California records the highest bicycle accident fatalities in the country after Florida. Bicycles accidents usually cause catastrophic injuries for the cyclist due to the minimal protection from external factors. A cyclist may sustain life-threatening injuries while the vehicle involved suffers minimal to no damage.

Injuries from bicycle accidents can affect the quality of your life, from injuries that affect your ability to work to those that cause the death of your loved one.

Fortunately, you can sue the at-fault motorist for injuries or losses you suffer due to a bicycle injury. At Orange County Personal Injury Attorney, we will help you and your loved ones recover compensation for the injuries you sustain.

Overview of Bicycle Accidents

The efficiency of bicycles as a means of transport has increased the use of bicycles on California roads. However, fatalities have also increased, with more than 300 people dying every year, with about 400,000 sustaining injuries from bicycle accidents.

Bicycle accidents can be between a bicycle and a vehicle, another bicycle, a pedestrian, or a motorcyclist. Regardless of the involved parties, these accidents cause severe injuries and changes to the lives of those affected.

Understanding your rights after a bicycle accident can help you recover the compensation you deserve within the legal time limits.

Usually, the statute of limitations for bicycle accidents in California is two years. You also have two years to sue the at-fault party if your loved one died from a bicycle accident.

The common causes of bicycle accident include:

  • Drunk driving or cycling

  • Distracted driving

  • Dooring accidents

  • Manufacturing and design defects

  • Poor visibility

  • Right and left turns

Most of these accidents can be avoided if motorists adhere to California bicycle laws. Motorists can also avoid these accidents by exercising the duty of care to other road users.

California Bicycle Laws

Traffic laws help motorists prevent accidents. They guide you on the right time to make turns and when to give way. These laws will also help you identify the negligent person who caused or contributed to the accident.

These laws require that cyclists observe all traffic laws as drivers do. For instance, cyclists must stop at stop signs and obey other traffic signs.

Also, they must cycle in the same direction as traffic and on the right side of the road. If a cyclist wishes to ride against the traffic, he or she must walk the bicycle on the sidewalk.

The cyclist can, however, cycle on the left side when:

  • Overtaking to pass another bicycle

  • When taking a left turn

  • When it is reasonably necessary (or unsafe to continue cycling on the right side)

As a cyclist, you are required to use bike lanes where the present. You can leave a bike lane to overtake, take a left turn, or to avoid a pedestrian. Cyclists also have to give the right of way to pedestrians.

Some of these laws are also designed to enhance the safety of roads. For example, a cyclist must always ride with lights and reflectors at night. The reflectors must meet the following conditions:

  • A red reflector or flashing light at the rear

  • A white or yellow reflector on the pedals

Cyclists under 18 must always wear a helmet when cycling. However, you should always wear a helmet for your safety.

Another law that promotes your safety while on the road is the prohibition against wearing earplugs on both ears. Your ability to hear other events on the road can help you avoid an accident that could cause severe injuries.

The bicycle you own should be of the right size such that you can support the bike with one foot on the ground while in an upright position. In addition, your bicycle must have working brakes so that you can avoid hazards and possibly accidents.

Drivers are also supposed to provide sufficient distance between the vehicle and the bicycle when passing. Alternatively, the driver should slow down to a reasonable pace. He or she should pass when the action does not endanger the cyclist.

What to Do After a Bicycle Accident

Despite the presence of rules to govern the conduct of drivers and cyclists on the road, accidents still happen. These can be due to distractions, fatigue, defective cars, or bikes, and drunkenness.

When an accident happens, the first reaction is fear, disbelief, and confusion. In this confusion, you could do things that could destroy evidence and affect your case if you choose to sue. However, you can be proactive and take steps that will help your case. These include:

  • Call the police and 911: the police will record the statements from the witnesses and parties involved in the accident. In addition, they could collect materials from the scene and conduct an investigation. For example, if a driver hits you due to drunk driving, the police will record the BAC level of the driver. The police will also record other traffic violations and issue a ticket (where applicable). Such a ticket can help you in proving the negligence of the at-fault party. When talking to the police, give your account of what happened, describing everything in detail. Also, indicate any injuries you have suffered due to the accident. Calling 911 is crucial, especially where injuries occurred.

  • Move out of the way: if you are involved in a bicycle accident on the road, you should remove yourself from the road to prevent other injuries from other cars.

  • Help other injured people

  • Record the details of the accident, including how the accident happened, the damage to your bicycle, and any injuries. Record the contact information of witnesses and other parties involved in the accident.

  • Take photographs of the accident scene, damaged property, and any injuries. Take the photographs with a timestamp on and from different angles. If there are skid marks or any other evidence on the road, record it. You can create multiple copies of this evidence to keep it safe. Ideally, you could print these images should you lose your device or delete them.

  • Stay calm and avoid taking or assigning blame to other motorists. In addition, you should avoid getting into verbal fights with the parties involved in the accident. Do not negotiate with the driver for a settlement or compensation.

  • Visit the hospital for a checkup. When your adrenaline is up during the accident, your injuries are hard to notice. This is true for internal injuries or those that do not manifest in blood or visibly broken parts. Therefore, you must visit a doctor immediately for an evaluation.

  • In the days, weeks, or months following the accident, keep a journal of your progress, the changes the accident has brought, your recovery from the injuries, and the functions you have lost. Record the treatments, medication, missed days at work, and the pain you are experiencing. Record any statements about the outlook for your injury and the future with these injuries.

Sometimes, it is impossible for the party injured in the accident to perform all these activities. For instance, if your loved one dies or is severely injured at the scene, he or she will require help with gathering that evidence.

As a family member or friend of the victim, you can collect evidence in the following ways:

  • Get the police report about the accident. the report will provide information about how the accident happened, witnesses and injuries in the accident

  • Collect witness information and contact them for their testimony about how the accident happened

  • Go to the scene of the accident and take photographs of the accident scene and any evidence you find at the scene

  • Collect the medical records of the victim if he or she succumbed to the injuries from the accident. if the person died at the scene, you could collect an autopsy report which will provide details of the injury that caused the death of your loved one

Whether you survive after an accident or are acting on behalf of your loved one, you must contact a personal injury attorney. An attorney will begin working on your case early and provide you with important information concerning your case.

Injuries from Bicycle Accidents

Bicycle accidents have the potential of causing severe injuries. These injuries include:

  1. Head injuries

Head injuries are those that affect the brain, skull, or scalp. They could be as minor as a bruise or as severe as traumatic brain injuries. The basic types of head injuries are closed and open injuries.

Closed head injuries are those that do not break the skull, while open injuries are those that penetrate the skull. Some of the head injuries you could sustain include:

  • Hematomas in which the blood collects outside the blood vessels in the head

  • Hemorrhage either inside or around the brain

  • Concussions

  • Edema or swelling

  • Skull fracture which increases the risk of brain injury

  • Sheer injury (damage to the brain cells without bleeding)

The severity of the symptoms of head injuries will vary depending on the type of injury you suffer. Some of the common symptoms of head injuries include:

  • Headaches

  • Lightheadedness

  • Confusion

  • Nausea

  • Ringing in the ears

Severe head injuries can result in symptoms such as:

  • Unconsciousness

  • Vomiting

  • Problems with balance and coordination

  • Difficulties in focusing the eyes

  • Loss of muscle control

  • Persistent headaches

  • Loss of memory

  • Disorientation

  • Mood changes

Drainage or clear fluids from the nose and ears

Head injuries require immediate treatment due to their sensitivity. If left untreated, you could suffer brain damage and death. You may require treatment, especially if:

  • You have a hematoma

  • You suffered a skull fracture

  • To release pressure from the skull

Your outlook after a head injury will depend on the severity of the injury. If you suffered minor injuries, you may lead a normal life after recovery. However, serious head injuries will lead to significant changes and complications in the long-term.

  1. Traumatic Brain Injuries

The force of being thrown off the bike during a collision often results in traumatic brain injuries. Traumatic brain injuries are those that occur when the head suffers a severe head blow or when your head is jerked suddenly and forcibly.

Traumatic brain injuries can be mild to severe, depending on the affected brain cells. Mild traumatic brain injuries are temporal, and most people recover over time, with few long-term effects.

However, severe traumatic brain injuries cause death in about 50% of the cases. Even the survivors have to deal with long-term complications and death.

Traumatic brain injuries produce both physical and psychological effects. Some of these symptoms include:

  • Loss of consciousness (the period you remain unconscious will depend on the severity of the injuries. for mild TBI, you lose consciousness for several seconds to minutes while the period could extend to hours with severe brain injury)

  • Confusion

  • Headache which becomes persistent with severe traumatic brain injury

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Fatigue

  • Difficulties with speech

  • Insomnia

  • Blurred vision

  • Ringing in the ears

  • Light and sound sensitivity

  • Problems with memory and concentration

  • Mood changes

  • Depression and anxiety

Symptoms that indicate you suffered severe traumatic brain injuries include:

  • Drainage of a clear fluid from the nose or ears

  • Problems with waking up

  • Dilation of the pupils

  • Convulsions and seizures

  • Weakness and numbness in the toes and fingers

  • Coma

The long-term effects of traumatic brain injuries include:

  • You may get into a coma

  • You get into a vegetative state, especially where a large part of your brain was damaged. If you have reached the vegetative phase, you might remain that way or transition into a minimally conscious state.

  • When you achieve minimal consciousness, you are more aware of your environment compared to one in a vegetative state. Most people who become minimally conscious can recover.

  • Another complication of traumatic brain injury is brain death, which is an irreversible condition. A person with brain death will require life support devices to continue living.

  • You might also develop seizures that may appear immediately years after the accident. These seizures may also become recurrent.

  • A buildup of fluid in the head

  • Infections

  • Damage to blood vessels which might result in secondary conditions such as stroke, and blood clots

  • Frequent headaches

  • Vertigo

  • If the injuries occurred at the base of the skull and affected your cranial nerves, you could experience conditions such as paralysis of facial muscles, vision, and swallowing problems and dizziness.

  • Cognitive problems including memory, learning, judgment, and concentration

Wearing a helmet while riding can reduce the severity of head injuries. However, some helmets have defects that worsen the impact of the fall or cause you an injury. In such a case, you can sue the manufacturer for contributing to your injuries through negligence.

  1. Spinal Injuries

Spinal injuries are common due to the impact of bicycle injuries on the spinal nerves. Trauma due to a bicycle accident can result in the compression, crushing, dislocation, or fracture of the spinal vertebra, ligaments, or discs.

Spinal injuries can cause temporary and permanent changes. The location of trauma to the spine will also determine the symptoms and long-term effects of the injury. It will also determine the completeness of your injuries.

Complete spinal injuries result in the loss of all sensory and motor functions below the injured area. An incomplete spinal injury, you will have some sensory and motor functions below the area of injury.

Some of the symptoms of spinal injuries include:

  • Loss of movement

  • Loss of sensation (or an altered sensation)

  • Loss of bladder and bowel function

  • Spasms

  • Pain

  • Difficulties in breathing

Sometimes, a bicycle accident could result in severe symptoms that require immediate medical attention. These symptoms include:

  • Extreme back pain

  • Pressure in the neck, head or back

  • Weakness or paralysis on any part of the body

  • Numbing or paralysis in the limbs

  • Loss of bladder and bowel control

  • Problems with balance and walking

  • Difficulties in breathing

  • A twisted or oddly placed neck or back

The recovery from spinal injuries will depend on several factors, including:

  • The severity of the injury

  • How soon you seek treatment: some spinal injuries are not immediately obvious and often develop into severe conditions. Most spinal injuries become worse due to bleeding, swelling, and edema in or around the spinal cord.

  • Handling practices at the scene of the accident: mishandling at the scene of the accident can result in more damage including permanent paralysis

The recovery from spinal injuries will depend on the extent of your injuries. For some, they can regain some sensory and motor functions with treatment and rehabilitation. However, you might still experience some complications, including:

  • Problems with controlling your bowel and bladder

  • Loss of skin sensation

  • Loss of circulatory control which could lead to additional complications such as low blood pressure, blood clots, and high blood pressure

  • Problems with respiratory functions such as breathing and coughing

  • Spasticity (uncontrolled tightening) or flaccidity (limpness) in muscles

  • Weight loss and muscle atrophy

  • Problems with sexuality, fertility and sexual function

  • Nerve, muscle or joint pain

  • Depression

How Catastrophic Injuries Affect your Settlement

Catastrophic injuries have severe and usually permanent physical, psychological, emotional, cognitive, and behavioral changes. Coping with these changes can be difficult for you and your loved ones.

Even those who recover still lose the ability to engage in activities they previously enjoyed. This means you could lose the ability to earn and interact with your loved ones. You might also have to depend on outside help to cope with some activities.

The recovery for catastrophic injuries takes a long time. Most people will spend months to a year in the hospital for the initial treatment. A longer stay in the hospital also means that you must pay more for the treatment.

You or your loved one may also need specialized treatment and equipment during the recovery process, which further inflates the costs of recovery. In addition, most people will require rehabilitation to resume the use of limbs or learning to cope with the injury.

You might also need constant therapy to prevent muscle loss and atrophy after your recovery. Some catastrophic injuries such as spinal injuries could result in problems with the respiratory system, which necessitates regular care.

Since you also need a longer time to recover, you will lose more wages and time from work. This means your career will be on pause until you recover. In other cases, you might be unable to return to your previous job and find difficulties securing new employment opportunities.

Catastrophic injuries also have a higher level of physical pain from the injuries. You and your loved ones will experience great emotional trauma during your recovery as the changes from the injuries require significant adjustments to your daily life.

For example, losing the ability to interact with your family, make decisions, and engage in your career can cause significant emotional distress.

Due to the magnified effect of catastrophic injuries from bicycle injuries, the out of pocket expenses tend to be higher. The pain and suffering are also higher; thus, the final compensation value will be higher.

The best time to seek compensation for catastrophic injuries is once you achieve the maximum recovery state, usually in a year. At this point, you can accurately determine the expenses and your outlook in terms of recovery, activities, and career growth.

Find a Personal Injury Attorney Near Me

Bicycle accidents are a leading cause of catastrophic injuries, especially if the injury involves a bicycle and a vehicle. The impact of the collision often throws the cyclist off the bike and onto the road. The cyclist could suffer severe injuries when he or she lands on the hard road.

If you or a loved one is injured or killed in a bicycle injury, you need to work closely with a reputable personal injury attorney to recover the damages from the accident. The Orange County Personal Injury Attorney specializes in getting compensation for people injured in bicycle accidents.

We help our clients identify the negligent party in the accident and file a claim against this party. We walk with you through every step of your recovery, keeping track and filing records of your expenses, treatment, and the pain you experience when recovering from these injuries. Contact us today at 714-876-1959 for assistance with your case.