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Bicycle Accident Attorney

Bicycle Accident Lawsuits

“What Do I Need To Know About Bicycle Accident Lawsuits?”

Californians love the outdoors. We run, we play all sorts of sports, we ski, we surf – and we love to ride our bicycles. That's why we have some of the finest bike trails and off-roading in the world. However, while bike riders get to enjoy so much in California, riding a bicycle involves a real risk of injury in this state. Bicyclists in California are hurt every day. Some are even killed. If you or someone you know has been injured while riding a bicycle, contact an attorney about the case as soon as possible.

The Kann California Law Group now offers bicycle accident lawsuit representation. Unlike criminal law, which is concerned primarily with incarceration, bicycle accident law focuses on compensating for injuries and remunerating for lost earnings. Below you'll find information on when you should file a bicycle accident lawsuit in California, facts about bicycling accidents, information on predicting bicycle accidents, help on what you should do after you've been in a bicycle accident, facts about city liability in bicycle accident lawsuits, a statement about damage awards available in bicycle accident lawsuits, information on wrongful death liability in bicycle accident lawsuits, facts about negligence and fault in driving as well as walking, a statement about how being partially at-fault affects a bicycle accident lawsuit and information about defective products and bicycle accident lawsuits. Please feel free to contact the Kann California Law Group in Santa Clarita, Ventura, Encino, Pasadena or Los Angeles/Los Angeles County with further questions. Your call will go directly to a lawyer. It is always guaranteed.

When You Should File Bicycle Accident Lawsuits: Overview

There are multiple indicators that you should file a lawsuit after you have been injured in a bicycle accident. For example:

  1. You Need A Monetary Award

If you or someone you know was injured owing to carelessness or the intentional act of another person, you may need a monetary award to make you whole again. This award can include: Medical costs; Loss of Earnings/Wages; Loss of Earning Capacity; and/or Pain and Suffering Compensation. The development of this sort of financial need is the first, and perhaps surest, sign that you should file a bicycle accident lawsuit.

  1. The Statute of Limitations Begins to Run

California's Statute of Limitations ordinarily provides you only two years to file suit, beginning with the date of the injury that forms the basis of a personal injury lawsuit.[1] Thus, the Statute will likely begin to run when you are hurt in a bicycle accident. When the time has elapsed, you may no longer file your complaint. When the Statute begins to run, it is a clear sign that you should file a lawsuit.

There are, however, different time frames established under state law, which can apply differently, depending on what you could've known and exactly when you could've filed your suit as a result. You have one year to sue beginning with the date of discovering you've been the victim of medical malpractice, for example, but you can sue more than three years after the date of the injury if the malpractice injury was intentionally concealed from you.[2]

  • It May Be Necessary to Deal with Insurance Companies

Once an injury has occurred in a bicycle accident, it may be necessary to deal with insurance companies to get damage payments. But negotiating with insurance companies is not for the faint of heart. If you don't have a lawyer, you shouldn't be surprised to find that the insurance company – which certainly has legal representation – tries to induce you to admit liability, directly or indirectly, in the interest of lessening (or denying) your claim. Your attorney should be prepared for this strategy and to deal with the insurance company on your behalf. When it may be necessary to deal with insurance companies, take it as a signal that it is time to file your bicycle accident lawsuit.

Facts About Bicycling Accidents

National statistics compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state that more than 1,000 bicyclists were killed, and almost 467,000 were injured, in 2015 alone.[3] Governors of the several states, furthermore, report statistics which indicate that California's bicycle accident fatality rate is the highest in the country, with almost 340 persons killed in a single two-year period (2010-2012).[4]

Bicycle accidents also exert a deep national economic impact. In 2010, for example, bicycle accident-related productivity losses and cumulative medical expenses were estimated to exceed $10 billion.[5]

Predicting Bicycle Accidents: Factors

There are numerous factors making it likelier one will get into a serious bicycle accident. These include:

  1. Age of the Bicyclist

The age of the rider in a bicycle accident matters in more than one way. While adults aged fifty to fifty-nine years old are among those with the highest bicycle fatality rates, persons between five and nineteen years of age have the highest rate of nonfatal bike accidents. Thus, the age of the bicyclist is a significant factor in predicting the severity of a bicycle accident.

  1. Time of the Accident

It is dangerous to ride a bicycle late at night. Everyone knows that. But, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), most fatal bike accidents occur between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m.[6] This makes the time of a bicycle accident particularly important. Biking in the late afternoon or early evening can actually be even more dangerous than biking in the middle of the night.

  • Sex of the Bicyclist

It might seem counterintuitive, since there are all sorts of bicyclists, but the sex of the rider makes a difference in bike accidents. Men are six times likelier than women to be killed while riding a bicycle. Men are also four times likelier than women to be injured on a bicycle.

  1. Whether the Bicyclist Wears a Helmet

Preparation matters in everything. Bicycle safety is no exception. Whether a bicyclist wears a helmet can significantly affect the likelihood of serious injury. Riders who choose not to wear helmets risk in head injury. As you might expect, riders wearing helmets are also substantially more likely to survive a bicycle accident.

  1. Consumption of Alcohol

Riding a bicycle while inebriated can be just as dangerous as drinking and driving. In fact, according to recent data, more than 30% of bicycle fatalities involved alcohol consumption and bicycle riding. Eighteen percent of fatalities occurred in drivers with blood alcohol levels of .08 or above; drivers, meanwhile, were completely sober in 84% of the incidents.

  1. Location of the Accident

This is probably the most obvious factor on this list. According to the NHTSA, most bicycle fatalities occur in densely populated areas and in areas without intersections. Recent data (2015) reveal that nearly 70% of bicycle fatalities occurred in areas with dense population.

What You Should Do After Getting Into A Bicycle Accident

As a Californian, you have the right to sue for damages if you've been in an accident while on a bicycle. But there are several steps you should take before going to court. Among these are:

  1. Get Medical Attention

If you've been in a bicycle accident, put your wellbeing first. Call emergency services at the scene, if you require significant assistance, or have someone else contact a hospital on your behalf. But, if you are hurt, the sort of injury you're likely to sustain in a bicycle accident – injury involving your head or neck – is serious. Make certain a physician evaluates you, whether you feel pain at the scene of the accident or sometime after. Do not ignore your injuries. Get medical attention.

  1. Make No Admissions of Fault

This is one of the best ways of protecting yourself from being liable for another person's damages in a bicycle accident. It's acceptable to express sympathy; it's not in your interest to apologize or admit any wrongdoing. What you say, and the circumstances under which you say it, can be admissible in court. Allow your attorney to do the work and prove you're not liable. Make no admissions of fault.

  • Gather Your Own Information

There's quite a bit of which you should be aware after an accident. If you have a cell phone or some other means of recordkeeping, you should record the license plate number(s) of the car(s) involved in the accident. Names and contact information should, similarly, be recorded in detail. This includes witnesses. Make certain that you get details about the driver's vehicle (year, make, model, Vehicle Identification Number, and color) and other information which will be indispensable in dealing with your, and the driver's, insurance companies. And feel free to add documentation of your own. This includes photographing the circumstances surrounding the accident. Gather your own information.

City Liability in Bicycle Accident Lawsuits

California law requires that people and institutions owning property maintain it in a condition that is reasonably safe. This is known as “premises liability.” The law includes both asphalt and pavement and applies to both private and public property. If a city has foreknowledge of a problem with a road, such as a pothole or a crack, it must act as soon as is reasonably possible to correct the condition. If the city fails to do so, either negligently or willfully, it may be liable for injuries. Thus, if a city has been responsible for negligence that leads to an accident, there can be city liability in your bicycle accident lawsuit.

Damage Awards Available in Bicycle Accident Lawsuits

The following are damage awards available in bicycle accident lawsuits to compensate you for injuries.


  • Medical Costs: The award may include the cost of long-term hospital care, the expenses associated with physical or occupational therapy, and prescription/drug costs, among other provisions.
  • Loss of Earnings/Wages: An award creating compensation for lost wages because a bicycle accident caused you to miss work.
  • Loss of Earning Capacity: An award compensating you for the loss of the ability to earn money because of a bicycle accident.
  • Pain and Suffering Compensation: Amounts meant to compensate you for “[p]ast and future physical pain, mental suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, disfigurement, physical impairment, inconvenience, grief, anxiety, humiliation and/or emotional distress”[7] suffered after a bicycle accident.
  • Punitive Damages: Damages (over and above basic compensation awards) assessed to punish egregious behavior and/or extreme indifference.

Note: This list is not exhaustive. If it isn't included here, contact the Kann California Law Group with your specific concern. We're certain we can fashion an award that will adequately compensate you for your bicycle accident injuries.

Wrongful Death Compensation in Bicycle Accident Lawsuits

California permits filing a Wrongful Death lawsuit if anyone has been the victim of wrongdoing leading to death. In the event the plaintiff wins the suit, damages available include: 1) Lost income the victim would have earned; 2) funeral and burial expenses; and, 3) compensation for the loss of the victim's support and companionship. For this reason, Wrongful Death lawsuits bear similarities to suits based on Loss of Consortium[8] (losing enjoyment of a living person's companionship, support, and/or sexual intimacy).[9]

Example: When Defendant Dominica, driving a car, kills bicyclist Victim Vicki in accident, Vicki's adult daughter, Plaintiff Patricia, files a lawsuit against Dominica. She alleges that Dominica is liable for the wrongful death of Vicki and seeks damages including an award for five years of lost income. Dominica, without admitting liability, suggests that she'd pay for the remainder of the income Vicki would've realized for that year only. “Patricia can't make me pay for more! Nobody knows if Vicki woulda had a job in five years!” Dominica insists. Is she correct or can Patricia sue for five years' worth of lost income?

Conclusion: Dominica, without admitting liability for the injury, accepts that it's possible to be liable for lost future income. This is implied by suggesting that she might pay for income earned later in the year of the accident. The question is whether Dominica can be liable for more than a year's worth of losses. If Patricia can plead facts making it foreseeable that Vicki would've maintained her income for five years into the future, a court can order Dominica to pay Patricia in order to account for income that Vicki will lose for that period. Therefore - assuming that Patricia can plead facts sufficient to establish her right to the lost income award - Dominica is incorrect.

Additionally, California Code of Civil Procedure (CCP) § (Section) 377.60[10] makes it possible for a person's estate to sue on behalf of the victim of another person's wrongful conduct. These actions are known as “survival actions.” Survival suits are brought on behalf of the victim's estate. This is different from the ordinary legal arrangement, wherein the victim's heirs or successors in interest[11] are empowered to bring suit to compensate themselves for their own losses. These suits are also the only form of Wrongful Death theory permitting the award of punitive damages, with the exception of a very limited category involving Felony homicide which permits heirs to recover money. 

Negligence, Driving and Fault in Bicycle Accident Lawsuits

Both careless and reckless driving can result in bicycle accidents. Both are considered negligence in driving a vehicle, which, in turn, proves the driver is at least partially at fault in bicycle accident lawsuits.

Proving driver liability requires establishing two legal facts. They are:

  1. The Standard of Care

The defendant must be negligent if the defendant is to be liable under California law. This requires violating the legal standard of care. The standard of care states, generally, that negligence is “the failure to use reasonable care to prevent harm to oneself or to others.” Specifically, “[a] person can be negligent by acting or by failing to act. A person is [also] negligent if he or she does something that a reasonably careful person would not do in the same situation or fails to do something that a reasonably careful person would do in the same situation.”[12]

As drivers, therefore, the standard of care requires that motorists act with due and cautious regard for pedestrians, other drivers – and, of course, bicyclists. The failure to drive in a manner consistent with the standard of due care makes a driver negligent.

  1. The Basic Elements of Liability in a Negligence Suit

Proving negligence in bicycle accident lawsuits also requires demonstrating the existence of the basic elements of liability in a negligence suit. These are:

  • Negligence: The defendant was negligent; AND,
  • Harm: The plaintiff was harmed; AND,
  • Substantial Factor: The defendant's negligence was a substantial factor in causing the plaintiff's harm.

Note: The “substantial factor” prong of the pleading means that your claim must prove that the defendant's breach caused harm to you. In other words, the driver had to have caused actual injury.

  • Negligence Per Se

It's also possible to demonstrate a driver's negligence by showing that the driver violated a law by getting into an accident with you. This is known as “negligence per se.” To prove it, your claim must show that:

  • Violation: The defendant violated a statute, regulation, or ordinance; AND
  • Substantial Factor: The violation was a substantial factor in bringing about your harm.

Note: If these elements are established, the judge or jury must find the defendant was negligent

unless it's also found that the violation was excused.

Example: Defendant Debora struck and seriously injured Plaintiff Patrick while she was in her Jeep     Wrangler. He was riding a Schwinn bicycle. Patrick introduces evidence that Debora hit him while he was in the bike lane, a violation of California Vehicle Code §21209.[13] (The evidence is accurate.) This fact, he contends, proves she's liable for his injuries. Debora insists that he must prove negligence through the ordinary means, since, as she says, “The criminal law's got nothin' to do with a jeep accidentally hittin' a bike!” Is Patrick allowed to prove Debora's liability using a vehicular statute?

Conclusion: That Patrick was one of the persons to be protected by the Vehicle Code he cited (a bicyclist in a bike lane) establishes that Debora had a duty to him under the circumstances. She then hit and injured Patrick, violating that duty. This was also a violation of state vehicular law. Debora's negligent driving was, finally, the substantial factor in Patrick's injuries. These are the elements of the negligence per se pleading. Patrick need not plead his case via other means. He is permitted to use a vehicle statute to establish Debora's liability, under the circumstances.

Negligence, Pedestrians and Fault in Bicycle Accident Lawsuits

As with drivers when operating vehicles, pedestrians have a duty of care when walking the streets. Yet bicyclists are hurt regularly by people who step suddenly into bike lanes, or dart unexpectedly into the flow of traffic, or who jog carelessly into collisions while listening to music, or – perhaps worst of all –   by people who don't control their dogs while taking their pets for walks. If you're hurt by the negligence of such a pedestrian, you may have a claim against that person to account for the cost of your injuries.

As with suing a driver for negligence, proving liability requires establishing two sets of facts. They are:

  1. The Standard of Care

The defendant must be negligent if the defendant is to be liable under California law. This requires violating the legal standard of care. The standard of care states, generally, that negligence is “the failure to use reasonable care to prevent harm to oneself or to others.” Specifically, “[a] person can be negligent by acting or by failing to act. A person is [also] negligent if he or she does something that a reasonably careful person would not do in the same situation or fails to do something that a reasonably careful person would do in the same situation.”[14]

The standard of care requires that pedestrians act with regard for other pedestrians, drivers – and, of course, bicyclists. The failure to act with due care makes pedestrians liable for injuries caused by their negligence.

  1. The Basic Elements of Liability in a Negligence Suit

Proving negligence in bicycle accident lawsuits also requires demonstrating the existence of the basic elements of liability in a negligence suit. These are:

  • Negligence: The defendant was negligent; AND,
  • Harm: The plaintiff was harmed; AND,
  • Substantial Factor: The defendant's negligence was a substantial factor in causing the plaintiff's harm.

Note: The “substantial factor” prong of the pleading means your claim must prove the defendant's breach caused your injuries. In other words, the pedestrian had to have produced actual injury.

Example: Defendant Deke is taking a ‘power walk' (walking briskly over a long distance) along the                 Venice Beach Boardwalk. With his headphones on, he can't hear the sound of Plaintiff Patsy's bike as it approaches. He darts into Patsy's path and knocks her from her seat. Patsy falls from the bicycle and breaks the rim of the front wheel of her bicycle. Though uninjured, Patsy sues Deke for the damage caused to her bike. Deke counters that – although he admits that he was negligent - he “can only be liable for an injury to a person in a personal injury lawsuit.” Is Deke correct about the law?

Conclusion: Personal injury encompasses both injuries to persons and property. Patsy is within her rights to sue for damage to her bicycle, therefore, on the theory that Deke was negligent while he walked. Furthermore, it's likely he should pay for the damages. Deke is incorrect about the law.

How Being Partially At-Fault Affects Bicycle Accident Lawsuits

California allows parties who injured each other owing to negligence to collect awards from each other based on percentage of fault.[15] You needn't be entirely without fault to recover money for your injuries in this state, therefore, unlike jurisdictions which use the “contributory negligence” system.[16] Thus your own negligence will not prevent you from suing a negligent party for your injuries. When negligent persons injure each other, however, their respective awards may be reduced because the state allows finding that they were comparatively negligent.[17]  This legal doctrine is known as “comparative fault.”

Example: Defendant Diekembe hits Plaintiff Pavelina with his Cadillac while she's riding a bicycle in a bike lane in Westwood. She's critically injured and her bike is destroyed. The cost of her medical bills is $24,000. Her wrecked bicycle was worth $1,000. But the accident also inflicts $10,000 worth of damage on Diekembe's car. He sues Pavelina for that amount. She crossclaims (countersues) for $25,000. The jury determines that Pavelina was 70% at fault. How much should they pay each other, if any amount?

Conclusion: Diekembe was 30% at fault for the accident; this must be true, since Pavelina was at fault for the other 70%. Thus, Diekembe owes Pavelina $7,500 ($25,000 x .30 = $7,500). However, Pavelina owes Diekembe $7,000 ($10,000 x .70 = $7,000). Therefore - although Pavelina had to seek medical attention and lost her bike - Diekembe must pay Pavelina only $500 ($7,500 - $7,000 = $500). But both will have their awards reduced because each was at fault comparatively for the other person's injury.

Defective Products, Defective Warnings and Bicycle Accident Lawsuits


If you happen to be injured owing to a defect in the design of a bicycle, or a warning associated with it, California law also allows you to collect an award by suing the manufacturer, designer, distributor, or seller of the bike. Furthermore, if your claim proves negligence in manufacturing, design, or a warning, the defendant will be held in strict liability[18] for the damage you suffer. Faultfinding will not be required.

Proving negligence in a defective bicycle design liability suit[19] requires demonstrating that:

  • Designed…/Bicycle: The defendant designed, manufactured, supplied, installed, inspected, repaired, or rented the bicycle; AND,
  • Negligence: The defendant was negligent in designing, manufacturing, supplying, installing, inspecting, repairing, or renting the bicycle; AND,
  • Harm: The plaintiff was harmed; AND,
  • Substantial Factor: The defendant's negligence was a substantial factor in causing the harm.

Note: “A designer, manufacturer, supplier, installer or repairer is negligent if he, she or it fails to use the amount of care […] that a reasonably careful designer, manufacturer, supplier, installer, or repairer would use in similar circumstances to avoid exposing others to a foreseeable risk of harm.”[20]

Example: Defendant Dee, a professional bicycle mechanic, repairs Plaintiff Perry's bicycle by replacing the rim of the front wheel. She was paid to do it. But Dee uses a flimsy aluminum substitute for what is supposed to be a steel rim. Without a steel rim, the bicycle can't be ridden safely off paved roads. While the fact is common knowledge among bike mechanics, Dee didn't know it. Perry is later injured when he takes his bike off-road and the wheel collapses. He sues Dee for a defective product. Dee counters that she didn't design the bicycle, so she can't be liable. Should Dee have to pay?

Conclusion: Dee took responsibility for repairing Perry's bicycle. She held herself out as a professional mechanic. Thus, it would seem likely that she'd know what would happen if she used an aluminum rim. This creates the duty to prevent the foreseeable harm Perry would suffer by taking the bicycle off-road. The surest solution was to use steel. Most mechanics would know to do this. Dee did not do so. The facts do not present an excuse for using another metal, furthermore. Clearly, then, Dee was negligent in repairing the bicycle. Her negligence was also a substantial factor in the harm Perry endured. These facts establish liability for defectively repairing Perry's bicycle. While Dee seems to believe she had to have created the bicycle to be liable for a defect, she can also be liable for creating a defect in the bike. Dee, it follows, should have to pay a damage award to Perry. 



Contact the Kann California Law Group

The State of California regards bicycle accident lawsuits as serious concerns. If you have a bicycle accident lawsuit, it's essential that you retain a skilled, dedicated attorney as soon as possible. Your rights and livelihood may be at stake.

Remember, a professional bicycle accident lawsuit attorney may be able to:

  • Negotiate an award;
  • Win your case at trial;
  • Or get other legal relief for you, as appropriate.

The attorneys at the Kann California Law Group have an excellent understanding of the local courts and an extensive knowledge of California's personal injury justice system. We can represent you in Ventura, Santa Clarita, Los Angeles, Encino, Pasadena and many other Southern California cities.

If you or someone you know is suing in a bicycle accident lawsuit, our attorneys will analyze the facts of the case and plan a strategy that will help to obtain the best possible outcome.

Contact the Kann California Law Group today to schedule a free and confidential consultation.


[1] See California Code of Civil Procedure (CCP) §335.1.

[2] See CCP §340.5.

[3] See “WISQARS (Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System),” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Online, CDC.gov.

[4] See “Bicyclist Safety” by Dr. Andrew Williams, Governor's Highway Safety Association, GHSA.org.

[5] See Endnote 3.

[6] See “Traffic Safety Facts, 2011 Data,” National Highway Traffic Safety Association, April 2013, NHTSA.gov.

[7] See California Civil Jury Instructions 3905A (CACI) (2017).

[8] See California Civil Jury Instructions 3920 (CACI) (2017).

[9] Compensation is available separately for the loss of minor children. See California Civil Jury Instructions 3922 (CACI) (2017).

[10] See CCP §377.60 (a).

[11] See CCP §377.11.

[12] See California Civil Jury Instructions 401 (CACI) (2017).

[13] See California Vehicle Code §21209 (a).

[14] See Endnote 12.

[15] See California Civil Jury Instructions 406 (CACI) (2017).

[16] See “Comparative and Contributory Negligence” at Justia.com. 

[17] See Li v. Yellow Cab Co., 13 Cal.3rd 804 (1975). (Establishing, inter alia, that comparative negligence should be applied in its ‘pure' in California.)

[18] See “Strict Liability” at USLegal.com.

[19] Negligent Duty to Warn jury instructions may be found at California Civil Jury Instructions 1222 (CACI) (2017).

[20] See California Civil Jury Instructions 1221 (CACI) (2017).