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Who’s Liable After a Bicycle Accident?

Who’s liable after a bicycle accident?


How to prove liability in a bike accident lawsuit in California

For commuters and city dwellers alike, bicycles have become an increasingly popular method of transportation in recent years. Unfortunately, with an increased number of bicyclists on the road, accidents are on the rise too.

According to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), only 1 percent of all travel in the U. S. is done by bicycle, yet bicycle accidents are responsible for more than 2 percent of the fatalities that occur on U.S. roadways. In fact, almost 1,000 bicyclists are killed and more than 130,000 are wounded in the U.S. every year.

These accidents not only take an emotional and physical toll on accident victims— they take a financial toll as well. In the United States, the annual cost of bicycle-related injuries and deaths regularly exceeds $23 billion. Health care, productivity losses, expenses for reduced quality of living, and lives lost are included in these costs.

Who’s typically at fault in a bicycle accident?

As with any accident in California, you need to prove another party was at fault in order to recover compensation. Either bicyclists or motor vehicle drivers can be found negligent for an accident if they breach their duty of care to operate their bicycle or vehicle in a safe manner.

Duty of care for motorists

Some common ways motor vehicle drivers often breach their duty of care include:


    • Failing to obey traffic signs and laws



    • Driving while overly fatigued


    • Speeding or otherwise driving recklessly


    • Failing to properly maintain their vehicle


    • Failing to check for bicycle riders before opening their car door into the street


    • Failing to signal when turning or changing lanes


  • Failing to yield the right of way to bicyclists

Duty of care for bicyclists

If you ride your bicycle on public roadways, it’s vital that you understand local and state traffic laws and follow all recommended safety precautions to avoid being involved in an accident  and minimize your liability if you are involved in one.

Bicyclists have many of the same responsibilities as motorists when it comes to driving safely on the road. Some common ways bicyclists can breach their duty of care include:

    • Riding while texting or otherwise distracted


    • Failing to obey traffic signs and laws, such as stopping at a stop sign


    • Riding under the influence of alcohol or drugs


    • Failing to properly maintain their bicycle


    • Failing to use a bicycle light if they ride at night


    • Failing to signal to other drivers that they’re turning or changing lanes


    • Failing to use the designated bike lane (if one exists)


  • Failing to stay on the right side of the road and drive in the same direction as the other traffic

Safety tips to avoid bicycle accidents and reduce your liability

In addition to following state and local laws, implementing these common safety tips can help you avoid accidents and further decrease your liability if you’re involved in one.

Wear a helmet

Bicycle helmets aren't legally required in all states, but wearing a helmet can reduce your chance of serious injury by as much as 88 percent, according to a study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology. Head injuries are the number 1 cause of death from bike accidents, and around 97 percent of these victims weren’t wearing their helmets when they crashed.

Wear reflective clothing

Visibility issues are also responsible for many of the bike accidents that occur on roadways. Accidents are simply more likely if drivers can't see you. In addition to mounting reflectors on your bike, wear white or reflective clothes.

Hold on to your bike

Don't take your hands off your handlebars, especially when other cars are around. If your hands aren't on the bike, you'll take longer to respond to an unexpected car, pedestrian or road debris. Because you may not be able to brake in time, you'll be more likely to fall off your bike or cause an accident.

Avoid sidewalks

When riding near congested roads, sidewalks may feel like a safer choice. However, several factors make sidewalk biking unsafe. Crowded sidewalks increase your risk of hitting a pedestrian or losing control. Also, roads are typically smoother than sidewalks, and you can easily get into an accident if you hit a sidewalk crack or bump.

How to prove a motorist was at fault in a bicycle accident

In order to prove a motorist was at fault in any bicycle accident, the bicycle rider will need to prove that:

    • They were operating their bike in a safe manner at the time of the accident;


    • The motorist had an obligation to drive their vehicle in a safe manner and breached that obligation;


    • The motorist’s failure to operate their vehicle safely caused the accident; and


  • The accident was the cause of the bicyclist’s injuries.

If you’re injured in a bicycle accident, the 1st thing you should do is call the police. The police will write up a report that can be used to help prove negligence in your case. If there were any witnesses present at the time of the accident, make sure to get their contact information and a statement from them if you’re physically able to do so.

Next, make sure you seek medical attention immediately after the accident. In order to receive compensation, it’s critical that your injuries can be directly tied to your accident, so be sure to explain to the doctor what happened during the accident and notify them of any symptoms you may be experiencing.

Lastly, contact an experienced bicycle accident attorney who can gather evidence and investigate your case to prove liability.

When to contact a California bicycle accident attorney

Because of the size and weight discrepancies between bicycles and motor vehicles, bicycle accidents frequently result in severe injuries to bike riders. These injuries may require lifelong medical care and may even prevent you from returning to work.

You should never accept a settlement offer from an insurance company before speaking with an experienced bicycle accident attorney. Insurance companies often try to take advantage of accident victims without representation and will offer you far less than you deserve. Once you accept a settlement, you won’t be able to go back and request more money later if you discover that your injuries require additional surgeries, rehabilitation or other medical care.

If you’ve been injured in a bicycle accident in California, contact the experienced bicycle accident attorneys at MVP Accident Attorneys. Our firm knows how to prove liability in bicycle accident cases and has recovered millions of dollars for our many satisfied clients.

Contact us today for a free, no-obligation consultation of your case.


brett sachs2
Brett Sachs

Brett S. Sachs graduated from Michigan State University College of Law with Cum Laude Honors. While attending Michigan State, Brett was awarded for his service in the Michigan State University College of Law Civil Rights Clinic, where he represented prisoners of the Michigan Department of Corrections from injustices brought upon them. Learn more.

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