How Do Bicycle Accidents Happen in Orange County, CA?
Bicyclists have many of the same rights as the drivers of motor vehicles in California, such as the ability to “take a lane” and occupy space in moving traffic on some roads. However, they also face unique restrictions and risks compared to motor vehicle drivers. A bicycle offers virtually no physical protection to the rider in a crash, so bicycle accidents tend to result in severe injuries to the cyclists involved. When a driver hits a bicycle or causes a bicyclist to crash, the incident is likely to generate a personal injury claim. Some of the most commonly cited causes of bicycle accidents that lead to civil cases in Costa Mesa include:
- Distracted driving. All drivers and cyclists are legally required to operate their vehicles attentively. Unfortunately, a few seconds of distracted driving is all it may take to cause devastating injuries.
- Driving under the influence (DUI) of drugs or alcohol. When an accident happens because of DUI, the at-fault driver faces criminal charges and civil liability for the victims’ damages. Bicyclists are also eligible for DUI charges if they ride their bikes while intoxicated in California.
- Speeding. If a driver exceeds the posted speed limit, they reduce the time and space they have to avoid a collision. Therefore, a speeding driver can easily cause a devastating accident with a cyclist, which could equate to the at-fault driver facing prosecution for reckless driving and a civil claim from the injured cyclist.
- Moving violations. Drivers and cyclists can easily cause accidents if they fail to abide by posted traffic signs and commit moving violations. For example, illegal turns, inappropriate lane changes, running red lights, and failing to stop at stop signs can all cause accidents.
- Poor visibility. Bicyclists should do what they can to make themselves noticeable, especially if they ride their bikes at night. Drivers must also use extra caution when driving at night or during poor visibility periods.
After a bicycle accident occurs, the parties involved must remain at the accident scene until first responders arrive. Many bicycle accidents result in severely injured cyclists who will need immediate medical care. At-fault drivers who fail to report these incidents to the authorities or attempt to flee the scene of a bicycle accident can face hit-and-run charges.
First responders can provide medical care to injured victims of the accident, and the police will investigate the scene and interview the parties involved. In addition, they will take statements from any eyewitnesses who saw the crash and compile a police report. If you intend to file a civil claim for your recent bicycle accident, the police report of the incident will be invaluable to your case.
Success with your bicycle accident claim hinges on your ability to prove fault for the incident. For example, if another driver hit you while you were riding your bike, you must be able to show the driver failed to use reasonable care in the situation in question or that they intentionally caused the accident somehow. Your Costa Mesa bicycle accident attorney can help you gather any evidence you may need to establish fault, such as traffic camera footage, cell phone records, or witness statements.
Compensation for Bicycle Accident Damages in California
California’s personal injury statutes allow the plaintiff in a personal injury case to seek full repayment of all the economic losses suffered due to a defendant’s actions. Bicycle accidents tend to cause severe injuries, so the plaintiff’s medical expenses will likely form a large share of their total economic damages. The plaintiff has the right to recover the costs of all medical treatments they required due to the accident. These include immediate health care costs for emergency treatment and ongoing rehabilitative care the victim needs.
The victim of a bicycle accident may not be able to work for an extended time, and the defendant in their claim would be liable for the income lost during this period. Your attorney can assist you in calculating your lost wages, and you will likely need their assistance to calculate lost future earnings if you cannot return to work. If a defendant’s actions result in a permanent injury to a plaintiff and the plaintiff cannot work in the future because of it, the defendant is liable for the plaintiff’s lost future earning capacity.
The plaintiff of a bicycle accident claim can also seek repayment of the cost of their bike and any other property damaged or destroyed in the incident. The plaintiff may discover that their claimable economic losses amount to more than they expected at first, but their recovery may not stop there. California state law also allows for the claiming of non-economic damages in personal injury cases.
Non-economic damages are the intangible losses resulting from a personal injury, such as the victim’s physical pain and emotional suffering. This may seem difficult to quantify with a dollar value, but an experienced Costa Mesa bicycle accident attorney can use different methods to calculate appropriate pain and suffering compensation for their client. For example, if the plaintiff is expected to make a full recovery relatively soon, their attorney may seek per diem pain and suffering compensation every day until the plaintiff reaches maximum medical improvement. On the other hand, if the plaintiff sustained severe injuries likely to cause permanent harm, the attorney may seek a large lump sum of pain and suffering compensation instead.
Determining Liability for a Bicycle Accident in Costa Mesa
Your total claimable damages could be far more than you initially anticipated if you have the right Costa Mesa bicycle accident lawyer handling your case. However, you must prove the defendant is liable for these damages to obtain the compensation you need after your accident. Success with a personal injury case requires the plaintiff to prove the defendant’s actions directly resulted in the plaintiff’s claimed damages. Your attorney can help you accomplish this by effectively leveraging the evidence available in your case.
It’s important to remember that California upholds a pure comparative negligence statute. This statute comes into play whenever a plaintiff bears partial fault for the damages they’ve claimed in a personal injury suit. Some defendants may assert comparative negligence to reduce their own liability, claiming the plaintiffs suing them bear partial responsibility for causing the accidents in question.
If you are found to be partially responsible for a bicycle accident or any other personal injury in California, the judge handling your case will assign fault percentages to you and the defendant. You may still recover compensation for your damages, but you will lose a portion of the final case award equal to your fault percentage. For example, if you are determined to be 10% at fault in a $300,000 claim, you would lose 10% or $30,000 of your case award. If you have any concerns about bearing partial responsibility for your recent bicycle accident, discuss these issues with your attorney.
Q: Who Is Usually at Fault if a Bicycle Is Involved in an Accident?
A: In most cases involving motor vehicle drivers hitting cyclists, the drivers are typically more at fault than the cyclists. This is because a motor vehicle is inherently more dangerous to others than a bicycle; therefore, the driver has a higher duty of care to prevent accidents. However, a bicyclist can absorb partial fault for a bicycle accident if they are negligent in a manner that contributes to causing the incident.
Q: Will a Driver Go to Jail for Hitting a Bicyclist?
A: If a driver hits a bicyclist, they are liable for any damages they cause to the cyclist under the personal injury laws of California. The situation would only call for criminal charges against the driver if the driver were engaged in any unlawful activity when the accident occurred, such as driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, excessively speeding, or fleeing the scene of another criminal act.
Q: What Happens If a Bicycle Accident Is Fatal?
A: In the event that a driver causes a fatal bicycle accident, the victim’s family would have the right to file a wrongful death claim against the responsible driver. Depending on how the accident happened and whether the victim died immediately from the incident, the family may also have the right to file a survival action with their wrongful death claim. The at-fault driver could face prosecution for causing the death.
Q: How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Costa Mesa Bicycle Accident Attorney?
A: It’s understandable to worry about the cost of legal fees when you need to hire a lawyer. Easton & Easton makes our legal services accessible to those who need them most with contingency fee billing. Under a contingency fee agreement, we only take a legal fee once we win our client’s case, and the client pays no upfront legal costs. If we fail to obtain a recovery, there is no fee for the client, and when we win, our fee is a percentage of the final case award.
Time is a critical concern after any personal injury. California upholds a two-year statute of limitations for personal injury cases, but it is always best to start building your case as soon as possible for the best chance of success. To discuss your claim with an experienced Costa Mesa bicycle accident attorney, contact Easton & Easton today and schedule your consultation with our team.