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San Francisco Bicycle Accident Lawyer

According to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, each year more than 500,000 people are treated in emergency rooms in the U.S. and more than 700 people die as a result of bicycle-related injuries. The recent increase in the cost of gasoline, combined with increased environmental consciousness, has resulted in more people choosing bicycles as an alternative mode of transportation. Bicycles have always been a popular form of transportation here in San Francisco, where parking is often a challenge and navigating around the city in traffic can be frustrating.

There are four major causes of bike accidents: 1) Rider Error; 2) Fault of a Motorist; 3) Product Defects; and 4) Roadway Defects. This article will discuss the causes of most bicycle accidents, common defenses and legal issues involved in cases involving bike accidents.

Rider Error

Rider Error is a common defense to any bicycle accident; the defendant will simply claim that the bike rider caused the accident and therefore should be responsible for any damages or injuries arising out of the accident. Bike riders are held to the same degree of care as motorists and must comply with California Motor Vehicle Code regulations related to bicyclists. Careless conduct on the part of the cyclist is frequently cited as a contributing factor in an accident. Excessive speed, unsafe lane changes, cutting in front of cars and other reckless maneuvers are all examples of careless conduct.

Failure to wear a helmet may be used as an affirmative defense in a bicycling accident involving a head injury. California law requires all bicyclists under the age of 18 to wear a helmet. Head injuries account for 75% of all serious injuries and fatalities from bicycle accidents.

Improper assembly or failure to maintain a bike can also be attributable to the rider, since many cyclists prefer to perform their own assembly or maintenance. Factors leading to a bike accident include improper tube or tire installation or pressure, loose parts, or component fatigue. Riders should examine their bike before every ride to ensure that the bike is in good condition, with all components properly installed and maintained according to the manufacturer’s specifications.

Fault of a Motorist

Collisions with cars account for only one-third of all bicycle accidents, however, they account for the majority of serious injuries and deaths. Common causes of accidents involving motor vehicles include:

  • Drunk driving
  • Inattentiveness
  • Failure to safely pass a cyclist
  • Unsafe turns
  • Failure to yield the right of way

When a cyclist is involved in an accident with a car, it is important to have a police report. The cyclist may be unable to give a statement due to injuries; therefore the investigating officer may only be able to obtain a statement from the driver of the vehicle, which is likely to be biased in the driver’s favor. The opinions of the investigating officer are inadmissible in court to prove fault, but the facts included in the report, including any statements, are admissible. It is therefore important to obtain the police report as soon as it is prepared and correct any errors or misstatements before they can be used against you.

Product Failure

Like any other type of product, bikes may have defects attributable to poor design, faulty components or assembly, improper manufacturing techniques, or failure to properly instruct or warn. If product failure is suspected as a cause of an accident, it is critical to keep the bicycle and all component parts for examination by an expert. The bike and its parts must be kept in substantially the same condition as they existed at the time of the accident; do not send your bike in for repairs or to the manufacturer for inspection until your lawyer and experts perform their own examination and inspection. If the bike or its components are repaired or lost, it may be difficult or even impossible to prove a case of product defect.

Common examples of product defects involving bicycles include:

  • Defective tires and/or tube failure
  • Faulty brakes
  • Faulty welding on aluminum frames
  • Bolt failures due to fatigue or improper manufacturing
  • Defective design causing the chain to fall off

Roadway Defects

Claims against governmental entities are governed by statute, and require special expertise. Cities, counties and states have many defenses available to them under the law, including the defect being “open and obvious”, or a “trivial defect” that is considered too insignificant to hold a government entity responsible. If you are filing a lawsuit against a public entity or municipality, you must file a claim within six months of the date of the accident. Cal. Code Gov. § 911.2. With every bicycle accident, it is important to analyze the accident scene carefully to determine whether a roadway defect caused or contributed to the accident.

Resources for Bicycle Accident Victims

National Center for Injury Prevention and Control has statistics and information on bicycle related injuries http://www.cdc.gov/ncipc/bike/

Consumer Product Safety Commission has information on bike and bike equipment recalls http://www.cpsc.gov/en/Safety-Education/Safety-Guides/Sports-Fitness-and-Recreation/Bicycles/

California Bicycle Coalition is a non-profit organization working to make bicycling safer in California http://www.calbike.org/index.htm

California Department of Motor Vehicles has information on safety and laws regarding bicycling in California http://www.dmv.ca.gov/about/bicycle.htm

The U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration website has information on bicycle safety and statistics, with emphasis on planning, designing and operating bicycle facilities http://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/ped_bike/

Bicycle Accident Cases Require Experienced Legal Counsel

Bicycle accident cases pose unique issues and often involve a combination of negligence, defective products and roadway defects. Cases involving bicycle accidents require legal counsel with specialized knowledge of the issues unique to bicycle accident cases. San Francisco personal injury attorney William E. Weiss has successfully handled numerous cases involving injuries to bike riders. He has handled cases throughout the Bay Area and Northern California in which vehicles struck bicycles or otherwise caused serious injury to a bike rider.

Personal injury matters are extremely time-sensitive. It is important to act promptly to preserve evidence, investigate the cause of the accident, and to file a lawsuit prior to the deadline imposed by the statute of limitations. If you or a loved one have been involved in a bike accident, contact William E. Weiss at (888) 622-7274 for a no cost, no obligation consultation.

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