Most motorists understand that they must observe the rules of the road or face penalties in the case of an accident with another driver. Yet, they may be unaware of the rules that apply to bicycles. This lack of knowledge can lead to legal problems when a driver hits a bike, especially one traveling inside the bicycle lane.
California has hundreds of fatal bicycle collisions each year, with 338 killed in 2013. This significant number, the highest in the nation, demonstrates that it is highly likely that a rider will be involved in an accident. If so, here are six steps to follow:
1. Check For Injuries
Probably the most important thing for anyone involved in a traffic accident with a bicycle to do is check for injuries. This observation need not be done with professional precision, of course.
First, ask everyone if they are hurt. If so, find out the location of the injury. Doing so is crucial because it is not good to move a hurt person in a way they could further aggravate the situation.
2. Contact the Authorities
Medical personnel and police are the two authorities to whom parties of an accident may need to contact. First, if there are serious injuries then it is best to call for paramedics. They can provide on-the-spot medical attention to alleviate the chances of further physical damage.
Over the phone, the medics will also inform the caller of any things necessary to help the victims before the arrival of health care professional. This advice is crucial when someone hurt needs to be moved or have bleeding stopped. Unfortunately, most California motorists have little knowledge of basic first aid procedures.
Next, the police need information about the accident. At this point, the legal aspects become involved. California road rules provide cyclers with responsibilities and rights. In the case of a collision with a bike, knowledge of the rules can help motorists explain better exactly what happened. They will know what sort of details are most relevant to the police investigation. Leaving out pertinent information can make it difficult to ascertain exactly who is at fault.
3. Recall the Events
Staying calm is imperative here. The events leading up to the accident could be murky. Nobody plans on hitting a cycler; nevertheless, the police will want to know how the collision happened in detail. So, it is necessary to concentrate and recall things step-by-step.
4. Consider the Rules of the Road
The parties must be aware just who bears the most responsibility for the collision. If one, or both, failed to observe the rules of the road, then they can be held liable for the damages they caused.
In general, bicycles have the right of way in their proper lane, just as do cars. However, it is the further duty of motorists to look carefully to the right and left when turning. The latter rule exists because the bicycle lane usually sits to the side of the car and thus within the space reserved for turning. Drivers who fail to stop and look for cyclists in the lane may be at fault in the case of an accident.
Likewise, drivers who open doors that extend into the cycle lane must be aware of the presence of any bike riders in the vicinity. A rider thrown off his or her bike by a door suddenly slung open will probably sustain some injuries, depending on the speed of travel. The courts might hold the car owner liable for failing to check for bikes in the lane.
Similarly, some cyclists can face charges if they do not uphold their duties on California roads. For example, injuries sustained while failing to wear regulation headgear might be the fault of the biker. It is the duty of many to wear a helmet that properly covers the head (CVC 21212).
Another common problem for those on bikes is failing to handle their machines. New riders and those on bikes that are too large may find it difficult to maintain control at all times. If there is an accident, for example they veer into the car traffic and get hit, then the state will come down hard on them.
Finally, surprisingly, there are still some cyclists who want to ride against the traffic. Perhaps they believe that by doing so they can better observe the cars around them. This thinking may be partially true, but it is also against the rules of the road. California law (CVC 21650) stipulates that bicycles must travel in the same direction allocated for cars.
5. Speak with an Attorney
Anyone involved in an accident on California’s roads should speak with a legal expert for advice. The laws are complex and ever changing. Nevertheless, the state deems it the responsibility of all drivers and riders to know the law. So, it is wise to consult with a lawyer because they will be able to provide solid advice on how to proceed after a traffic collision.
6. Do not Leave the Scene
Last, but not least, never leave the scene before everything has been cleared up. A hit-and-run is a serious offense. There is no need to take a possible civil action and turn it into a criminal case. Stay put and follow these steps before going home.