Can I Sue for a Bike Accident in California?
Countless individuals across California enjoy riding their bicycles, and it is not hard to figure out why. The Golden State is filled with some of the most beautiful and scenic roads – and what better way to enjoy these roads than with a leisurely bike ride? Unfortunately, this approach is totally at odds with the many motorists across the state, who would rather reach their location as quickly as possible rather than enjoy the scenery. When these two diametrically-opposed points of view collide on the road, the consequences can be tremendous. Obviously, cyclists come off worse when they collide with cars, and they are often left with serious, life-altering injuries. Some even lose their lives. But can you sue after a bike accident in California?
Common Issues Encountered by Cyclists After Accidents
One of the most common issues you might encounter after a road accident is a denied insurance claim. For example, you might be struck by a driver and suffer a traumatic head injury that requires tens of thousands of dollars in medical expenses – plus weeks, months, or even years of missed wages. And that is not even counting the psychological damage that an accident like this can cause.
Your first instinct might be to turn to your own insurance policy. However, your car insurance may only provide you with coverage if you were actually driving your car at the time of your crash. As a result, you may need to turn to the at-fault driver’s insurance policy. The issue here is that the minimum liability amount for legal insurance coverage is just $15,000 in California. This means that if your medical bills and total losses exceed this amount, you start running into major issues.
Things can get even more problematic if the driver who hit you is uninsured. This is illegal, and the driver can be charged an infraction for driving without insurance and face the loss of their license by the California DMV. If the driver is uninsured, it can be difficult to receive compensation unless they have personal assets that can be used. Of course if the driver does not have insurance and has little or no personal assets, you may have virtually no way to get compensation for your injuries.
One possible solution to protect yourself in this situation is to obtain your own uninsured motorist (UM) or underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage from your insurance carrier. Most experts agree that if you ride your bike frequently in California, this is basically mandatory. This type of insurance ensures that even if you get into an accident where no one has insurance, you can still pursue compensation. This is especially useful after hit-and-run crashes.
If a negligent motorist does the right thing and pulls over after hitting you, there is always the chance of suing them directly – even if they do not have insurance or if their insurance policy does not cover your total damages. California is a tort state, which means that you must prove negligence in order to receive compensation. This also means that you have the opportunity to sue negligent parties directly instead of simply turning to insurance policies. However, if the driver does not pull over and escapes the scene of the accident, you are left with few options. UM and UIM insurance addresses this issue by ensuring you always have a path towards compensation – even after a hit-and-run.
Public Entity Claims
In the appropriate case, a claim for compensation can be made against a public entity, such as a city, county or state government for their negligence. On November 1, 2022, it was reported that a plaintiff had received a settlement of $250,000 from the municipality of San Diego after an accident involving an electric bicycle. The plaintiff alleged that she had struck a “patch of broken and raised asphalt” on a bike lane in La Jolla, causing her to fall from her bicycle. This injury resulted in a broken tibia and torn knee ligaments, and it was reported that she would likely need a total knee replacement at some point. Also, on November 1st, it was reported that San Diego was providing an injured victim with a settlement of $170,000 for a similar accident involving an electric bicycle. In this case, the plaintiff had hit a pothole near Mission Bay, causing her to fall from her bicycle and break her clavicle.
In both of these situations, the plaintiffs successfully argued that the city failed to maintain its roads and bike lanes and that this negligence led directly to serious bike accidents. Potholes and raised patches of asphalt represent just a few examples of potential negligence on the part of a public entity. Other examples include confusing signage that leads cyclists straight into oncoming traffic – or the lack of bike lanes in certain areas.
Cyclists Must Obey the Rules of the Road
Finally, it is worth mentioning that, for all intents and purposes, bicycles are considered motor vehicles in the eyes of the law. This means that they must abide by the same general rules as motorized passenger vehicles, and you cannot expect any special treatment simply because you are riding a bike. If you break the rules of the road and get into an accident, it may be difficult to pursue compensation. That being said, California’s comparative negligence laws mean that you can receive a lowered settlement even if you were partly to blame for your own injuries.
Where Can I Find a Personal Injury Attorney in Redlands?
If you have been searching for a qualified, experienced personal injury attorney in Redlands, look no further than Milligan, Beswick, Levine & Knox, LLP. Over the years, we have helped numerous injured plaintiffs in California – and we know how serious and life-changing a bike accident can be. Whether you are filing after suffering injuries yourself or you are seeking justice on behalf of a deceased family member, we can help. During your consultation, we will assess your unique situation and determine the best route forward. From there, we can assist with virtually every aspect of your personal injury claim – including negotiating for a settlement, gathering evidence, and arguing in court. With a settlement, you can pay for damages such as emotional distress, medical expenses, missed wages, and much more. Book your consultation to get started today.
Stephen Levine, is a Board Certified Specialist in Criminal Defense — an honor achieved by only the top criminal law attorneys in California. Mr. Levine has over 40 years of experience in criminal defense and family law serving Southern California, and is a highly regarded Super Lawyer as well as AV Rated attorney.