April 7, 2024 | Article by Matt Clark

If I am injured while riding my bicycle, can I sue the driver that hit me?

Yes, as long as you can establish that the driver was at fault.

Can I still bring a lawsuit against the driver if I was doing something I was not supposed to, such as riding on the wrong side of the street, not wearing a helmet, or not having proper lights or reflectors at night?

Yes. You can bring a lawsuit as long as you can prove that the driver or some other person or entity was at fault. The bicyclist has the same duties and responsibilities on roadways as a motor vehicle driver. Further, there are some additional special requirements for bicyclists. Adult bicyclists are not required by law to wear helmets, although a jury can still find you negligent for not wearing a helmet even if you are an adult. Further, not following the law by riding on the wrong side of the road or not having proper gear to ride at night can, and often will be found to be negligent behavior on your part. However, a bicyclist’s negligence does not eliminate their ability to sue another party; it simply reduces the recovery by the percentage of their fault.

My child was injured or killed while riding his bicycle. What are our rights?

Children, particularly young children, are not held to the same standard of care for their own safety as adults. Thus, drivers must be more cautious when they know that children riding bicycles are in the area. Even if your child was negligent, you may be able to recover against anyone responsible for causing the accident, including the driver of the vehicle that hit your child.

I was riding my bicycle when I rode over a pothole which threw me off my bike and caused a serious head injury. Do I have a case?

Yes. You have a potential case. If you can establish that public or private property was in a dangerous condition and that it was foreseeable that someone would be riding a bicycle over that property, you will be able to bring a case. However, to win the case you must prove that the possessor or owner of the property created, knew, or should have known, about the dangerous condition on the property and failed to repair or warn of the danger.

I brought my bicycle in for repairs shortly before my accident. I believe that the repair shop improperly repaired the brakes which caused me to lose control of my bicycle and run into a tree, causing a severe injury. Can I sue the repair shop?

Yes, as long as you can prove that the repair shop negligently repaired your brakes, and the brakes’ failure contributed to your accident. You will have to retain an expert to prove your case. In addition, you will have to prove that you or someone else did not cause the brake failure.

I bought a bicycle several years ago and always kept it in good repair. However, while I was riding one day I went over a bump and my front wheel collapsed, causing me to crash into a parked car. Can I sue the manufacturer of the bicycle?

Yes. As long as you can establish that the bicycle wheel was defectively manufactured or designed, you can prevail in a case against the bicycle manufacturer.

I recently bought a bicycle with reflectors. I rode the bicycle at night. A car did not see me and turned in front of me. I crashed into the car and received a severe injury. Can I sue the seller of the bicycle?

Maybe. There are special requirements under the California Vehicle Code for sellers of bicycles. It is illegal for a seller of a bicycle to sell a bicycle that does not have the types of reflectors that are required by law, therefore not meeting the requirements established by the Department of Motor Vehicles. If you can establish that your bicycle did not come with all of the reflectors required by the Vehicle Code, you can sue the bicycle seller as long as you can establish that the lack of required reflectors contributed to your accident and injury.

Can I repair or sell my bicycle and get a new helmet after a bicycle accident in which I have been injured?

Yes, but you may be doing irreparable harm to your case. If your case involves a head injury or traumatic brain injury, an examination of the helmet will be critical. Thus, you should always maintain your helmet. Further, the bicycle itself should be left in the exact condition it was in after the accident. Bicycle cases almost always involve disputed liability (fault) and an accident reconstruction expert or bicycle expert will be greatly aided in his or her evaluation of the case by being able to examine the bicycle. An expert will be able to determine speed of impact and all of the forces involved in the accident by inspecting the bicycle. If the bicycle is disposed of, hopefully you have a picture of the bicycle in its post-accident condition. If you do not, you should not give up on the case until you can consult with an attorney who may be able to prove the case even without the bicycle.

Is there such a thing as a bicycle expert?

Yes, absolutely. There are physicists, engineers, and other specialists who devote their life’s work to reconstructing bicycle accident cases, designing bicycles and determining whether or not a bicycle was improperly manufactured, repaired or maintained. In any bicycle accident involving a serious injury or death, the plaintiff’s attorney should retain such an expert.

What damages are recoverable in bicycle accident cases?

A Plaintiff is entitled to recover damages for past and future medical expenses, past and future wage loss, past and future pain and suffering, and if it is deemed that conduct is bad enough, punitive damages (i.e., punishment damages against the defendant). If the bicyclist dies, his or her survivors are entitled to recover full compensation for the economic losses that result from the bicyclist’s death as well as emotional distress damages that stem from the loss of society, care, and comfort of the decedent. If the survivors can prove that the bicyclist lived for a period of time between the negligent act and death, they can also bring an action for punitive damages.

How soon do I need to bring a case after a bicycle accident?

A Bicycle Accidents and/or wrongful death action, under California law, must be brought within two years of the date of the accident, if the accident occurred on or after January 1, 2003; and one year from the date of the accident if the accident occurred prior to January 1, 2003. In cases against public entities, a claim must be filed against the public entity within six months from the date of the accident. If the plaintiff is a minor, a minor has until their 19th birthday to bring a case unless there is a government claim in which a minor should bring the claim within six months of the accident, or one year at the latest.

Will my bicycle accident case settle and does it make a difference if I hire an attorney?

It is always a good idea to consult or retain an attorney in a bicycle accident case because there usually will be some questions of comparative fault. In addition, expert witnesses may need to be retained to reconstruct the accident and help determine responsibility for the accident. Your case will probably settle and will be more likely to settle for an increased amount if you retain an attorney.