Fresno Bicycle Accident Lawyer
Riding a bicycle has become more prevalent in California for its health and environmental benefits. More people are using bikes not only for leisure but also for commuting to work and school. Unfortunately, Fresno can be a dangerous city for cyclists. When a cyclist is injured in a bike accident due to the negligence of another, making the right decisions after can be crucial to their financial, emotional, and physical well-being for months and years to come.What Causes Bicycle Accidents?
Bicycle safety is often affected by the following reasons:
- Driver Error: Many motorists lack the knowledge of how to safely share the road with cyclists. Since bicycles are considered vehicles in California, drivers are obligated to yield the right of way to cyclists accordingly. When a driver fails to do so through negligence such as driving while impaired or distracted, it can result in the cyclist suffering a serious injury or being killed. In these cases, the responsible motorist can be held liable for subsequent losses.
- Manufacturer Defects: Bikes are sometimes manufactured with less durable materials to maximize profit margins for the company. However, this can compromise the safety of the rider when a bike is sold with a defective part or equipment such as faulty frames, brakes, pedals, and wheels. When a bicycle defect causes an accident, the manufacturer of the bike may be held financially responsible through a products liability claim for damages incurred.
- Road Defects: Accidents involving cyclists may also be caused by the failure of the government entity to maintain roads and bicycle lanes. When a government entity fails to ensure roadway safety for drivers and cyclists, it can be held financially liable for a collision caused by a road defect. Common road hazards include insufficient lighting at night, poorly configured intersections, potholes, and cracks or bumps on the sidewalk or road.
Due to limited physical protection that cyclists have when sharing the road with motor vehicles, cyclist crashes can result in some of the most severe injuries on the spectrum. These include:
- Abdominal Trauma: Several types of internal injuries in the abdomen may be suffered in a bike crash. These include traumatic hernia, pancreatic trauma, rupture of the spleen, and contusions of the large or small bowel.
- Bone Fractures: A cyclist is often propelled over the handlebars of the bike in an accident. When the body strikes the pavement, it is common for the cyclist to suffer bone fractures. Many of these require surgery to repair, which can force a person to miss time from work while they recover.
- Brain Injuries: Cyclists may suffer concussions, brain contusion, intracranial hemorrhage or skull fractures from their head hitting the pavement or another object in a crash. The shearing forces of a collision can leave a cyclist with temporary or permanent brain damage from a concussion. A traumatic brain injury may also be sustained in an accident and can manifest with many various symptoms. These include memory loss, confusion, nausea, cognitive difficulties, and behavioral changes.
- Chest Injuries: The chest can sustain injuries of the lungs, shoulders, and collarbone as well as rib fractures, especially if a car runs over a bicycle rider. Crush injuries can prove fatal in some cases such as flail chest.
- Facial Scarring: Lacerations, fractures, and scarring to the face are common in bicycle injury cases. When facial disfigurement is severe, it will often require cosmetic surgeries to restore appearance and function.
- Spinal Cord Injuries: The spinal column can sustain severe trauma in a crash. This can lead to a host of medical complications that can include loss of function and incomplete or complete paralysis. These are devastating injuries that can significantly impact a cyclist’s life.
The amount of compensation that an injured individual can collect is based on several factors. These include whether both the motorist and cyclist were at fault for the collision, the severity of the injury, whether the injured rider has suffered a permanent disability, and the reports of a medical expert. When these elements are taken into account, economic and noneconomic damages may be recovered by the injured party. Economic damages are intended to provide reimbursement for financial losses such as lost wages and medical bills. Noneconomic damages are more complicated to quantify and are designed to compensate an injured individual for disfigurement, loss of consortium, and pain and suffering. They are calculated based upon the severity of the injured cyclist’s injury and his or her life expectancy. Punitive damages may be awarded in cases of egregious conduct such as drunk driving. This type of damage is not intended for compensation. Instead, it is designed to punish the responsible party from engaging in similar acts in the future.Wrongful Death in a Cyclist Accident
Cyclists have little protection and will remain vulnerable to fatal injuries in a bike collision. The surviving family members of anyone who passed away as a result of someone else’s negligence can seek financial relief through a wrongful death claim. This type of case provides compensation for the tangible and intangible harms suffered by a family of the decedent. These include reimbursement of medical bills incurred before death, costs of a funeral and burial, lost inheritance, loss of consortium, loss of income for the household, emotional distress, mental anguish, and more. Since this can be a challenging legal process for a grieving family to deal with, it can be simplified by the guidance and support of a lawyer who has experience in handling wrongful death bicycle accident cases. To learn more about wrongful death cases, watch the below video.What Insurance Covers Bicycle Collisions?
All too often, cyclists suffer serious injuries caused by the inattentiveness of drivers on the road. Always riding defensively and following the rules of the road are the best ways to protect yourself from harm's way and to prevent a cyclist collision. A critical step in protecting yourself financially is to purchase uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage on your automobile insurance policy. This can help provide coverage for damages caused by a driver who has little to no insurance. It may also help pay for losses incurred in a hit and run bicycle accident. Conversely, a cyclist who does not have a car insurance policy of their own may have other options for recovery. If the cyclist lives in a household with someone who has this coverage, they may be covered so long as they are not listed as an excluded member from the policy.Comparative Fault
California operates under a system of comparative fault. This means an injured person will receive damages for their injuries reduced by the percentage of negligence apportioned to them. For instance, if a cyclist is 20 percent responsible for their injuries, then they would be able to recover 80 percent of the compensation awarded due to the comparative negligence doctrine. Since insurance companies often use a cyclist’s unfamiliarity with comparative fault to diminish and devalue claims, it is essential to hire an injury lawyer to investigate the facts and evidence of the accident to properly determine liability.Statute of Limitations
In California, an injured party or surviving family members of a deceased cyclist have only two years from the date of loss to file a personal injury or wrongful death claim. When the case is being filed against a government entity, that time is shortened to just 180 days or six months from the time of the incident. For cases involving minors, the statute of limitations is suspended or tolled until the adolescent turns 18 years old. From that time, the injured person has a two-year window to file a bicycle injury claim.Benefits of Hiring a Fresno Bicycle Accident Attorney
A Fresno personal injury lawyer who is experienced in handling bicycle accident cases can help by answering any questions you may have, advising you of what your potential legal options are, and communicating effectively with insurance companies on your behalf. A Fresno bicycle accident attorney will also perform an independent investigation of the incident by using experts such as a crash reconstructionist to help establish liability in your case. This way, your attorney can help ensure you receive the fair compensation you need and deserve.Bicycle Injury FAQs
Q: I was cycling when I rode over a pothole which propelled me off my bicycle and caused a serious injury. What rights do I have?
A: It must be established that the public road for which the bicycle accident occurred on was not properly maintained and that it was foreseeable that a cyclist would ride in that area. So long as a cyclist can prove that the government entity was aware of the hazardous road condition and failed to repair the road defect, they can prevail in the case against the municipality.
Q: My child was injured while riding their bike. What are our options for recovery?
A: Children enjoy the mobility, fun, and freedom afforded by bikes. However, crashes involving children are not uncommon. A higher duty of care is expected from drivers when it comes to observing children on the road. In other words, motorists are responsible for driving more carefully when there are children in the area. Even if a driver was determined not to be at fault for hitting your child in the accident, you might still be able to claim some damages on your child’s behalf.
Q: What if I was in a bike crash and was not wearing a helmet. Do I still have a claim for a head injury I suffered?
A: Even if a cyclist was not wearing a helmet at the time of a collision, they might still be able to recover for some claims involving head trauma. However, the at-fault driver’s insurer may dispute the claim by hiring experts such as biomechanics to argue that the lack of helmet use constituted the head injury. In these types of cases, it is crucial to retain an experienced injury attorney to protect your right to a favorable recovery.Bicycle Accident Lawyers in Fresno
I’m Ed Smith, a Fresno bicycle accident attorney. While towns and cities around Fresno are becoming more bicycle friendly, crashes still happen. If you have suffered injuries in a bicycle accident, you can face mounting medical expenses and other costs that should be the responsibility of the at-fault driver. To receive free, friendly case advice, please call (559) 377-7676 in the Fresno area or toll-free at (800) 404-5400.
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Editor’s Note: This page has been updated for accuracy and relevancy [cha 8.28.19]