No cyclist hit by car or truck is going to come out on top. Even if you escape injury, your bicycle probably won’t. Unfortunately, not all municipalities have safe bicycle lines, nor do many drivers pay close attention to cyclists, even when you follow every law and safety rule.
But the truth is, some auto/bike accidents could be caused by the cyclist, if they are not following road rules. It’s therefore important to understand how to minimize the risk of getting into an intersection accident, as well as what to do so that the driver doesn’t blame you for the crash. Here are some tips to follow to make sure you avoid liability in a bicycle-car collision.
How to Avoid Bike Accidents
Some motorists either won’t notice you or won’t bother to look, so take precautions, such as the following:
- Increase your bike’s visibility with lamps and reflectors.
- Wear brightly colored clothing, including a yellow or orange reflective vest. You can buy them at most sporting goods stores and Wal-Marts.
- Take a bicycle safety course to learn emergency maneuvers that will help you avoid collisions, or diminish damage if you can’t.
- Keep your eyes open and drive defensively.
- Be the better driver when others are driving recklessly or negligently.
- Avoid riding at night.
And always wear a helmet, even if the law doesn’t require it.
Observe Right-of-Way Rules at Intersections
Roughly 45% of all bike/car accidents occur at intersections. Even if you’re careful, accidents can happen when a driver underestimates your speed or simply forgets to watch for bicycles. However, the cyclist’s failure to yield the right-of-way causes many of these accidents.
To better protect yourself, yield to vehicles according to California traffic laws, or whenever you feel threatened. For example:
- Treat an unmarked intersection as a four-way stop.
- Yield to any vehicle that looks like it will get to the intersection before you.
- If you get to the intersection at the same time as another vehicle, give it the right-of-way.
- Stop completely if you have a stop sign or stop light.
- Pay close attention to traffic lights.
- Use dedicated left turn lanes with left turn arrows when possible.
- Don’t pass a slower car on the right.
- Even if you have the right-of-way, cross only when you know it’s safe.
- Walk your bike across crosswalks.
- Be ready to brake instantly if someone cuts you off.
- Never, ever ride against traffic.
If you break any of these rules and an accident results, you’re at least partly at fault. If you’ve already been in an accident, the police and insurance companies will look closely at these possibilities.
Don’t Do the “California Roll”
Let’s say you come up to a stop sign or traffic light, see no reason to yield, and don’t stop entirely before entering the intersection. Even if you almost stop, but roll through a stop sign, you are at least partly at fault for an accident. According to California law, you may not be able to seek any compensation at all as a result — even if the accident was mostly the driver’s fault.
What Are Your Responsibilities If You’re at Fault?
Most legal codes define bicycles as vehicles, so you have to follow the rules of the road like everyone else. Failure to do so may put you at fault for an accident if you don’t, no matter how badly injured you are. Even if you’re careful, the driver and police may blame you for the crash anyway. Know your rights and exercise them, with the help of an attorney if need be.
A provable “almost stop” that results in an accident means you won’t be able to sue for damages, medical bills, lost wages, or pain and suffering at all. Plus, you’ll have to pay for any compensation the driver seeks. Even if you did stop, if you’re found to be all or mostly at fault, you’ll have to pay for the driver’s injuries and damages. It’s a bitter case of adding insult to injury that’s best avoided altogether.
Cyclist Hit by Car: You Need an Experienced Los Angeles Bicycle Accident Lawyer
If you’ve been hit by an car while riding a bicycle in Los Angeles, you need an experienced expert in bicycle law to fight for you and help you recover the maximum possible damages. This is especially true if you’ve been found at fault for a collision. Contact Los Angeles Bicycle Law for a free consultation.