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Determining Fault in a Bicycle Accident

Cycling is a popular activity in Southern California. Not only is it economical, but it is also a great way to exercise. Unfortunately, cyclists are very vulnerable to negligent road users.

According to the National Safety Council, the number of preventable deaths and nonfatal injuries in the United States from bicycle accidents exceeds 1,000 and 325,000 per year, respectively.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that the costs of bicycle injuries and deaths from crashes are typically over $23 billion annually. It includes health care costs, lost work productivity, and the estimated costs for lost quality of life and lives lost.

If you or a loved one suffered injuries in a bicycle accident due to the negligence of another party, you might be entitled to compensation.

Learn how to determine who is at fault in a bicycle accident, if you can claim compensation, and when you need a personal injury attorney.

A cyclist is lying on the road after a bicycle accident with a car

Determining Fault/Negligence

When a vehicle collides with a bicycle, both parties often blame each other for the accident. However, fault is determined based on whether one or both parties were negligent.

Negligence is any act or failure to act by the defendant that results in a breach of their duty of care that could likely cause injuries to others.

The four key elements of negligence are:

  1. Duty of care owed – The defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care.
  2. Duty of care breached – The defendant failed to fulfill their duty of care due to a careless act or failure to act.
  3. Causation – There is a direct link between the defendant’s breach of duty and the accident.
  4. Damages – The plaintiff suffered compensable losses as a result of the accident.

Examples of negligence that might cause the driver of a vehicle to collide with a bicycle include:

  • Driving under the influence
  • Speeding or failing to obey traffic laws
  • Distracted driving, such as talking on a cellphone
  • Not being observant enough of other road users

Examples of negligence on the part of bicyclists might include:

  • Failing to follow traffic signals
  • Not signaling turns
  • Refusing to use designated bike lanes
  • Not paying attention to other vehicles on the road
Man phones 911 after bicycle accident

Gathering Evidence

Your priority when you are involved in a bicycle accident is your health and the health of other parties who might need medical attention.

However, gathering evidence at the scene of an accident is one of the best things you can do to support your version of events.

If you have a camera or a cellphone, take photographs or record a video of the accident scene and if there are any witnesses, get their details.

Try to capture the damage to all vehicles, their position, and physical injuries suffered by yourself and others.

Photographic evidence can help protect you if someone later claims you are responsible for subsequent damage or injuries.

In addition, if there are factors that might have contributed to the accident, such as defective traffic lights or obstacles on the road, capture them as well.

If you cannot take photos or record a video, ask someone to help you.

Note that if a law enforcement officer comes to the scene of your accident, the officer will prepare a written report of the accident. However, police reports are often, but not always, hearsay evidence and inadmissible in California.

We suggest you call a bicycle accident attorney at Cohen & Marzban for a more detailed explanation based on your unique circumstances.

The Negligence Per Se Doctrine

Should the defendant be found guilty of a misdemeanor or felony in a criminal case, such as DUI, it improves the plaintiff’s chances of winning a civil lawsuit based on the negligence per se doctrine.

Under this doctrine, a jury or judge will presume the defendant is negligent if they violate a statute and, in doing so, injure someone it is there to protect.

The plaintiff does not have to prove that the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care and failed to fulfill this duty due to a careless act or failure to act.

However, the plaintiff still has to prove that the defendant’s breach of duty was the proximate cause of the accident and that the plaintiff suffered compensable losses due to the accident.

Comparative Fault

Accidents often happen because both parties are negligent to a degree. Just because someone drives into you (or you into someone) does not necessarily mean either you or the other party is 100% at fault.

California is a comparative fault state. If you and the other party were negligent, a jury or judge will apportion fault between you and them.


Assume a car hits your bicycle. You were not cycling in the designated bicycle lane and were not paying attention to other road users. However, the owner of the car was distracted talking on his cell phone.

You suffer bad injuries in the accident and claim $50,000 in damages. A jury might attribute 20% blame to you and 80% to the defendant.

Based on the above, you are entitled to 80% of $50,000, which is $40,000.

What NOT to Say After a Bicycle Accident

After a bicycle accident, people may use any of your answers to questions or comments against you. For example, they might take it out of context to make it appear you are at fault.

Here are some tips:

  • Do not admit fault or any wrongdoing
  • Avoid saying you are well or not hurt
  • Do not share information not asked of you
  • Withhold the names and contact details of relatives or friends
  • Reject making a recorded statement
  • Do not argue with anyone at the scene

Do You Need a Personal Injury Attorney?

If you or a loved one suffered serious injuries in a bicycle accident, hiring an experienced  personal injury attorney is a smart move.

Claiming damages isn’t always straightforward, and insurance companies typically won’t take you seriously without legal representation.

Cohen & Marzban has over 45 years of experience in personal injury cases. We have already recovered $2,000,000,000+ in damages for our clients!

 All new clients receive a FREE consultation. And if we agree to accept your case, we do not get paid unless you get paid!

Call us at (310) 464-2670 to schedule an appointment. Our phone lines are open 24/7.

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