Initially, one of three scenarios comes to mind. We see a lot of accidents on the bike trail. In the Sacramento area, we have a very nice and long bike trail, and people go pretty fast. We see a lot of lane changing, clipping, and people going down hard. We have those types of injuries on the bike trail.
Another accident we see frequently involves cars turning right while a bicycle proceeds straight in the same direction. The car doesn’t see him. As the car’s turning right, he picks off the bicycle.
The third accident we see is when bikes cross streets. Whether the car’s going straight or turning right, the bike ends up in front of the car. Thusly, other than the bike lane, the accidents are generally all on public streets and highways.
Are There Any Rules of the Road that Differ Between Bicycles and Vehicles?
The vehicle code says bicycles are to be treated the same as vehicles. Thusly, the general answer is no, they’re treated the same.
There are some code sections that appertain to riding on sidewalks that are a little bit different for bikes. Certain circumstances allow bikes to ride on sidewalks; but absent that, they’re typically treated the same as a vehicle.
How Do Fault and No-Fault States Apply to Bicycle Accidents?
New York is a No Fault state. The bad thing about no fault states for victims is that their recovery is limited to a certain amount.
California is not a no fault state. Thus, if you’re a person on a bicycle or any other victim of an accident, you have to prove that your negligence caused your injury. You must prove your damages. I much prefer the states that are not No-fault states.
Are There Any Helmet Laws in California For Bicycles?
Yes. Minors are required to wear helmets, and adults are not required. However, I saw recently that there is some legislation requiring adults to wear them. I guess, in the long run, that law will pass. It hasn’t as of right now. At that point, everyone will have to wear them, not just children.
In either case, child or adult, if you don’t wear a helmet, you get in an accident, and you have a head injury, the other side will make a Comparative Fault argument that you should have been wearing the helmet. They’ll state it was reasonable to wear a helmet and that if you didn’t wear one and you received a substantial head injury, it is apparently your fault.
How Do Insurance Companies Come into Play For Bicycle Accidents?
Typically, your auto policy does not cover a bicycle unless it’s motorized. Thusly, your motorcycle is covered, but a regular 2-wheel bicycle is not covered.
The bicycle accident may be covered under your homeowner’s policy. So, when we’re filing suit against somebody, we must discover if they have insurance that covers the accident. We’d look toward a homeowner’s policy for coverage.
If the Bicycle Accident is My Fault, Will the Case be Very Difficult for Me?
Just because the insurance company says it’s your fault, doesn’t mean it is your fault. If an attorney for the insurance company calls you and tells you it’s your fault, if an adjuster tells you it’s your fault, it doesn’t mean it is. These people are not judges, and they’re not juries.
At this point, we would look at the facts of the case, talk to any percipient witnesses, look at the physical evidence, and make our own independent evaluation of who’s at fault.
Oftentimes, in car accidents or bike accidents, police officers are called, and they do a report. The police officer will frequently render an opinion about fault. That opinion is not admissible in court. However, most of the public doesn’t understand that. The police officers are not considered experts and therefore cannot render opinions in court.
If the opinion is favorable to the insurance company, the insurance company will hang on to that. Thusly, we make an independent analysis, and if we feel there is a case there, we pursue it.
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