Claim Procedures For California Cyclists & Bicycle Accident Victims
Yes. With all of these laws about riding bicycles in and around California, and in the Los Angeles Metropolitan area specifically, how is cycling supposed to be an enjoyable activity? The truth is that most of the time, bicycle riders are not cited for violations of applicable code (state or municipal) unless something else happens first, such as when a bicycle rider gets hit by a car, or said rider hits a pedestrian. The reason is that it is just too difficult to be clear as to what the applicable laws are for one city versus the next, and you may inadvertently ride from one city to another. Some municipalities prohibit bicycling on the sidewalk in defined “business districts.” Some require bicyclists to travel in the same direction as traffic in the adjacent lane. Some prohibit sidewalk-riding outright.
Which one applies when? Depends on what jurisdiction you are in. Burbank? San Fernando? Santa Monica? Malibu? Then, you also have to deal with the governing standard. For example, within the City of Los Angeles, bicycling on a sidewalk is permitted as long as you do not show “willful and wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.” This means riding at a cautious speed, yielding the right-of-way to pedestrians, and watching for storefront doors opening onto the sidewalk. So when does your riding cross that line and become a violation of applicable law? What is that standard? Unfortunately, many times, it simply becomes a case-by-case basis, where a violation of the law is determined simply by resorting to the smell test – meaning that if it seems bad, then it probably is bad.
They can affect your personal injury claim and most times they do. After a bicycle versus automobile accident, where a car collides with a rider on a bicycle, liability has to be determined to see who is at fault, and who is responsible for the ensuing damages – both to property and to the individuals involved. The vast majority of the time, the rider of the bicycle will have sustained the greatest amount of bodily injury. Nevertheless, if that rider was cited for being in violation of applicable bicycle laws, such as not riding with a helmet, not having reflective markings on their clothing, or maybe riding against traffic, then there will surely be an attempt by the driver’s insurance company to put the blame on the bicycle rider. Even in a scenario where there is fault on the part of the driver of the vehicle, they will most likely attribute some fault to the rider of the bicycle as well, which will reduce or prevent compensation from being obtained later on.
So what should you do as a bicycle rider after an accident involving a motor vehicle? Hire a lawyer, sooner rather than later. You will not want to make any statements about the accident to anyone (other than medical providers, and even then, never admit to being at fault or talk about causation) until after you retain counsel from an experienced bicycle accident attorney.
At Venerable Injury Law, we are experienced in demonstrating why a bicycle rider who may have been in violation of the complex system of applicable bicycle laws immediately prior to an accident is not at fault. We have fought back against insurance companies trying to place blame on our clients simply because they failed to comply with the confusing and intricate overlapping layers of state and municipal bicycle ordinance. One such recent case involved a client who was struck by a vehicle while riding his bicycle on the wrong side of the road. They were initially denied any recovery by the insurance company due to a number of citations issued by police officers arriving on the scene, including failure to wear proper P.P.E. (personal protective equipment), riding on the wrong side of the road, and riding on the sidewalk. Thereafter, the insurance investigator alleged, based on his review of social media sources, that the client was not injured and that they were in violation of applicable regulations regarding use of a bicycle on the highway.
After filing suit and crafting a compelling explanation involving the client’s fitness lifestyle and chain of events leading up to the accident itself, our team was able to expertly pick apart the insurance defense counsel’s case against our client. This resulted in the insurance company tendering the policy maximum to settle the case — even though they had been adamant that they were not going to pay client anything and the client was considering dropping his claim! By crafting a story to show the client’s credibility, the insurance company had no choice but to give in to Venerable’s winning reputation.