Good weather is a key ingredient to all of the most popular bicycling destinations in the U.S., and Orange County certainly has no shortage of that. Orange County naturally lends itself to a lot of beautiful bicycle paths and trails, like the Santa Ana River Trail, Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park, Limestone Canyon & Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park, and Upper Newport Bay.
Unfortunately, Orange County also lends itself to more bicycle accidents than most places. In 2017, there were 1,032 bicycle accidents in Orange County alone. That’s more than Riverside County and San Bernardino County combined, even though Orange County’s population isn’t even close to their combined population.
If you have recently been involved in a bicycle accident, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact an Orange County bicycle accident attorney at the Crockett Law Group to learn about how we can help you maximize your settlement. Call (800) 900-9393 for a free consultation with a personal injury attorney.
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What Are the Most Common Causes of Bicycle Accidents?
The most common cause of bicycle accidents is being hit by a car, which accounts for about 3 in 10 bicycling injuries according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). But what’s more interesting is to look at what exactly causes these accidents between bicyclists and cars.
These are the 9 most common causes of bicyclist accidents involving a car we see here in Orange County:
A driver looking down at their phone is the most common type of distracted driving that causes bicycle accidents. It’s just so easy to miss seeing a bicyclist while you’re texting or checking social media.
Failure to Leave a Safe Distance
Sometimes bicyclists and cars have to share the road, like when there’s isn’t any designated bike lane. A motorist driving too close to the bicyclist leaves little room for error.
Failure to Yield
We see this where a car intends to turn left but doesn’t wait for the bicyclist to finish crossing the street before initiating their turn.
Opening Car Doors
It’s the perfect storm when someone opens their car door at the exact moment that a bicyclist is riding by.
Pulling Out of a Driveway
We see this all the time where a bicyclist rides on the sidewalk while a car simultaneously tries to pull out into the road from a parking lot or driveway.
Running Stop Signs or Red Lights
A bicyclist legally crossing a road controlled by a stop sign or light signal is naturally going to expect opposing traffic to stop when it’s not their turn. But if a driver fails to stop, a slower-moving bicyclist simply won’t be able to move out of the way in time. Of course, this cuts both ways. Sometimes bicyclists fail to adhere to the rules of the road by not stopping at stop signs and red lights.
Speeding is one of the most common causes of accidents in general, and bicyclist accidents are no exception. Driving too fast for conditions leaves too little time to avoid colliding with a bicyclist.
Turning Into the Bicyclist’s Path
This typically happens when a car tries turning right onto another street but turns into the bicyclist’s path of travel while doing so.
Unsafe Lane Changes
Sometimes drivers forget to check before changing lanes. Sometimes they do, but miss seeing a bicyclist who’s in their blind spot.
When bicyclists were asked by the NHTSA which actions motorists take that scare them the most, their answers were pretty consistent with the most common causes of bicycle accidents we see. These are the top 5 threats according to bicyclists themselves:
- When cars drive too close (39 percent)
- When cars drive too fast (24 percent)
- When cars almost hit them (16 percent)
- When cars cut them off (13 percent)
- Just the presence of cars is threatening (12 percent)
Where Do Most Bicycle Accidents Occur?
Bicyclist accidents are more common in urban areas than they are in rural areas. This is true, too, of fatal bicycle accidents. 68 percent of fatal bicycle accidents happen in urban areas, whereas only 30 percent happen in rural areas. This makes sense if you think about it. Urban areas are more crowded which lends itself to more opportunities for bicycle accidents to happen in the first place. But also, crowded places leave less room for human error.
Bicycle accidents are also more common along a roadway than they are at an intersection. According to the NHTSA, 57.3 percent of fatal bicycle accidents happen at non-intersections, whereas only 30.5 percent happen at intersections.
Altogether, this means that bicycle accidents are most likely to occur along a roadway in an urban area. For example, think of a bicyclist riding going down E Katella Ave. to get to Angel Stadium of Anaheim for game time.
Now that you know where most bicycle accidents occur, consider taking these 5 steps to make yourself more visible to motorists at night so you don’t become a statistic:
- Use A Taillight.
- Use A White Headlamp As Required By California Vehicle Code (CVC) 21201.
- Use Reflectors As Required By CVC 21201.
- A rear red reflector.
- A white or yellow reflector on each pedal, shoe, or ankle.
- White or yellow reflectors on the front sides and white or red reflectors on the rear sides, unless your bike has reflectorized front and rear tires.
- Wear Fluorescent/Reflective Clothing And Shoes.
- Wear Lights On Yourself And Belongings.
What Are the Most Common Bicycle Accident Injuries?
Virtually any body part could get injured in a bicycle accident. For one thing, a bicyclist is relatively unprotected compared to a motorist. Another thing is that a bicyclist usually sustains multiple impacts—first with the car and then again with the ground, for example.
This is a list of the most common traumatic injuries for bicyclists here in Orange County, California:
- Chest: collapsed lungs, rib fractures, and sternum fractures
- Face and Eyes: corneal foreign bodies, contusions, cracked teeth, and facial fractures
- Internal: bowel trauma, kidney contusion, liver laceration, pancreatic trauma, renal contusion, ruptured spleen, traumatic hernia, and vascular perforation
- Head: brain bleeds, cerebral contusions, concussions, and fractured skulls. Head injuries actually account for 22 to 47 percent of bicycle injuries and more than 60 percent of fatal bicycle injuries according to a journal article in American Family Physician.
- Musculoskeletal: broken bones, sprained ligaments, strained muscles, and torn tendons
- Skin: bruises, lacerations, road rash
How Many People Die Each Year From Bicycle Accidents?
Even though society seems to be more safety conscience than ever, the number of fatal bicycle accidents has actually been increasing over the years. Perhaps most surprisingly, bicyclist fatalities have increased more for adults than it has for children, particularly for adults between the ages of 50 and 69.
California is largely to blame for this increase as well. In 2016, California was responsible for more bicyclist fatalities than any other state, accounting for 147 in total according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. While that might not seem like a lot, it actually accounts for about 18 percent of all bicyclist fatalities in the entire U.S.
It’s no surprise that Florida was a close second at 138; this can probably be attributed to the copious amounts of sunshine both states afford all year round for bicyclists. This is also consistent with the fact that bicyclist fatalities are most common from the months of June through September when the weather is nicer.
If you lost a loved one in a bicycle accident caused by someone’s negligent or reckless behavior, contact an Orange County wrongful death attorney at the Crockett Law Group.
Do You Need a License to Ride a Bicycle in California?
The State of California does NOT require you to be licensed in order to ride your bicycle, but local cities might require your bike to be registered.
For example, here in Orange County, Costa Mesa, Irvine, and Santa Ana all require bicycles to be licensed, whereas Huntington Beach does not. California Vehicle Code Section 39002 leaves it up to each county and city to decide.
Are Helmets Required for Bicycles in California?
If you’re not sure whether you’re required to wear a helmet while riding your bike in California, don’t feel alone; 32 percent of bicyclists don’t know either.
The law is that helmets are required for bicyclists under the age of 18, but not for adults according to California Vehicle Code Section 21212. With that being said, don’t risk it; wear a helmet anyways.
Bicyclists report all sorts of reasons for not wearing a helmet, such as not owning one, owning one but forgetting to wear it, or simply refusing to wear it because they’re uncomfortable, too hot, or look ugly. Whatever the case may be, it’s not worth risking a serious head injury.
Is a Bicyclist Considered a Pedestrian in California?
A person riding a bicycle in California is treated more like a motorist than a pedestrian. A bicyclist is not considered a pedestrian at all in California unless they dismount their bike and walk alongside it. Otherwise, a person riding a bicycle in California has the same rights and duties as a driver of a vehicle according to California Vehicle Code Section 21200.
In other words, a bicyclist has the right to use the roadway but is expected to follow the rules of the road just like a person behind the wheel of a car is. For example, a bicyclist is expected to stop at stop signs, ride on the right side of the road, and stay within the solid white lines when they occupy a lane. If you think about it, this is simply necessary to ensure safety when bicyclists and motorists share the roadway equally.
Is It Illegal to Ride a Bicycle on the Sidewalk in California?
California Vehicle Code Section 21206 leaves it up to each individual city and county to decide whether or not it is illegal to ride a bicycle on the sidewalk.
Here in Orange County, it is presumed legal to ride a bicycle on the sidewalk unless a local city ordinance says otherwise.
For example, the City of Orange makes it illegal to ride a bicycle on the sidewalk in a business district, but not elsewhere. It is also illegal to ride a bicycle on the sidewalk in Laguna Beach, Newport Beach, and Tustin, whereas it is not illegal in most places in Santa Ana. If you think about, making it illegal to ride a bicycle on the sidewalk just seems safer for pedestrians who would otherwise have to compete for space on the sidewalk.
Regardless of whether you’re riding a bicycle on the sidewalk or the roadway, keep in mind that you’re still expected to ride in the same direction as traffic according to California Vehicle Code Section 21650. Also keep in mind that on a roadway with a designated bicycle lane, you’re expected to ride in the bicycle lane if you’re moving slower than the speed of traffic around you according to California Vehicle Code Section 21208.
What Do You Do After a Bicycle Accident?
Knowing what to do after being involved in a bicycle accident is important in order to protect your rights. Be sure to follow these 9 steps after a bicycle accident:
Move to a Safe Area
Oncoming traffic might not see you lying on the road. So, if you’re able to do so, get off the road to a place of safety in order to prevent any additional injuries.
You’re legally required to stay at the scene of the accident in the first place. But besides that, it’s also important that you request the responding police officer to make a report. A traffic collision report is going to be an essential document for your personal injury claim later on. It’s important for you to report any symptoms you’re feeling at all to the officer.
Obtain Driver Info
In all the chaos, don’t forget to document the driver’s name, address, phone number, driver’s license number, license plate number, the insurance carrier name and policy number, and the make and model of their car.
Obtain Witness Info
Also, don’t forget to document contact information for any potential witness to the accident. Fault is often times hotly contested in bicycle accidents, so a statement from an uninvolved witness can make a world of difference for your claim.
Seek Immediate Medical Attention
It doesn’t matter if you go to an emergency room or to Urgent Care, just go. The sooner you get checked out, the safer you are. And the sooner you document your injuries with an M.D., the better off you are in your bodily injury claim. Make sure to report every symptom you have. Don’t bother waiting to make an appointment with your primary care physician either—it takes too long.
Document Your Injuries
This means taking photos of any visible injury you might have (e.g., a bruise or abrasion) and journaling all of your physical and emotional symptoms.
Take Photos of Damaged Property
You should document any damaged property you have (e.g., your bike, helmet, or clothes) by taking pictures. This will be relevant for both your property damage claim and your injury claim.
Don’t Talk to the Driver’s Insurance Company
You can be sure that anything you say to an insurance adjuster can and will be used against you later. They’re not your friend and they’re not there to help. It also just so happens to be that you’re not required to speak with the at-fault driver’s insurance company if they reach out. However, you may be required to speak with your own insurance company.
Review Your Accident With a Lawyer
First off, liability is often an issue in bicycle accidents. But besides that, your initial consultation with bicycle lawyers in Orange County is both free and confidential. You should specifically seek out an attorney who specializes in bike-related accidents.
What Is the Average Bicycle Accident Settlement?
Let me start off by saying insurance companies don’t want to pay a penny more than they have to. An insurance company’s evaluation of a bicycle accident injury claim in Orange County rarely reflects the true value. One reason for this is that some insurance companies rely on computer software to make their evaluation.
Allstate Insurance, for example, is notorious for using Colossus. Colossus is a computer program that calculates how much your bicycle injury claim is worth based on information input by the insurance adjuster. Colossus looks at many different factors, such as the type of injury, type of medical treatment, duration of symptoms, and duration of treatment. However, being a computer program, it fails to account for human emotion and is subject to error if the adjuster fails to input information accurately.
Although there are countless factors that could affect your bicycle accident settlement, these 6 factors carry the most weight:
Severity of Injuries
Generally speaking, the more severe your injuries are, the larger your bicycle accident settlement will be. For example, suppose two people of the same age are knocked off their bike on PCH in Huntington Beach. Neither person was at fault for the accident. Person 1 sustained a sprained ankle, whereas Person 2 sustained a displaced tibia/fibula fracture that required surgery. Person 2 will probably have a larger settlement than Person 1.
Permanency of Injuries
Permanent injuries require more medical costs over the course of a lifetime, but also ongoing and never-ending emotional distress.
The insurance company is required to compensate you for the cost of your medical treatment.
Length of Treatment
Someone who undergoes medical treatment for 1 year will have higher medical bills and considerably more mental anguish than someone whose symptoms went away after only 1 month.
If the injuries you sustained in the accident caused you to miss time from work, you may be eligible for reimbursement of your lost income.
Pain and Suffering
This refers to damages for how you feel as a result of your injuries. In other words, your subjective physical and emotional pain have intrinsic value and you deserve a monetary award for that pain. No two people are alike, so this comes down to the ability to paint a picture of the pain you personally experienced.
Contact an Orange County Bicycle Accident Attorney at the Crockett Law Group
As bicycle accident injury lawyers, we regularly represent the interests of victims who have been treated unfairly by an insurance company. The Crockett Law Group is committed to handling your injury claim from start to finish and will fight to make sure that you receive the money you deserve. If you’ve been injured as a result of a bicycle crash, contact the Crockett Law Group to speak with a bicycle accident attorney at (800) 900-9393.