California’s traffic codes seek to protect everyone who uses roads in the state, including bicyclists, motorists, and pedestrians. All these users enjoy the same rights and responsibilities on the road, though each has to observe a set of laws to ensure a safe and peaceful coexistence. Bicyclists, in particular, have distinct laws that protect them due to the slow nature of bicycles and the less physical protection that they enjoy while on the road.
Bicycle laws in California are advantageous when determining the at-fault party in the event of an accident. All bicyclists should adhere to all the existing rules to avoid issues when pursuing compensation after suffering a personal injury. For more information and guidance regarding bicycle laws in Orange County, CA, and how they might affect your case, get in touch with us at Orange County Personal Injury Attorney.
Bicycle Accidents in California
Bicycle accidents are common types of road accidents in California. There are several reasons why these accidents occur, including recklessness by road users and dangerous road conditions. Several people suffer severe injuries in such accidents when they occur. The good thing is that the state allows those that suffer personal injuries in bicycle accidents to pursue compensation from at-fault parties. The law also allows families that lose their loved ones in such accidents to seek compensation for the wrongful death of their loved ones. However, it is important to understand laws governing bicycle accidents in the state to ensure that nothing will get when it is time to file a lawsuit against the at-fault party.
Today, bicycle accidents are prevalent in most parts of the country. A lot of people prefer riding bikes for fun and also as a way to keep fit. Again, bicycles are cheaper to maintain, and riding one is less expensive than catching a bus to wherever. Anyone that rides a bike is at risk of getting into an accident. The nature of the accident determines the severity of the injuries a person can sustain in the accident. However, bicyclists are likely to suffer even more significant injuries than motorists because of the fewer protection bicycles offer to their riders.
Among the many causes of bicycle accidents is carelessness on the roads. This applies to all road users, including motorists, bicyclists themselves and pedestrians. A speeding motorist is, for instance, likely to cause a bicycle accident, just the same as a speeding motorcyclist. Failing to observe the set traffic rules is also a significant cause of bicycle accidents in California. Bicycle laws are some of the set laws that should be observed at all times, to stay safe on the road. Violating such laws comes with several consequences, including severe injuries in case of an accident.
However, accidents will be inevitable if not all road users are careful on the roads. One of the requirements in pursuing compensation for personal injuries is proof of responsibility by another party. If the bicyclists were partly or entirely blamed for the accident, they might not get a chance to recover the damages incurred in an accident. The help of an experienced personal injury attorney will go a long way in ensuring that you understand your options based on your case's nature. Your attorney will also help maximize your chances of receiving the compensation you deserve.
Bicycle Laws on Personal Injury
Bicycles are used by all kinds of people in California, including very young children and older adults. Therefore, there is no question regarding whom the set bicycle laws apply. Many people in the state are aware of vehicle laws and the consequences of violating such laws but are ignorant of bicycle laws. To ensure that everyone is safe, California is among the states that have set stringent statewide bicycle laws that are meant to regulate all aspects relating to cycling, including where bicyclists should ride. Understanding these laws is essential as a bicyclist to ensure your safety and the safety of other road users.
As mentioned above, California bicycle laws are statewide. However, there are variations in the restrictions on where bicyclists can ride and registration requirements, which could vary from one city to another. All these are meant to keep bicyclists, pedestrians, and motorists safe. An experienced personal injury attorney could help you understand those laws that govern riding in your county to ensure that none was violated, which could have resulted in your injuries in the event of an accident. The most common of these bicycle laws are discussed here:
Following Traffic Laws
As earlier mentioned, adhering to all set traffic rules is one way to stay safe on the road for all road users. Fortunately, California has enough traffic rules for all, including motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians. The same traffic rules bound bicyclists riding on a street or highway in the state as motorists. It means that they should observe all traffic lights, obey all signals, ride to their right, and not facing the traffic and obey speed limits and all stop signs.
The problem is that not all bicyclists are keen on traffic rules, and so, most of them violate the same laws meant to keep them safe on the road. Speeding is one way in which you may end up getting into a devastating accident. Riding a bicycle on the sidewalk is also not allowed, according to Section 21206 of California Vehicle Law. It helps to know, understand, and adhere to all the traffic laws to avoid issues that could deny you a chance to recover compensation in an accident.
Yielding to Pedestrians
The primary concern for most bicyclists while on the road is protection against collisions with vehicles and other bicycles. This causes most of them to ignore pedestrians. Relevant law for bicyclists and motorists in California is always to yield to pedestrians, as provided under Section 21954 of California Vehicle Code. Even though pedestrians stand to suffer more injuries if involved in a road accident, bicyclists can suffer serious injuries too, and other damages if they hit a pedestrian. The rule is for pedestrians to cross the road only through marked crosswalks.
However, there are several times when pedestrians want to cross even in undesignated areas. Even in such instances, bicyclists owe a duty of care to pedestrians and, therefore, yield to them. The safety of pedestrians should always come first. If an accident occurs and it is determined that the bicyclist did not yield to a pedestrian, he/she will be held responsible for the resulting damages.
Use of Lights and Reflectors
When darkness falls, motorists can't see and avoid a bicyclist on the road. It explains why most bicycle accidents happen at night. However, laws require bicyclists to equip their bikes with light that is visible at a distance of at least 300 feet. Having the light at the front of your bike will make it easy for motorists and pedestrians to see an incoming bicycle.
In addition to that, bikes must have red reflectors or flashing red lights with inbuilt reflectors on their rear. The light must be visible from a distance of at least 500 feet. California bicycle laws also require bicyclists to equip their bikes with a yellow or white reflector on their pedals, ankles, or shows. The reflector should be visible from a rear and front distance of at least 200 feet.
There also must be a yellow or white reflector on every side forward of a bike's center and a red or white reflector on every side to the rear part of the bike. The exception here is in case your bike has rear and front reflectorized tires.
Riding With Traffic
Bicyclists in California are required to ride in the same direction as motorists. Following the traffic reduces confusion for other road users, including motorists, pedestrians, and other cyclists. Bicyclists must think of themselves as other motorists while on the road to avoid crashes. Motorists drive with traffic and are careful to maintain a safe distance between their vehicle and other vehicles in traffic. Bicyclists should do the same.
The goal is always to allow it to flow smoothly with no confusion. This way, all types of road crashes can be avoided. The worry for many bicyclists is that someone might knock them down from behind. The truth is that rear-end collisions between bikes and vehicles are very rare. The most common types of accidents are those caused by bicyclists who ride against traffic.
Riding on the Right Side of a Road
Besides riding with traffic, bicyclists are expected to ride on the right-hand side of a road as much as possible. It is common knowledge that bicycles will not move as fast as vehicles and motorcycles. In the absence of a bike lane, bicyclists should try to stay on the right at all times. It will keep them safe and reduce confusion on the road for motorists who want to move at a higher speed.
However, this does not take the biker's rights to a different lane, especially when there is a need. This will be in such circumstances as:
- When a bicyclist wants to pass another cyclist, motorist or pedestrian that is moving in a similar direction
- When the cyclist is planning to take a left turn on a reserved road, intersection, or in a driveway
- When the cyclist wants to avoid a lane that he/she feels is too narrow.
- When the cyclist wants to avoid a hazardous road condition
- When he/she is approaching a part of the lane where one is allowed to take a right turn
Again, bicyclists are allowed to ride to the left side of the road if they are on the road with more than one lane, and traffic is only moving in one direction.
Keeping a Safe Distance
Accidents do happen even when vehicles, bicycles, and bikes travel in a similar direction. That is why California laws require all road users to keep safe distance amongst themselves to avoid crashes. The 3-feet rule applies to bicyclists and motorists to ensure that they have enough space to react in case of an emergency without crashing on another.
The 3-feet rule is provided under Section 21670 of California vehicle Code. It also means that motorists and bicyclists must distance about three feet when passing or overtaking another traveling in a similar direction. Suppose unfavorable road conditions are making it difficult for a motorist to maintain a three-feet distance. In that case, the diver is expected to slow down and travel at a reasonable speed and only overtake when it is safe to pass.
In addition to keeping a safe distance, motorists are required to make predictable movements that are safe and those that will protect bicyclists around them.
Use of Bike Lanes
As provided under Section 21208 of California vehicle Code, bike lanes are safe places for bicyclists to ride, especially since bicycles travel slower than vehicles. Therefore, if the roadway you are using has a bike lane, it is advisable to use it instead of riding on the same lane as vehicles. The only time the bicyclist can exit a bike lane is if it is safe to do so. In that case, he/she must give an appropriate signal to alert motorists of his/her intentions.
A bicyclist can, for instance, exit a bike lane to pass a slower bicyclist on the same lane or even make a left turn.
Stop At, and not In The Crosswalk
Crosswalks are designed only for pedestrians, and so, motorists, bikers and bicyclists must respect that. The law against stopping in the crosswalks for bicycles and vehicles is provided under Section 21455 of California vehicle Code. Since bicycles are treated just as vehicles as far as traffic laws are concerned, bicyclists need to do their best to protect pedestrians' safety. If a bicyclist used a road with a marked or even unmarked crosswalk, they must wait, just like motorists, until it is safe for them to cross.
If a bicyclist sees a pedestrian at an intersection with clear intentions to cross, the law requires him/her to stop and yield to the pedestrian. However, if the bicyclist is walking their bicycle, they are considered a pedestrian and should act like one.
If Under 18, Wear a Helmet
Bicyclists in California are not required to wear a helmet. However, if you are under 18, the law in Section 21212 of California vehicle Code requires you to wear a helmet to protect yourself against severe injuries in an accident. The law goes further to regulate the kinds of helmets the young cyclists must wear. Helmets for young bicyclists must also meet some standards such as SNELL or ANSI to be sure that they are keeping the young ones safe. If a minor cyclist is caught riding without a helmet, their parents could face a fine of at least $25.
What To Do If Involved in a Bicycle Accident
Bicycle laws are meant to keep cyclists and other road users safe on the road. However, this does not always happen. Accidents are bound to happen if the laws are not adhered to, or if other road users are not as careful as cyclists. For that reason, it is essential to know what to do in the event of an accident. California personal injury laws are apparent, to give a chance to all accident victims to pursue compensation if they believe that their injuries were due to another's negligence. Here are some of the things that you could do to make your case easy:
Seek Medical Help
Most road accidents are serious, leaving their victims injured. For that reason, the most important thing to do immediately after an accident is to get the right medical help. Getting medical aid on time ensures that you are healthy enough and ready to pursue compensation if another party’s negligence caused the accident. Again, it helps prevent the worsening of some of the injuries you may have sustained in the accident.
Proof of medical treatment will also be needed once you file your case in a civil court. The judge would like to know the nature of the injuries you sustained and how much you paid for treatment, to determine the number of medical damages you will get in compensation.
If no treatment was sought after the accident, the alleged at-fault party might argue that you did not suffer any physical injuries. This will affect your chances of receiving your rightful compensation for the damages incurred in the accident.
Hire an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney
Even with apparent personal injury laws, you may need legal help, advice, and guidance in pursuing compensation for damages incurred in a bicycle accident. You may know in detail what happened during the accident, but proving it in a civil court will not be easy. An experienced personal injury attorney understands the legal processes in detail to know what to do in any situation. If you are partly to blame for the accident, he/she will explain your options to ensure that you are making an informed decision.
It would be best if you had an expert working on your case to maximize its success. A competent attorney will know the evidence to gather at the scene of the accident, and how to use it to win your case. He/she will also work within the given timelines to ensure that your case is heard and determined by a civil court.
Most personal injury cases are settled out of court. Thus, it would be best if you had a legal expert who will negotiate with insurance providers to ensure that you get the compensation you deserve.
You will need enough and credible evidence to support your claims in a civil court. Thus, the most important to you will be to collect as much evidence as you can get. Evidence should be collected immediately after the accident. If you are seriously injured in the accident, someone else could collect evidence on your behalf. If you already have an attorney, he/she will start working immediately to avoid losing any evidence that could help your case.
There are many ways of collecting evidence at an accident scene. You could take pictures of the accident scene, videos, and photos of your injuries and other damages that might have resulted from the accident. Talk to eyewitnesses too, and take their account of what happened in the scene. Your attorney will also take a copy of the police report to substantiate what he/she has already gathered from the scene.
An expert report could also help in case the cause of the accident is not so clear. If indeed, another party is responsible for your injuries, you may be able to pursue your losses.
File a Claim in Court
As earlier mentioned, not all personal injury cases end up in a civil court. Most of them are settled out of court. However, if the alleged at-fault party is reluctant to resolve the matter out of court, you may be compelled to file it in a civil court.
For this, you need to get all the paperwork ready and on time, as per the given Statute of Limitations, which is usually two years from the date of the accident. Once you are confident that you have everything available, your attorney can file your claim in court, to be determined by a judge. The judge's decision will be based on the amount and nature of the evidence presented in court. If indeed, you did not violate any bicycle law to cause the accident, the at-fault party will be held fully responsible for your damages.
Find an Orange County Personal Injury Attorney Near Me
California bicycle laws are meant to keep cyclists and other road users safe at all times. They can also be used as a parameter by which your personal injury case is determined in a civil court. At the Orange County Personal Injury Attorney, we have experienced personal injury attorneys that could help determine which bicycle laws affect your personal injury case. If you have been injured in an accident, call us at 714-876-1959 if you are in Orange County, CA, and let us help in your pursuit of the compensation you deserve.