Who Is At Fault in a California Bicycle Accident?

Bicycle Accident Liability

Fault in bicycle accidents

California is one of the best states for biking, with a beautiful, scenic coastline and miles of bike trails. However, if you ride alongside motor vehicles, you risk a collision that can seriously injure you. In a bicycle-vehicle crash, determining bicycle accident liability can be confusing. Was it the driver, the bicyclist, or both?

If you sustained injuries in a San Bernardino bicycle accident, our seasoned legal team can help. We will work hard to recover financial compensation for your medical expenses and other damages. Call (909) 453-2040 for a free consultation with our experienced bicycle accident lawyer


Bicycle Accident Statistics

Despite major improvements in vehicle safety, bicycle accidents continue to rise in the U.S. 1,105 bicyclists were killed in traffic crashes involving vehicles in 2022, according to the NHTSA

Bicyclist deaths are highest during the summer months between June and September, while 75% of fatalities occur in urban areas. Motorists failing to yield the right-of-way was the biggest factor in fatal bike accidents, followed by low visibility. 

In the majority of fatalities involving bicyclists, the most severe injuries occur to the head. This underscores the critical importance of wearing a bicycle helmet. According to the IIHS, people aged 20 years and older accounted for 90% of bicyclist deaths in 2021. 


Determining Fault in a Bicycle Accident

Bicycle collision causing serious injuries

Bicycle accidents can happen suddenly and without warning. They can happen at intersections, school zones, residential areas, and major arterial roads. The vehicle’s speed often determines the severity of the crash and the injuries. Since riders are much more exposed and vulnerable on the road, they are likely to suffer serious and life-threatening injuries. 

Bike accident fault is commonly based on who acted negligently. This can be a complex matter best handled by an experienced bicycle accident attorney. To determine liability accurately, a thorough investigation is required, followed by careful analysis of factors such as traffic laws, road conditions, witness statements, and any available evidence. 


Examples of Driver Negligence

Most of the time, bicycle-vehicle collisions occur due to the carelessness or recklessness of the driver. Drivers who fail to respect the rules of the road may cause a fatal accident with a bicyclist. These are examples of negligence that would place liability on the driver. 

  • Distracted driving: Texting, talking on the phone, eating, or adjusting the radio while driving diverts attention from the road and increases the risk of colliding with a cyclist. 
  • Failing to yield: Not yielding the right of way to cyclists at intersections, bike lanes, crosswalks, or when making turns, leading to collisions.
  • Speeding: Driving at speeds higher than the posted limit or too fast for road or weather conditions can make it difficult to react to cyclists and increase the severity of collisions.
  • Improper passing includes passing cyclists without leaving a safe distance, crowding them off the road, or passing in a no-passing zone.
  • Opening car doors unsafely: Opening car doors without checking for approaching cyclists can cause “dooring” accidents, in which cyclists collide with the door.
  • Driving under the influence: Operating a vehicle while impaired by alcohol, drugs, or prescription medication, impairing judgment, reaction time, and coordination, and increasing the likelihood of accidents involving cyclists.
  • Ignoring traffic signals and signs: Running red lights or stop signs, failing to obey traffic signals, or disregarding other traffic laws, leading to collisions with cyclists who have the right of way.

Examples of Bicyclist Negligence

Bicyclists can also be at fault for accidents if they engage in dangerous behavior that puts themselves at risk of a collision. California law states bicyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as motor vehicle drivers. Here are examples of bicyclist negligence:

  • Riding against traffic: Cycling in the opposite direction of traffic flow is against the law in California, as it increases the risk of collisions with vehicles at intersections and decreases drivers’ visibility. 
  • Failure to obey traffic signals and signs: Ignoring red lights, stop signs, and other traffic signals may cause accidents with vehicles or pedestrians who have the right-of-way. 
  • Riding unpredictably or erratically: Swerving in and out of traffic, sudden changes in direction without signaling, or abrupt stops without warning can catch drivers off guard and lead to accidents.
  • Riding while impaired: You can get a DUI if you are cycling under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or medication. These substances impair judgment, coordination, and reaction time and increase the risk of accidents.
  • Not using lights or reflectors at night: Riding without proper lighting or reflective gear when low visibility makes it difficult for drivers to see the cyclist.
  • Riding on sidewalks where prohibited: Cycling on sidewalks in areas where it’s not permitted poses a risk to pedestrians.


What If I Wasn’t Wearing a Helmet?

Can use homeowner's insurance or car insurance coverage

If you were not wearing a helmet at the time of your bicycle accident, you significantly increase the risk of sustaining severe head injuries. All bicycle riders under the age of 18 are required by law to wear a bicycle helmet. 

California is an at-fault state, meaning that the party responsible for causing the accident may be liable for the resulting damages. If you were not wearing a helmet at the time of the accident, it could potentially impact your ability to recover compensation for your injuries from the other party’s insurance company.

California law does not require adult cyclists to wear helmets, but failing to do so can still be used against you in a bicycle accident claim. The insurance company or defense attorney may argue that your failure to wear a helmet contributed to your resulting injuries or even caused them entirely. As a result, they may seek to reduce or deny your claim to cover your medical bills, property damage, and pain and suffering.


Who Will Cover My Damages?

In a bicycle accident claim, the liable party is responsible for covering the injured party’s damages. If a driver caused the accident, the bicyclist can file a personal injury claim to recover damages. They may file a claim using the driver’s auto insurance policy and liability coverage. If the accident was a hit-and-run, you may be able to use your uninsured motorist insurance if you have it.

You may also be able to make a claim using your homeowner’s insurance or renter’s insurance. Speak to a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible.


May Is National Bike Month

As we celebrate National Bike Month this May, we must recognize the importance of safety and awareness on California’s roads. Biking offers numerous health and environmental benefits. However, it’s crucial to understand the risks, particularly when sharing the road with motorists. 

One key message of National Bike Month is encouraging motorists to share the road safely with bicyclists. This means being aware of cyclists’ presence, providing ample space when passing, and adhering to traffic laws designed to protect vulnerable road users.


Compassionate Bicycle Accident Lawyers

Auto insurance policy uninsured motorist coverage

Our law firm has extensive experience advocating for injured cyclists involved in bicycle accidents throughout San Bernardino County. Arrowhead Accident Attorneys stands ready to champion your interests and legal rights as you seek justice and compensation for your injuries. We are experts in personal injury law and have recovered millions of dollars in settlements.

Operating on a contingency fee basis, our personal injury attorney ensures that you only pay if we secure a favorable outcome for your case. That’s right, there are no fees unless we win. Don’t hesitate to schedule your risk-free, zero-obligation case evaluation today by calling (909) 453-2040.

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