Bicycles are important means of transportation. People use their bicycles to go to work, run errands, deliver small packages, and supervise commercial properties. They are also used by local peace officers on patrol. Operating a bicycle on the road, however, carries with it a higher risk of collision with other motorists.
During a traffic collision, bicyclists are more susceptible to suffering severe injury, than drivers and passengers in a car, for the following reasons:
- Bicyclists are exposed to direct impact, as they are not protected by a metal frame
- Bicycles are much more difficult to control during sudden emergency maneuvers
- Bicyclists are not easily seen by motorists, as their silhouette makes them almost impossible to be detected. Because of this, other drivers fail to yield to bicyclists, cut them off, follow them too closely, or open the door of their vehicle right in front of them.
In addition, bicycles are at a greater risk of accidents in poor road conditions. Potholes, broken asphalt, poor drainage, and other problems on the road can be particularly hazardous for bicyclists.
What is The Law on Bicycle Accidents?
Under California law, bicyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as any other vehicle driver. In addition, the law provides extra protection to bicyclists on the road. For example, under the California Vehicle Code §21760, drivers of motorized vehicles must give bicyclists at least three feet of space between the bicycle and vehicle, when passing. Municipal codes also provide regulations ensuring that bicyclists safely enjoy riding around town, for work or for fun. In recent years, several California cities have implemented bike-sharing programs and have re-designed their roads to accommodate and properly mark bike lanes and bike parking areas.
Who Can be Liable for Bicycle Accidents?
Most bicycle accidents are caused by reckless drivers, reckless bicyclists or motorcyclists, poor road conditions, or defective bicycles. It is therefore very likely that your bicycle accident was caused by somebody else’s negligence. You may have a personal injury claim against drivers for their negligence in maneuvering their vehicle around your bike, against motorcyclists for the same reasons, or against cities counties, or transportation agencies if your bicycle accident was caused by poor road conditions, such as potholes, loose asphalt or poor drainage. If the accident was caused by a defective part on your bike, then you may have a claim against the company that manufacture or sold the defective bike to you.
Does Insurance Cover Bicycle Accidents?
If the motorist who caused your bicycle accident carries auto liability insurance, then your damages will probably be covered under that insurance policy. If the motorist who hit you does not carry liability insurance, you may be able to file an Uninsured Motorist Claim (UIM) with your own auto insurance carrier, if you have UIM coverage.
I Was Injured While Riding my Bicycle for Fun on Somebody Else’s Land. Do I have a Claim?
It depends. Generally, landowners owe a duty of reasonable care to keep their premises reasonably safe for any person entering their land. But, if you enter onto private or public land to ride your bike for recreational reasons, then the recreational immunity laws may apply. Under the California Recreational Immunity Doctrine (Civil Code §846) a landowner owes no duty of care to keep the premises safe for entry or use by others for any recreational purpose or to give any warning of hazardous conditions.
This means that if you get injured while riding your bicycle on somebody else’s land, for recreational purposes, you may not hold the landowner at fault for your injury, even if your injuries were caused by a dangerous condition existing on that land.
Recreational Immunity does not apply in the following cases:
(a) Willful or malicious failure to guard or warn against a dangerous condition on the land. This exception applies, for example, when the landowner knew about the dangerous condition, which had caused prior injuries.
(b) Permission to enter for recreational purposes was granted for consideration. A typical example is when you are charged a fee to enter the land for recreational purposes.
(c) Express invitation, rather than mere permission, to come upon the land by the landowner. Think of a friend inviting you to ride your bicycle on his large property. If you get injured due to a dangerous condition on the property, the recreational immunity doctrine does not apply.
These exceptions have very strict application. If you are injured while riding your bicycle on somebody else’s land, you should contact an experienced Plaintiff’s attorney to discuss your legal rights.
How Can a Personal Injury Attorney Help Me?
An experienced personal injury attorney can help you understand your legal options, review the applicable defense doctrines and identify municipal and local rules applicable to the operation of bicycles on city streets. The attorney can also elaborate the elements of your claim and fight for you so that you receive fair and just compensation for your losses.
I have handled and resolved numerous bicycle accident cases, which involved minor and severe injuries. I can provide my client with the most objective and realistic analysis of his or her bicycle accident case, strategize an effective course of action to prove the claim, and work towards obtaining the highest monetary recovery for my client. If you have been injured while riding your bicycle and have questions regarding your personal injury claim, contact me for a free consultation, call my office at (510) 933-8335, or email me at Fulvio@PicernoLaw.com.