Bicycle Accident Attorney Referral Service

What are California rules on bike accidents?

In California, Gov. Jerry Brown recently signed a bill into law requiring motor vehicles give cyclists three (3) feet of clearance when passing from behind. The law took effect September 14, 2014. Bicyclists must also follow the same road rules as motor vehicle operators, but it’s now a crime if you’re a driver to not safely pass a cyclist when traveling the same direction on a highway. These rules are put in place to combat some of the common causes of bicycle accidents, which are:

  • A bike rider using the wrong side of the road
  • A motor vehicle operator making an unsafe left or right turn;
  • A bike rider going from a driveway or sidewalk into the path of a car;
  • A motor vehicle operator opening his or her door as a bicyclist passes, causing the bike to crash into the door;
  • Bicyclists weaving, leaving the edge of the road, or the edge of the bike lane;
  • A bike rider making an unsafe left turn;
  • Bicycles that do not have headlights or reflectors, making them less visible during evening and night rides.

Can I still get compensation if I was not in a bike lane?

If a bike lane is on a roadway in California, then bicyclists are required to use them. There is no requirement under California law to use a bike lane or path that is not on a roadway. The applicable law states that if a person is operating a bicycle on a road at a speed less than the normal speed of traffic moving in the same direction on that road at that time, the bike rider shall use the bike lane, if one is available on the road.

However, there are circumstances in which a bicyclist is not required to use a bike lane on a road. These circumstances include:

  • When preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway;
  • When passing another bike, vehicle, or pedestrian who is within the lane or about to enter the lane if the passing cannot be done safely within the lane;
  • When it is reasonably necessary to leave the bike lane in order to avoid hazardous conditions;
  • When approaching a location where a right turn is authorized.

If a bike rider wishes to leave the bike lane, he or she must do so with reasonable safety and only after giving an appropriate signal in the event that there is a motor vehicle that may be affected by the bike leaving the bike lane.

Because bike riders are required to be in bicycle lanes if they are provided, aside from the specific circumstances mentioned above, a bike rider may not be able to be compensated if he or she is in an accident while he or she is not in a bike lane.

There is not a one-size-fits-all answer

Many other factors apply in determining whether a bicyclist who has been in an accident can receive compensation for his or her injuries and/or property damage. Because bike accidents normally fall under the “negligence” theory of liability, a cycling accident victim would be well-served in consulting with a personal injury attorney who has handled many California bike accident claims.

A bike accident attorney will be able to properly advise an injured cyclist on his or her rights in the event of an accident, whether the bike rider was utilizing the appropriate bike lane or not.

It should also be noted that cyclists are only required to use bike lanes that are in the roadway upon which they are riding. As a result, if the bike lane is not on the roadway, the bicyclist is not required to use that lane.

Furthermore, if the motor vehicle driver’s conduct was especially egregious, or if the bicyclist was following the rules set forth under California law for when a bike does not have to be in a bike lane, the bike accident victim may be entitled to compensation.

How can an attorney help me get compensation?

A bicycle accident attorney will be well-versed in the law surrounding bicycle accidents in California. Additionally, a personal injury attorney who has handled many bicycle accident cases will be able to evaluate your case based on its facts and circumstances and tell you whether you will be able to obtain compensation for your injuries.

Personal injury attorneys are also skilled in negotiating settlement agreements. Oftentimes a personal injury case will not go to trial. That is, the case is settled out-of-court, which drastically reduces litigation costs and the time it takes to obtain compensation for damages. Your attorney may be able to negotiate a settlement with the negligent party that will allow you to recover from your injuries and move on with your life.

Even if you are unable to settle with the negligent party, bicycle accident attorneys have the skill and knowledge to bring your case to trial in front of a jury. Your attorney will know courtroom procedures and the best way to present your case to a group of your peers. Working with a skilled lawyer will ensure that your case is persuasive and that every single important piece of evidence is presented to a jury or judge, which will maximize your chances of receiving damages at the end of the trial.

How do I find the right attorney?

If you need a Personal Injury bicycle accident attorney, contact the Attorney Referral Service (ARS) of the San Fernando Valley Bar Association. The ARS makes it its mission to help the public find the right attorney right away. Call today for your free consultation: (818) 340-4529.