Bicycle Accidents

TWLaw-BicycleAccidents

A person riding a bicycle on a highway has all the rights and is subject to all the statutory provisions applicable to drivers of vehicles, including the provisions dealing with driving under the influence of alcoholic beverages or drugs, except those provisions that (by their very nature) can have no application to bicycles. The same general rule applies to motorized bicycles.

When not otherwise prohibited by the Vehicle Code or local ordinance, bicycles may be ridden on the shoulder of a highway. However, whether they are operated on the roadway or on the shoulder, they must travel in the same direction as vehicles. A person riding a bicycle on a roadway at a speed less than the normal speed of traffic must keep as near the right side of the curb or edge of the roadway as possible, except when passing another vehicle or bicycle, when preparing for a left turn, when reasonably necessary to avoid conditions that make it unsafe to continue along the right curb or edge, or when approaching a place where a right turn is authorized. Also, on a one-way roadway having two or more marked traffic lanes, a person may ride a bicycle as near the left-hand curb or edge as possible.

A person riding a bicycle is prohibited from attaching himself or herself or the bicycle to any vehicle on the roadway, from riding on any part of the bicycle other than on or astride a permanent and regular seat attached to it, and from carrying any package, bundle, or article that prevents the rider from keeping at least one hand on the handlebars. A bicycle rider is also prohibited from allowing a passenger to ride anywhere but on a separate seat; if the passenger is four years or younger or weighs 40 pounds or less, the seat must adequately retain the passenger in place and protect the passenger from the bicycle’s moving parts.

An estimated 120 million Americans own bicycles, and a projected estimate of approximately 18 million bicycles were sold in the United States in 2003. Bicyclists vary greatly in terms of age and categories of use, with millions of Americans using bicycles to commute to work, enjoy leisure time, exercise, and compete. The types of bicycles sold vary almost as widely as their users, ranging from all-terrain mountain bikes to children’s bicycles. The level of skill of bicyclists also varies greatly, as does the degree of fitness of users. Unfortunately, bicyclists from all skill levels, pedaling all types of bicycles, are subject to accidents from time to time, with the resultant injuries ranging from minor scrapes and lacerations to serious head injuries, paralysis, or death.

The numbers of bicyclists injured or killed each year is astounding. In excess of 500,000 people annually sustain injuries in bicycle accidents, which result in visits to hospital emergency rooms. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (more information can be seen at their website: www.cpsc.gov) estimates that 200 children and 700 adults are involved in fatal bicycle accidents annually, with approximately 47% of those fatalities being children under the age of 18. In fact, bicycle accidents are a leading cause of accidental deaths in the group of children aged 5 to 14; this age group also has the highest injury rate of bicyclists.

The predictable result of the increase in the number of bicycles on the road throughout the country has been a corresponding increase in the rate of motor vehicle-bicycle accidents, in which almost invariably it is the bicyclist who is injured to some degree. The increase in accidents has been proportionate to the explosion in bicycle sales over the years, reflecting a steady upward trend. According to the National Safety Council’s statistics compiled in 1999 (see www.nsc.org for more information), 900 cyclists were killed and over 70,000 incurred disabling injuries as a result of collisions with motor vehicles. In fact, nearly all rider deaths involve collisions with motor vehicles, and the most common cause of death is head injury.

A bicyclist injured in a collision with a motor vehicle will usually seek recovery from the driver of the vehicle. However, depending on the relationship of the driver to other parties or the circumstances under which the driver was permitted to use the vehicle, actions against other parties may be possible. Persons who may be joined as defendants due to their relationship with the driver include the employer of the driver, the parents of the driver if the driver was a minor, and the owner of the vehicle if the driver was not the owner.

Under some circumstances, a bicyclist may also be able to seek damages from parties other than the driver of the vehicle or persons who are legally responsible for the driver’s operation of the vehicle. The governmental entity with responsibility for maintenance of the road where the accident occurred may be liable on the basis of inadequate maintenance of the road or negligent failure to control traffic. The owner of property adjacent to the road may be subject to liability for failing to remove vegetation or other obstructions that limit the view of persons using the road. If a defect in the bicycle or the motor vehicle caused the collision, the bicyclist may be able to make a claim against the manufacturer or the seller of the bicycle or the vehicle.

Thompson | Wedeking has been successful in prosecuting all types of bicycle accident cases. Call us today for your free case evaluation.