A Closer Look at Bicycle Collisions

September 24, 2021

Some key infrastructure changes, like set-apart designated bicycle lanes, could all but eliminate bicycle crash fatalities. But largely due to bikelash, many cities hesitate to make these changes. Vehicle operators generally do not want to share the road with bicyclists. Therefore, for the foreseeable future, bicyclists will be at risk for the serious collision injuries discussed below.

Because of these serious injuries, a Los Angeles personal injury attorney can usually obtain substantial compensation for these crash victims. This compensation usually includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.

Bicycle Crash Injuries

The number of bicyclists has increased significantly, especially in places like SoCal where the weather is mild almost year-round. So, one would think that motorists would keep a more watchful eye out for bicycle riders. But for the most part, that hasn’t happened. When a 4,000-plus pound vehicle strikes a 20-something pound bicycle, the riders often sustain injuries like:

  • Head Injuries: Thin bicycle helmets usually protect riders from accidental fall injuries. But they offer little protection in a collision. Furthermore, the violent motion of a car wreck, as opposed to a trauma impact, often causes brain damage. When riders fall off their bikes and land hard, their brains smash against the insides of their skulls.
  • Nerve Injuries: These wounds are also fall-related. When people tumble, they naturally extend their arms to break their falls. As a result, when they land, they often snap the nerves in the brachial plexus area. Like head injuries, these nerve injuries are normally permanent.
  • Broken Bones: Although they are generally not life-threatening, these injuries are usually permanent as well, at least to an extent. Broken hip, knee, elbow, and other bones often never entirely heal. These victims usually experience some permanent loss of function, even after they complete a prescribed physical therapy regimen.

The medical bills associated with injuries like these are often staggering. To ease the financial pressure victims fee, most lawyers convince most doctors to defer billing, or at least collection, until the case is resolved.

Liability Issues

Bicycle accident claims usually involve the ordinary negligence doctrine or the negligence per se rule.

Typically, ordinary negligence is a lack of reasonable care. As far as motorists are concerned, this duty includes a responsibility to drive defensively and avoid accidents when possible. These victims must prove a lack of care by a preponderance of the evidence, or more likely than not. 

The evidence in a bicycle wreck claim usually includes some combination of witness statements, medical records, and the police accident report. Not all this evidence is reliable in all situations. The accident report is a good example. If the victim was killed, the police accident report obviously contains only one side of the story.

Negligence per se is the violation of a safety law, such as California’s three-foot bicycle safety law. The Vehicle Code requires drivers to give a three-foot cushion to bicyclists. If motorists break this law, and that violation causes a wreck, the driver could be liable for damages as a matter of law.

Although it’s often not necessary for liability purposes, evidence is still important in negligence per se claims. Usually, there’s a direct relationship between the amount of evidence a victim/plaintiff presents and the amount of compensation jurors award. So, additional evidence also increases a claim’s settlement value.

Some insurance company defenses, such as comparative fault, often affect the settlement value. 1842’s Davies v. Mann was one of the first cases to recognize this defense. The plaintiff let his donkey stop and graze on the side of the road. The defendant approached “at a smartish pace” in his wagon, “ran against the ass,” knocked it over, and killed it.

The court concluded that both parties were partially at fault. “[A]lthough the ass may have been wrongfully there, still the defendant was bound to go along the road at such a pace as would be likely to prevent mischief.”

Basically, an injury claim’s settlement value is like a vehicle’s sticker price. The settlement value, which is usually the economic losses and a reasonable amount of noneconomic losses, serves as the starting point for settlement negotiations. Bicycle accidents often cause serious injuries. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Los Angeles, contact the Law Offices of Eslamboly Hakim. We routinely handle matters throughout California.

Photo Credit: Ian Valerio on Unsplash

Sharona Hakim

Sharona Eslamboly Hakim, Esq. is a successful personal injury attorney and the principal of the Law Offices of Eslamboly Hakim firm in Beverly Hills, California.

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