After an accident, it’s common for either party to place blame on the other. The driver is convinced that it is the cyclist’s fault while the bicyclist is absolutely certain that fault lies with the motorist.
If both parties understand the law then they’ll know that fault isn’t determined by their opinions. Instead, the fault is determined based on which party acted negligently. In some cases, there is no party at fault but rather a set of unfortunate circumstances such as a manufacturing error with the vehicle. But more often than not the deciding factor is that either the motorist or the cyclist breached their duty of care.
What is a California Driver’s Duty of Care?
Generally, it is the responsibility of any driver in California to operate their vehicle in a safe manner. Drivers are expected to avoid causing collisions or injuries to others on the road. This requires that a driver pays attention to what they are doing, keeps their eyes on the road and their surroundings and that they follow traffic signs and traffic laws while driving.
A driver breaches their duty of care when they act in a careless or reckless manner which leads to a collision or an injury. Some common ways that Californian drivers breach their duty of care are:
- Driving while under the influence
- Driving while distracted such as when they’re fiddling with the radio or a cellphone
- Failing to obey posted traffic signs
- Failing to obey traffic laws
- Failing to check for cyclists or motorists when opening their door onto the street
- Driving recklessly
- Driving when overly fatigued
- Making illegal turns
- Failing to signal their intentions when turning or changing lanes
- Failure to maintain the vehicle properly
- Driving overly aggressively
- Failing to yield the right of way
What is a California Cyclist’s Duty of Care?
A cyclist’s duty of care refers to their duty when sharing the road with others and ensuring that safety is maintained. While there are laws in California that state a cyclist is required to wear a helmet, failure to do so is not a breach of their duty to care. Furthermore, failure to wear a helmet generally will not impact the outcome of the case.
Some people believe that the laws favor cyclists over motorists but this is simply not true. Generally, the laws favor the responsible over the irresponsible, and so if a cyclist is failing to maintain their duty of care, then the bicyclist can be found at fault. Some of the ways in which a cyclist can breach their duty of care are:
- Running a red light or failing to halt for a stop sign
- Not having a bicycle light for nighttime riding.
- Failing to maintain the bicycle properly
- Driving while distracted such as by a cellphone
- Riding while under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Failure to signal their turns
- Illegally passing traffic
- Failure to use a designated bike lane
- Failure to stay to the right of the road when traveling slowly
A cyclist’s duty of care is similar to a motorist’s duty of care. This makes sense because ultimately what these rules are trying to do is keep the road a safe place so that motorists, cyclists, and even pedestrians can use our public roads without worrying about their safety.
When an accident does occur, the battle to prove who is at fault can prove to be more difficult than you might imagine.
What Does a Cyclist Need to Prove to Win their Case?
Generally, for a cyclist to win their case, after getting into a bicycle accident, is that they will need to prove to the court that the accident had a negative impact on their physical or mental health. Generally, proving physical health issues are easier than proving mental issues simply because there is typically a clearer through-line to the accident.
Say you were stuck by a car and shattered your leg. Now you have a broken leg but you also suffer from extreme anxiety when around fast-moving traffic. Proving that the accident broke your leg would be generally easier compared to proving that the mental distress was. Footage of the accident would show that you had no physical issues beforehand but it doesn’t help to prove the cause of the mental anguish.
In order to have a favorable case, a cyclist must prove:
- That they were operating their bicycle in a safe manner and upholding their duty of care
- That the defendant was obligated to operate their vehicle in a safe manner
- That the defendant failed to operate their vehicle in a safe manner
- That the failure to operate their vehicle safely is what caused the accident in question
- That the defendant’s actions when operating the vehicle are responsible for the injuries suffered in the accident
In some cases, it may seem like both the cyclist and the motorist are equally to blame. However, California’s doctrine of pure comparative negligence makes it so that the driver who initiated the events that lead to the accident and injuries can be found at fault through either a jury trial or arbitration.
What Should I Do if I’m in a Bicycle Accident?
If you have gotten into a bicycle accident then the most important thing to do is to seek medical attention and ensure that you get the proper care. Having a record of any injuries you sustained will be incredibly helpful going forward.
Next, you’re going to want to speak with a qualified and experienced attorney that can look at the details of your case to give you a good idea of what to expect going forward. If you’re looking for an attorney to represent you following your bicycle accident then give The Accident Network Law Group a call at (714) 844-1010 to learn more about how we can help.