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How to Determine Liability After a Bike Accident

Close-up of a bicycling helmet fallen down on the ground after a

Cycling is a common pastime in California, as bike riders are encouraged by the pleasant weather and traversable boardwalks. Unfortunately, California is also particularly dangerous for cyclists on the road. Over 400 bike riders are killed in traffic accidents across the state every year, and thousands more are injured. After a bicycle accident, it’s important to determine who was liable in order to ensure that the accident victim and their family are properly compensated. Continue reading for a discussion of liability after bike accidents. If you’ve been involved in a bicycle accident in Southern California, call a dedicated Calabasas bike accident attorney at the Halpern Law Firm for advice and representation.

Liability Depends on Negligence: Who Did What

Personal injury liability after a traffic accident turns on the question: Who caused the accident? Accidents rarely happen when everyone involved was operating in accordance with all safety rules, laws, and common sense. If an accident were actually caused by a sudden bolt of lightning, then truly no one would be negligent, and no one would be liable.

Assuming someone did make a mistake, liability will turn on who caused the crash. If a cyclist and a car collided because the auto driver blew through a stop sign or stoplight, the driver is clearly to blame. Likewise, if the cyclist darts out into traffic against a stoplight, they could be held liable.

In many cases, liability can be shown by demonstrating that one party was engaging in generally negligent behavior leading up to the accident. If that behavior violates one or more laws or regulations, the plaintiff has even stronger proof of negligence. For example, if the driver was operating under the influence of alcohol, if they were texting while driving, if they were speeding, or if they were trying to pass on the shoulder, it’s likely that their negligence led to the accident. The plaintiff would need to be able to demonstrate both that the defendant was acting negligently, and that the negligence contributed to the accident that occurred.

In addition to the accident participants, there may be other individuals or entities who are partially or even fully liable for the accident. If the driver would have stopped but for defective brakes or failure of a defective engine, then the truly responsible party would be the auto manufacturer. The same may be said of the bike manufacturer if a problem with the pedals, steering, or brakes caused the cyclist to lose control. If the cyclist’s injuries were made worse by a faulty helmet, kneepads, or other safety equipment, then the manufacturer of that equipment might also be held partially liable. If the accident was caused due to roadway defects (e.g., potholes) or a poorly-designed intersection, it’s possible to hold the government agency responsible for road design or upkeep liable, under certain circumstances.

Comparative Negligence in California

In practice, accidents sometimes involve the negligence of multiple parties. For instance, a cyclist rides out into the road against a red light and is hit by a driver who was speeding and distracted by text messages. In that case, both parties were negligent, and their negligence each contributed to the likelihood of an accident. In California, accident victims can still sue even if they were partially responsible for an accident.

California follows a “pure comparative negligence” rule. Injured accident victims can sue at-fault defendants, but their recovery will be limited by their portion of responsibility for the accident. In the example given above, let’s say the jury decides that the cyclist was 25% responsible for the accident while the negligent driver was 75% responsible. If the cyclist suffered $10,000 in damages, they would be able to recover up to $7,500 from the driver. California’s “pure” comparative negligence system means that the driver could also sue the cyclist for 25% of the driver’s damages, even though the driver was “more” at fault.

If you or someone you love has been injured in a bike crash in Southern California, call an experienced, effective bicycle accident attorney at the Halpern Law Firm. We fight for the compensation you and your family deserve. Contact us at (818) 785-5999 today. These cases are handled on a contingency basis, meaning you won’t be charged any attorney’s fees unless we win.

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