The state of California boasts of fair weather all year round, which makes it ideal for bicyclists traveling down to the beach, running errands, or merely exercising. Nonetheless, the state records numerous bicycle accidents, and these usually crashes often leave victims with severe bodily harm due to the forces of impact. In extreme cases, victims succumb to their injuries on the spot or while undergoing treatment.
Orange County Personal Injury Attorney has excellent experience handling cases where negligent motorists hurt bicycle riders. If you were involved in such an accident, you have the imperative to seek medical attention immediately even when things appear normal. Bad crashes could leave you in anguish, and keep you from going to work. Read on to see how bicycle accidents happen, the sort of injuries you can incur, and how we can help you get compensation from the liable party.
Statistics on Bicycle Accidents in Orange County
According to the OC Register, there were 14 fatalities involving bicycle accidents in 2018 alone, and in 2017, the number of people killed in bicycle accidents stood at sixteen. Crashes involving cyclists have become so pervasive that authorities are worried about the scourge of distracted driving, here and in other jurisdictions.
These accidents and fatalities are preventable, but everyone must play their role in keeping Orange County safe for bicyclists. Initiatives like the National Bike to Work Week (May 13 through 19) are helping to create awareness, but more needs to be done. Addressing road rage is a great place to start.
Research by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety surmised that 80% of drivers self-reported to have expressed road rage at one point or another in 2017. More so, a minimum of 50% of these deadly crashes is triggered by an aggressive driver. The county government also needs to make roads safe for cyclists.
For instance, cyclists riding on the far right can barely make it through as they navigate piles of debris. Motorists are also notorious for opening car doors without any warning, which is dangerous for cyclists. Requiring cyclists to ride on the far right of the road makes them less visible to drivers. Even the slightest distraction could have catastrophic consequences on an innocent cyclist.
The California Department of Motor Vehicles is keen to make roads safer for cyclists, but they must re-educate motorists on road safety. For example, drivers are mandated to look right and left before making a turn or merging into bicycle lanes. Authorities are calling upon motorists, cyclists, and other road users to exercise civility for the safety of all.
Bicycle Laws in California
Under the California Vehicle Code, everyone riding a bicycle to adhere to the safety regulations, just like other motorists, but there are no mandatory helmet laws. Therefore, wearing personal protective gear is left upon one's discretion, and this freedom is where tragedy for cyclists begin. However, persons under the age of 17 must wear a helmet when riding on public streets, trails, or bike paths. Also, the helmet must fit and be fastened to the head with a certified strap.
If you wish to use a bike to run errands in Orange County or for leisure purposes, you must follow the following laws:
- Bikes must have a white light at the front and a red light on the back
- Cyclists must follow every traffic control and signal
- All bikes must have a functional braking system
- Bicycles must have handlebars that rest below the ride’s shoulder level
- The bike must be of the right size so the cyclist can operate while seated upright and they must be able to put one foot on the ground
- Cyclists cannot ferry passengers on a bike that is not equipped to carry more than one person
- Riders must use designated bike paths or the curb when not riding at the speed of motorists
- Cyclists using sidewalks are subject to the same rights and duties as pedestrians
What is Comparative Negligence?
The term comparative negligence is used while determining who is liable for the accident; is it the motorist, or is it the bicycle rider? The goal here is to establish whose actions caused the accident and to what degree, even when both parties did something, they shouldn't have. For instance, a bicycle rider who fails to use the designated bike lane or doesn't follow traffic light signals can trigger a crash. Similarly, a driver who refuses to leave the required safe distance between them and the bicycle can cause an accident.
What Are Punitive Damages?
When a bicycle accident occurs, the court may conclude that the liable party was negligent and also willfully reckless. For example, a motorist who finds cyclists in Orange County bothersome may have yielded to road rage and hit you deliberately to teach you a lesson. In this case, the guilty party will pay punitive damages which means the overall compensation will be higher than if they were just negligent.
Bicycle Accidents without a Helmet?
Research findings link fatalities in bicycle accidents to the refusal to wear a bicycle helmet. More so, riders are required to use the bike lane, and if there is none, they should ride on the right side of the road while leaving a safe distance between them and cars. You must ensure your helmet is certified for safety.
An excellent bicycle helmet must have a U.S. Department of Transportation label (indicated as "DOT"), proving the manufacturer adheres to the required federal safety standards. Despite these regulations to enhance safety, Orange County and the rest of California experience many bicycle accidents with many leading to fatalities.
If you were involved in an accident without a helmet, you can still seek compensation from the liable entity. As mentioned above, comparative fault establishes who is at fault and to what extent, which means the other motorists’ actions cannot be overlooked.
What Happens After a Bicycle Accident?
Just like other motorist accidents, you should contact the police immediately so they can determine liability. Call for paramedics to attend to your injuries and take you to the hospital if necessary. If you are in a position to take pictures, document the scene, and speak to eyewitnesses. Do not admit any fault until you talk to a qualified attorney.
The police will conduct an investigation and make an official report, which will be used in court. Your injury attorney will need these findings to help you file a claim against the other motorist. If you suffered injuries during the crash, we should help you compute a settlement figure to cover medical expenses. Moreover, the liable party needs to pay for lost income and subsequent medical bills and prescriptions.
Even when the accident does not cause substantial bodily harm, you still need qualified representation, so you get a fair settlement. The insurance adjuster will examine the case to determine how much compensation you deserve, and these people are notorious for cutting corners. Let an experienced personal injury attorney handle these negotiations, so the system does not bully you.
What Can Injuries Result from Bicycle Accidents?
Riding your bicycle on the streets of Orange County is a game of chance that can lead to disastrous results of you encounter a motorist. You could lose your balance and fall off the bike or suffer significant injuries due to the forces of impact. In this section, we look at the various kinds of damages you are likely to get if you are involved in a bicycle accident, and how they affect your life.
Soft Tissue Injuries
Soft tissue injuries on muscles, skin, tendons, etc. are common after hitting a wall or pavement. These injuries may cause extreme pain for days, thus preventing you from normal activities like work or playing with the kids. The body relies on nerves for many functions so you must have your nerves checked, so they are treated before complications start. Automatic nerves manage breathing and other control activities, motor nerves support the movement, while sensory nerves convey information to and from the brain.
These nerves are intricately connected such that you could feel pain in one area, but the damage happened in another part. Conventional treatments for soft tissue damage include biofeedback, electrical nerve stimulation, and acupuncture. If the pain persists, you may require a series of physiotherapy treatments to restore the affected body parts to normal function.
Please note, nerve complications are not as easy to prove as physical injuries, and the other party may not yield to your calls for medical treatments. Orange County Personal Injury Attorney will provide the necessary support you need to get compensation, so you are not left with mounting bills.
If you are not wearing personal protective equipment (PPE), chances are your face will be injured in an accident. You may slide on the road or pavement and scar on one side of the face, or you could be struck by another vehicle. Sometimes the helmet may come undone due to impact, thus leaving your head and face exposed to injury.
In extreme cases, your face will be disfigured, and this will affect your appearance, not to mention drawing unwanted attention from others. You may need reconstructive surgery to remove or conceal the scars, and these procedures are expensive. If you had a client-facing job such as a receptionist or modeling, you might find it challenging to secure employment with scarring on the face.
Being out of a job and having scars on your face is likely to dampen your self-esteem. Let us hold the negligent driver accountable, so you don't have to forego necessary treatments to restore your look.
Neck and Head Injuries
If a vehicle strikes you and sends you flying off the bike, you are likely to hurt your head. Wearing a helmet helps in cushioning the skull, but this protective gear can come off, especially if it wasn't fastened properly. Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) can follow a violent blow or jolt to the head after crashing into a vehicle or other hard surfaces. You may get a concussion, internal bleeding, and even brain damage that could have lasting effects.
There are common symptoms of TBI, such as drowsiness, slurred speech, and feeling dazed. Cognitive issues like developing mental disorders and memory problems are also indicative of traumatic brain injury. If you experience any of these symptoms following the accident, you must get a proper diagnosis and start treatment.
Dislocating or breaking your neck upon impact is another possibility which means wearing a neck brace for a couple of weeks. The pain is unbearable, and your movement will be limited, not to mention the discomfort of walking around with a neck brace.
As mentioned above, the nervous system is a complicated and fragile group of cells that convey information from various body parts to the brain. If these cells are damaged in an accident, you will suffer extreme pain, numbness, or weakness in the affected areas. This pain and discomfort may last several months to years, even while undergoing treatment, and accurate diagnosis is not always forthcoming.
If the doctors can identify what is wrong, impinged nerves can trigger pain in other parts of the body, thus making life unbearable for you. The spinal cord is yet another sensitive area that could lead to many problems, and in extreme cases, you may use a wheelchair. The accident could lead to rotation, dislocation, bending, and possible hyper-flexion or hyperextension of the spinal cord.
Even when the injuries seem mild, rule out the possibility of neurological damage by getting tested immediately after the accident. Neurological damage is not easy to treat, and you may find yourself in and out of the hospital several times, and these visits cost money, especially when you have to see specialists.
The problem may never go away completely, which means spending a lifetime managing pinched or failing nerves, and related issues. These bills could drain your savings and eventually bankrupt you. Allow us to intervene so we can hold that motorist accountable for punitive damages.
Arm, Hand & Finger Injuries
The rider can also suffer injuries to the hands, fingers, and arms. You could have slid across the pavement, thus breaking your fingers, the tiny bones in your hand, and the long bone in the arm. Palm sliders are essential to protect your hands and fingers, but as we have seen numerous times, most cyclists don't wear them.
Damage to your fingers, hand, and arm will affect their functionality and keep you from performing mundane tasks like washing dishes, preparing meals, or holding things. If you work in labor-intensive jobs like construction, losing the functionality of your hands and fingers means losing your livelihood.
What's more, you may find it difficult to secure another job when your arms and hands are out of commission. Loss of income will negatively impact your family, and that is why you need to seek compensation from the negligent party.
Broken and Split Bones
Colliding with a truck will break, split, or shatter your bones due to the forces of impact, especially when the vehicle is driving at high speeds. You could also roll down a hill and land on a hard surface, thus cracking a femur and other bones. You could also suffer damage when the bike flips and lands on top of your body as you lay prostrate on the ground.
Fiberglass or plaster casts are used to reposition bones, so their normal anatomy resumes. The physician may also recommend wearing a functional brace, but this method will impede the locomotion of adjacent joints. If you fracture many bones, you require more extensive intervention such as open reduction where the physician repositions the bones manually.
The healing process usually takes three steps: the inflammatory phase, the reparative phase, and the remodeling phase, which means spending several weeks without going to work. Failure to address broken bones adequately may lead to clotting of blood in surrounding vessels, infections, and swelling of joints.
Mouth and Dental Injuries
Damage to the mouth is a common outcome following bicycle accidents. Dental injuries happen after colliding into an oncoming vehicle head-on, being thrown off the bike and landing on the pavement, etc. You may suffer from avulsed teeth where they are removed from their sockets, and this will affect your bite and appearance. You can replace missing teeth with prosthetics, and these don't come cheap.
Chipping teeth are also common, and you will need therapeutic procedures like composite fillings. The dentist may also recommend veneers to restore your smile and prevent further damage to the affected teeth. The impact of the crash can twist or dislodge teeth, and this will affect your speech and chewing. All these teeth problems require orthodontist treatments, and your dental insurance may not cover them.
Hiring an experienced personal injury attorney helps you get a fair settlement, so you are not left covering these bills alone. Remember, you will probably be out of work for a few days or weeks, which means fewer resources to cater to such unplanned expenses.
Some bicycle accidents are so severe that victims end up losing arms or legs during the crash. Extensive nerve damage can also lead to amputation to save the rest of your leg. For instance, the affected limb could start swelling, getting numb, or you feel a tingling sensation.
Partial foot amputations, removing full arms, partial hand amputations, ankle disarticulation, etc. are examples of amputation procedures. Doctors warn about the phantom limb, a psychological trauma where you imagine the missing part is still there. Partial or full amputation affects your mobility and will keep you from applying for specific jobs such as construction. If you cannot secure any work, you may have to subsist on disability checks as a temporary or permanent arrangement.
Post -Traumatic Stress Disorder
The American Psychiatric Association defines post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a mental health condition that results from witnessing a horrific event such as a road accident. Surviving a bicycle crash may leave you with a host of emotional problems such as uncontrollable thoughts about the accident.
Nightmares, extreme anxiety, and fear of riding your bike down to the coast are not atypical. If not addressed, PTSD can manifest in many ways and lead to emotional numbness and general hopelessness. You may find it hard to move forward with relationships in your personal life and at work. Coping with these symptoms requires many interventions such as physical exercise and attending therapy sessions.
Apart from the above injuries, there are other damages linked to bicycle accidents:
- Bowel contusion
- Pancreatic trauma
- Facial fractures
- Ruptured spleen, among others
- Accepting a Personal Injury Settlement
We mentioned earlier that insurance adjusters are keen to downplay your suffering so they can save the insurance company money. As your legal counsel, it is our job to protect your interests, so you are not bullied into accepting a low offer.
Medical bills are not your only concern; you need money to take care of your family while you are out of work recuperating. Remember, some medical problems may take several weeks to many months before you can safely return to work. Depending on your employment contract, you are likely to have lost your job by then. Finding another source of income in this economy is not easy, and what's more, the new position may come with a pay cut.
Sometimes the negligent party may present an offer before legal proceedings start and you may be tempted to take it for survival purposes. Whatever the case may be, your injury attorneys will work until you get a fair settlement, so you are not left in financial ruin.
Find the Best Personal Injury Attorney Near Me
Bicycle accidents frequently happen in Orange County, and the victims are usually left with injuries that alter their lives forever. You may never work in your field again, or you may become a wheelchair user, or you may suffer permanent disfigurement. Whatever the damage, you need an experienced personal injury attorney to fight for you.
Orange County Personal Injury Attorney understands what you are going through, and we have many resources at our disposal to litigate your case. We have handled many personal injury cases where clients like you were left in bad shape and medical bills kept piling up. Additionally, if your loved one died as a direct result of the accident, we can help you file a wrongful death suit against the negligent party.
We know every method in the book and will use this knowledge to our advantage so you can walk away with a sizeable settlement. Our goal is to ensure you can take care of your family now and in the future. Contact us today on 714-876-1959 to speak to a qualified legal mind who will advise you on the way forward.