Fountain Valley Bicycle Accident Lawyer
Bicycling, whether for recreation, fitness, or even to commute to work, school etc., is surging in popularity across the United States, and the city of Fountain Valley is no exception. The city's Mile Square Park is a popular destination for those who wish to bike, jog or take a walk. There are also many here in this city who choose to ride a bicycle to school as well as to their places of employment. Bicycling is fun, healthy and an economical way to get around and avoid the increasing gas prices.
However, the growth of this activity has brought with it an increase in bicycle accident fatalities and injuries not just in Orange County, but also across California. Even as some cities in Orange County, including Fountain Valley, have dedicated bike lanes and specific laws enacted to protect bicyclists' safety, riders are injured or killed in accidents caused by reckless or negligent drivers. If you or a loved one has been injured in a Fountain Valley bicycle accident, please contact our experienced injury lawyers to find out how we can help protect your rights.
Bicycle Safety is a Serious Issue
According to the Orange County Coroner's records, 12 people were killed in bicycle accidents countywide in 2016. Despite new laws and thousands of dollars worth of public safety announcements and roadway improvements including "share the road" signs, Orange County averaged one bicycle death every month in 2016, involving bicyclists who were struck by vehicles.
A recent study by the Governors Highway Safety Association shows that 818 people died in bicycle accidents statewide in 2015, which is a 12.2 percent increase over the previous year. Bicycle deaths were only a small fraction of the 35,092 traffic accident fatalities on U.S. roadways in 2015. However, bicyclists were also the fastest-growing group dying on our roadways. California has the sixth-highest bicycle accident death rate in the nation. In 2010, there were 100 cycling deaths in the Golden State and in three years, that number had risen to 123 cyclists.
Thanks to helmet laws, the number of children who are being killed in bicycle accidents has plunged over the years. But, adult deaths have gone up nationwide. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most cycling deaths occur among adults 35 to 54 years old. In recent years, the death rate has gone up almost three-fold.
Bicycle Laws in California
There are several laws pertaining to bicycles in California. As a general rule, California Vehicle Code Section 21200 states that adult bicyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as drivers of other vehicles. This means that while other vehicles have a duty to yield the right of way to bicycles just as they would for other vehicles, bicyclists also have a duty to follow the rules of the road such as stopping for a red light or stop sign.
California Vehicle Code Section 21650 requires bicyclists to ride in the same direction as traffic. If traveling in the opposite direction of a one-way street, bicyclists must walk their bikes on the sidewalk. If bicyclists are riding on a roadway with a bike lane and are moving slower than traffic, they must use the bike lane. They can exit the bike lane after determining that it is reasonably safe to do so. Bicyclists may also leave the bike lane when they are making a left turn, passing another bicyclist, avoiding a pedestrian or car in the bike lane and approaching a location where a right turn is allowed.
Under California Vehicle Code Section 21954, bicyclists must yield the right of way to pedestrians who are walking in marked and unmarked crosswalks. Even when pedestrians are not in crosswalks, just like other drivers, bicyclists must exercise due care for the safety of any pedestrian on the roadway.
Bicycles must be equipped with a white light that is visible from a distance of 300 feet in front of the bike. In addition, bicycles must have a red reflector or a solid or flashing red light with a built-in reflector on the rear that is visible from a distance of 500 feet. Bicycles should also have a white or yellow reflector on each pedal and a white or yellow reflector on each side forward of the center of the bicycle.
Bicyclists under the age of 18 must wear an approved helmet when riding. Helmets are not mandatory for drivers 18 and older, but it would be in your best interest to wear one. Bicyclists are also not allowed under the law to wear earplugs or headsets covering both ears.
One of the most recent laws passed was the California Three Feet for Safety Act (California Vehicle Code Section 21670). This law requires a driver to provide a 3-foot buffer between his or her vehicle and the bicycle when passing. A driver who is not able to provide the minimum 3-foot passing distance due to traffic or roadway conditions must slow down to a reasonable speed while passing and only pass the bicyclist when it is reasonably safe to do so.
Several studies have consistently shown that negligent motorists cause a vast majority of bicycle accidents. Here are some of the most common causes of bicycle accidents in Fountain Valley and elsewhere:
- Failure to yield: A number of bicycle accidents, particularly those involving injuries and fatalities occur when a driver turns right into the path of a bicycle traveling in the same direction. This could happen because the driver may forget or neglect to use the turn signal. A car turning right must yield to a cyclist going straight through an intersection, just as one would yield to a pedestrian. Another common cause for bicycle accidents is when a driver turns left into the path of an oncoming bicyclist. A common excuse given for this failure to yield the right of way is that they never saw the bike. Drivers fall into the habit of looking for larger vehicles and fail to notice bicycles.
- Rear-end accidents: When drivers are impaired or distracted, the likelihood of a rear-end accident increases exponentially. In fact, rear-end accidents are among the most common causes of major injury or fatal bicycle accidents. When a vehicle rear-ends a bicycle, particularly at high speed, the consequences can be devastating.
- Dooring accidents: A “dooring” accident is one that occurs when a person in a parked car opens their door into a lane where a bicyclist is riding. The open door ends up striking the bicyclist. While the impact of a door opening can in itself cause significant injury, bicyclists may suffer catastrophic or fatal injuries if they are thrown into the path of oncoming traffic. California Vehicle Code 22517 states: “No person shall open the door of a vehicle on the side available to moving traffic unless it is reasonably safe to do so and can be done without interfering with the movement of such traffic, nor shall any person leave a door open on the side of a vehicle available to moving traffic for a period of time longer than necessary to load or unload passengers.”
- Bike lane intrusions: California law also requires motorists to operate their vehicles away from bike lanes except under very specific circumstances such as when a driver needs to make a turn. One of the most frequent types of bike accidents we see is when a driver veers into a bike lane and strikes the bicyclist. This occurs especially when the driver is impaired, drowsy or distracted.
- Roadway hazards: Bicycles are vulnerable to any debris that is present on the road and other such roadway hazards. These dangers range from rubble and other material that may be found on a roadway near a construction site to items that fell or were accidently dropped from other vehicles.
What to Do After a Bicycle Accident?
If you have been injured in a Fountain Valley bicycle accident, there are a number of steps you can take to make sure that your legal rights and best interests are protected. One of the first things to do in the aftermath of a bicycle accident is to file a police report. This helps ensure that the incident is properly documented. It would be in your best interest to get a copy of the police report.
You should get prompt medical attention, treatment and care for your injuries following your accident. Accept treatment at the scene and go to the emergency room. Also, be sure to schedule a follow-up visit with your doctor to see what types of future treatment or therapy you may need. If you have been seriously injured, you may need surgery, hospitalization and rehabilitative care. Make sure you preserve all receipts so you or your injury lawyer can make an accurate assessment of the compensation you deserve. Getting immediate treatment, in addition to establishing the nature and extent of your injuries and documenting the type of treatment you received, will help put you on track to recovering your health. And for many bicycle accident victims, this may be prove to a long and arduous path.
Gather as much evidence as possible from the scene. Make sure you do not discard or repair your damaged bicycle. It might be a crucial piece of evidence that helps establish fault and how or why the accident occurred. Your personal injury lawyer will be able to send a spoliation letter to all parties involved to help preserve all critical pieces of evidence that could help bolster your bicycle accident case.
Liability Issues in Bicycle Accidents
There are a number of parties that may be held liable for bicycle accidents.
- Motorists: The at-fault driver may be held financially responsible for your injuries and damages through his or her insurance company. However, if the driver does not have insurance or if you were injured in a hit-and-run crash, you may have to seek compensation through the uninsured motorist clause of your own auto insurance policy or from a quasi-state agency if there isn't a vehicle in your household. If the driver was on the job at the time of the accident, his or her employer can also be held liable.
- Governmental agencies: There are a number of bicycle accidents that are caused by dangerous roadways and/or intersections. In such cases, the governmental entity responsible for designing and maintaining the roadway can be held liable for the injuries and damages caused. This is often a city or county agency. In such cases, it is important to remember that claims may have to be filed within 180 days of the incident.
- Corporations: Hundreds of bicycle accidents every year are caused by dangerous or defective bicycles. Bicyclists are also hurt by faulty bike parts. You may have a claim particularly if your bicycle has been a part of a safety recall. However, it is important to remember that a number of defective products are not recalled by the manufacturer. An experienced personal injury lawyer who has successfully handled defective product cases will be able to help you determine if you also have a case against a bicycle or parts manufacturer.
Seeking Compensation for Your Losses
Injured victims of bicycle accidents, whether it involves a negligent motorist, a hit-and-run driver or a dangerous roadway condition, suffer significant injuries. Your injuries may keep you out of work for an extended period of time. Some suffer injuries so catastrophic that they are unable to return to work or even earn a livelihood. If you have been injured in a bicycle accident in Fountain Valley, you may be entitled to compensation including medical expenses, lost income, benefits, cost of hospitalization, rehabilitation and pain and suffering.
The experienced Fountain Valley bicycle accident lawyers at Bisnar Chase have a lengthy and successful track record of helping injured victims and their families secure maximum compensation for their losses and hold the at-fault parties accountable for their negligence. We will fight for your rights every step of the way and put four decades of experience to work for you. We have secured more than $500 Million for the clients we have represented. Please contact us at 949-203-3814 for a free consultation and comprehensive case evaluation.