Anatomy of bike-vehicle accidents and potential legal remedies

These crashes happen far too often in Southern California and victims should be sure to get early and thorough legal advice.

Let's face it. We live in paradise in Southern California, which naturally calls for people to hit the roads on their bicycles. Unfortunately, all too often, vehicle-bicycle crashes result in serious injuries and even death.

On Nov. 13, 2019, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported that San Diego County's Health and Human Services Agency was the recipient of a $75,000 grant awarded by the California Office of Traffic Safety with federal funding. The money is earmarked to increase bicycle and pedestrian safety through public education and safety events.

The county's Medical Examiner's Office says that in 2017, three bicyclists died in San Diego County accidents and in 2018, the number of bicycle accident fatalities increased to nine, according to the Union-Tribune. Across the state, bicyclist deaths from 2012 to 2016 went up 14%.

Of course, there are many safety practices for bikers to follow that will decrease their chances of a vehicle-bike collision. Wear a well-fitting helmet and reflective clothing. Follow the rules of the road. Have front and back lights and reflectors on your bicycle. Do not drink alcohol or use fatigue-inducing drugs or medications.

But the bottom line is that the exposed human body on a bicycle is no match for a much heavier metal vehicle. Sadly, when a vehicle strikes a vulnerable body, the victim may suffer from head or brain injury, spinal cord injury, bone fractures, road rash, bruising and more - to say nothing of potential trauma, anxiety and depression.

When a driver fails to follow traffic laws or otherwise drives in a negligent or reckless manner and that negligent or illegal driving behavior causes a collision with a bicycle, the driver is legally responsible for the resulting harm to the rider.

Examples of such negligent driving include:

  • Speeding
  • Distracted driving such as using a mobile phone, playing loud music or eating behind the wheel
  • Driving an unsafe or poorly maintained vehicle such as one with bad brakes, bald tires or burnt out headlights
  • Failure to yield to bicycles
  • Failure to visually scan for bikers when making turns
  • Failure to adjust driving for wet pavement or weather conditions
  • Passing bicycles too closely

Anyone in Southern California who is the victim of a car-bicycle accident (or whose loved one has died in such a crash) should speak with an experienced attorney as soon as possible. Legal counsel can immediately launch an investigation of the incident on behalf of the victim while evidence and memories are fresh.

A lawyer can also look at potentially responsible parties other than just the driver of the vehicle. For example, did a governmental unit fail to maintain the pavement or roadway? Was the stretch of road poorly designed? Was there a defect in the vehicle or did a mechanic perform negligent maintenance?

Finally, legal counsel will carefully analyze the level of financial compensation adequate for the victim's losses. Damages may include those for past and future medical care, long-term care, pain and suffering, medical equipment and adaptive technology, adaptations to home and vehicle, housekeeping services, personal assistance services and more. For catastrophic, disabling injuries, careful thought must be given to future needs over many years.

The lawyers at Callahan & Blaine in Santa Ana represent victims of bike-vehicle accidents in personal injury claims as well as the surviving loved ones of those who pass away from such crashes in wrongful death lawsuits.