases, you were fully exposed to impacts from both the vehicle and the ground, which can result in injuries that require ongoing treatment. If you experience injuries as the result of a bicycle accident, contact a bicycle injury lawyer to pursue compensation to relieve your financial burden.
- Your injuries caused ongoing pain and lasting trauma. In the aftermath of a bicycle accident, it can be difficult to ascertain the full extent of your injuries. Unfortunately, many injuries, like spinal cord injuries, severe orthopedic injuries, TBI and more, can cause trauma that lasts the rest of your life. If lasting trauma affects your ability to enjoy life as you did before, a bicycle injury attorney can help you pursue pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, disability, and other means of nonspecific compensation.
- You have no experience with personal injury claims. Trauma can make it highly difficult to manage the aftermath of an accident, especially if you do not have any experience with personal injury law. Contacting a bicycle accident attorney enables you to continue your recovery while your attorney takes charge of your case. You can focus on healing with the peace of mind that comes with knowing that a skilled professional accustomed to personal injury litigation is ensuring you achieve the best possible outcome in your case.
- You must make a claim with a third-party insurance company. In most cases, you must file a claim with the other driver’s insurance company to pursue compensation for your damages. Unfortunately, many insurance companies take advantage of the complex nature of bicycle accident injury cases and work to avoid liability. Beginning your claim with the help of a bicycle accidents lawyer ensures your claim will be comprehensive and secure the maximum possible settlement. In addition, your attorney can help you navigate the litigation process should the insurance company attempt to avoid payment.
- An insurance company has offered you a low settlement, or denied you a settlement. Without an attorney, you are far more likely to be misled by an insurance company. Sadly, these companies are not on your side, even when it feels like they should be—instead, insurance companies are profit-driven. They do not have your personal or financial wellbeing in mind and will not pursue the settlement you deserve. Rather, insurance companies often try to provide you with the lowest possible payment. Never accept an insurance settlement without consulting with a bicycle accident attorney familiar with the inner workings of the insurance company.
- The driver has denied any fault. Most times, fault in a car versus bicycle accident remains relatively clear. In these cases, drivers often accept responsibility and proceed accordingly. However, if the driver attempts to accuse you of negligent bicycle operation or causing the accident, secure the services of a bicycle accident attorney. Your attorney can help you navigate the complicated process of demonstrating fault and negligence of the other party, and how it caused your injuries in a bicycle accident.
WHEN SHOULD YOU CONTACT A LAWYER AFTER AN ACCIDENT?
If you sustained an injury during a bicycle accident, you should contact a Folsom bicycle accidents lawyer as soon as possible. You will want your attorney to receive any and all documentation regarding your injuries, including medical bills, diagnoses, medications, medical equipment, and more. Your attorney can help you begin the documentation process to prepare your claim right away.
If you try to work directly with the insurance companies, they may attempt to get you to give a statement regarding the accident, potentially assigning you fault and lowering your claim amount. Even a seemingly innocuous statement about the accident or your injuries can be manipulated into an admittance of partial fault or used to diminish the severity of your injuries. Do not speak to these profit-driven companies on your own, without an experienced personal injury attorney at your side.
PROVING NEGLIGENCE IN A BIKE ACCIDENT CLAIM
Personal injury is a section of civil law that pertains to injury claims between private individuals and privately-owned companies. One of the most prevalent legal concepts in personal injury law is negligence, or the failure of a party to act with reasonable care in a given situation. When it comes to personal injury claims for damages sustained in bicycle accidents, proving negligence comes down to establishing four basic elements:
- Duty of care. The plaintiff’s attorney must identify a defendant or multiple defendants and establish that they owed the plaintiff a duty of care in the given situation. For example, a driver has a duty of care to yield to bicyclists on roads where bicycling is legal.
- Breach of duty. Next, the plaintiff’s attorney needs to prove the defendant failed to uphold their duty of care. This could be through a specific action, such as driving while distracted, speeding, or changing lanes without checking.
If the plaintiff suffered no damage, there is no claim. Personal injury claims exist to provide compensation to an injured person who sustained their injuries due to another party’s negligence. The plaintiff’s attorney must also provide evidence showing the full extent of the plaintiff’s claimed damages.
Finally, the plaintiff’s attorney must prove that the plaintiff’s claimed damages would not have occurred if not for the defendant’s negligence.
Establishing these four elements of negligence will typically lead to a favorable result for a plaintiff in a personal injury lawsuit for a bicycle accident. However, California law also maintains a pure comparative negligence statute that all plaintiffs should understand when heading into a personal injury lawsuit.
PURE COMPARATIVE NEGLIGENCE IN CALIFORNIA
California law recognizes that in some personal injury cases, a plaintiff may bear partial responsibility for claimed damages. In most states, the law allows a plaintiff to claim damages even if they are partially at fault for causing the damaging event in question. However, these states only allow the plaintiff to receive compensation if the plaintiff is less at fault than the defendant. California has no such restriction under the state’s pure comparative negligence law. A plaintiff can still recover compensation even if the plaintiff is found 99% at fault for claimed damages.
Under California’s pure comparative negligence law, the plaintiff who is partially at fault for claimed damages will lose a percentage of the case award equal to their fault percentage in the claim. For example, in a $100,000 lawsuit in which the plaintiff is 40% at fault, the plaintiff loses 40% of the case award for a net award of $60,000 instead.
POSSIBLE DAMAGES RECOVERABLE FROM A BICYCLE ACCIDENT PERSONAL INJURY LAWSUIT
A bicycle accident can cause serious injuries. Some of the most common damages claimed in bicycle lawsuits in Folsom, California include:
- Medical expenses. These costs would be for both immediate and long-term care necessary after an accident. A bicyclist could sustain broken bones, soft tissue injuries, internal organ damage, and many other injuries. The initial impact of hitting a vehicle, as well as the impact of hitting the ground, can both cause serious damage, some of which may require long-term treatment to heal completely.
- Lost income. An injured cyclist may be unable to get back to work after suffering serious injuries in a bicycle accident. A plaintiff can claim income lost during recovery as well as lost future earnings if they are unable to return to work due to the severity of their injuries or the development of a permanent disability.
- Pain and suffering. California law allows injured plaintiffs to claim compensation for their physical suffering and psychological trauma from their experiences. The court determines an appropriate amount of compensation, typically informed by the total amount of measurable damages the plaintiff sustained.
A plaintiff in a bicycle accident case will need to work closely with a bike accident personal injury attorney in Folsom, California, to determine the full extent of their claimable damages and identify the parties who bear responsibility for those damages.
WHAT IS A REASONABLE SETTLEMENT FOR A BICYCLE ACCIDENT?
Even after your Folsom bicycle accident attorney begins pursuing your case, you might not know what kind of settlement to expect. Fortunately, your attorney will be able to aid you in calculating a rough estimate of your damages, both general and special. The total of your settlement will be highly dependent on the circumstances of your individual accident as well as on your total damages.
After your case goes to court or your attorney begins negotiations with your insurance company, your settlement amount depends on the at-fault driver’s insurance coverage, your degree of fault, and your attorney’s ability to effectively communicate the extent of your injuries. When your case depends on the courts, you may receive compensation equal to your damages minus your percentage of fault. In an insurance settlement, you are typically limited to the other party’s maximum coverage. Therefore, a reasonable settlement amount varies widely based on many factors—speak with a Folsom bicycle accident lawyer to get a better idea regarding your potential settlement.
WHY IT’S SO IMPORTANT TO HIRE AN ATTORNEY
The legal system in California is notoriously complex, and a bicycle accident victim with no legal experience will have a great deal of difficulty navigating the court system without the help of an attorney. Missing a court filing deadline or otherwise failing to pursue a claim correctly could lead to losing the chance to secure compensation.
An experienced bicycle accident personal injury lawyer in Folsom, California, can handle a bicycle accident victim’s legal concerns so they can focus on their recovery. At the Law Offices of Black & DePaoli, PC, we understand how damaging these accidents can be and work hard to ensure our clients maximize their recoveries. If you recently experienced a bicycle accident in the Folsom area or lost a loved one in a fatal bicycle accident caused by a negligent driver, contact us today to schedule a free case evaluation.
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