California fatal bicycle accidents
How to prevent a fatal bike crash, and what to do if you’re injured in an accident while riding a bike
Accidents involving bicycles often result in severe injuries and even death because bicyclists are largely unprotected when they collide with a motor vehicle at high speeds.
In the United States, more than 130,000 bicycle accidents result in injury annually. Of those, 1,000 result in death. Economic costs, including medical care and lost productivity, are estimated to exceed $23 billion per year.
Bike accident statistics
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) collects and maintains statistics on bicycle injuries and death. Their data shows that bicycle accidents are a major public health issue.
The CDC statistics are surprising demographic:
- The highest bicycle death rates occur among adults ages 55 – 69.
- The highest bicycle accident injury rates occur in adolescents, teens and young adults.
- The death rate among male bicyclists is 6 times higher than female bicyclists, and male injury rates are 5 times higher than females.
- Bicycle deaths occur most often in urban areas.
- Contrary to common assumption, only 27 percent of bicycle deaths occur at intersections. Most (64 percent) occur on open roads away from intersections.
- One-third of fatal bicycle accidents involve alcohol impairment of 1 or both parties (bicyclist and/or motorist).
Common causes of bicycle accidents involving motorized vehicles
Negligence is usually involved in a bicycle accident with another vehicle. Common negligent acts include:
Motorist inattention or distraction
Distracted driving is a significant problem with drivers across the U.S. In fact, according to recent data:
- 61% of drivers text and drive even though it’s outlawed in many states.
- 33% of drivers check their email while driving.
It’s common to see cyclists on the bike path using hands-free devices or wearing headphones. Some even ride while gripping their smartphones with both hands. These negligent practices can result in bicyclists crashing or swerving into motor traffic.
Failure to yield
A common cause of a bicycle accident is a motorist who makes a left turn without giving an oncoming cyclist the right of way. According to the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center (PBIC), a failure to yield accounts for about half of all bicycle accidents.
Accidents commonly occur when an impatient motorist passes a cyclist on the left and then decides to make a right turn without signaling to the cyclist, causing the cyclist to crash into the rear end of the motor vehicle.
Cyclists are hard to see in the dark, even when they’re wearing reflective gear or lights. By necessity, such protective devices are small and not always visible. Still, cyclists who have no reflective gear at all are much more likely to be involved in a crash.
Very serious injuries to cyclists occur when they’re struck from behind. These situations can occur whether the cyclist is moving or stationary and often happen when a motorist is distracted or drunk. A cyclist’s failure to have reflectors or brake lights also contributes to these accidents.
Greg Knapp fatal bicycle accident
One highly publicized bicycle accident that happened recently involved the death of Greg Knapp. Knapp was a New York Jets assistant coach who suffered a fatal bicycle accident in Northern California in 2021. Knapp was 58 and had 35 years of experience as a coach for college and NFL teams.
Knapp, an avid cyclist, was riding in daylight in a bike lane when a 22-year-old motorist hit him from behind. There was no evidence of alcohol or drug impairment, and the district attorney blamed the collision on the motorist’s inattention. No criminal charges were filed.
Bicycle safety tips
There are dozens of safety measures cyclists can adopt to avoid accidents and save lives. These include:
- Wear a helmet.
- Wear bright colors and reflective clothing at all times.
- Install rear-view mirrors on your bike or helmet.
- Be aware of weather forecasts.
- Don’t ride with headphones or other listening devices.
- Don’t talk on your phone or view apps on your smartphone while riding.
- Know and observe state bike safety rules.
- Ride with traffic—not against it.
- Be constantly vigilant—especially at intersections.
Personal injury laws
If you get hurt on the road in a bicycle accident, you should immediately contact a personal injury lawyer with experience in bike accident cases because there are special legal considerations associated with cyclist crashes.
Personal injury cases involve questions of fault for negligent or willful conduct and measure of damages. One problematic issue involves the allocation or assignment of fault between the cyclist and motorist. An experienced bike accident attorney can help determine and prove fault in your personal injury case.
Damages awarded for bicycle injuries include compensatory (economic and non-economic) and punitive damages.
- Economic damages include lost wages, out-of-pocket costs of medical care, and other damages that can be measured monetarily.
- Non-economic damages include awards for pain and suffering and other consequences not readily measurable in monetary terms.
- Punitive damages are sometimes awarded in the case of egregious or willful conduct.
Most states have wrongful death statutes that allow family members of a victim of a fatal bicycle accident to seek the compensation that the victim could have recovered had they survived.
When to contact a California bicycle accident attorney
Bicycle accidents involving a motor vehicle entail special considerations of law and facts. In order to recover compensation, you must prove that the other party was negligent. Proving fault can be complicated, but an experienced personal injury attorney can gather evidence and negotiate with insurance companies to get you the compensation you deserve.
If you or a family member has been injured in a bicycle accident involving a motor vehicle, contact the experienced bicycle accident attorneys at MVP Accident Attorneys today. Our lawyers have extensive personal injury experience, including bicycle accident cases. Contact us today for a free, no-obligation consultation of your case.
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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