Understanding Bicycle Accident Fatalities in Orange County

Understanding Bicycle Accident Fatalities in Orange County

If you’ve been injured as a cyclist or lost a loved one in a bicycle accident, you may feel overwhelmed and unsure what to do next. In this article, we explain how bicycle accident investigations in Orange County work and what to expect from bicycle crash cases.

1. Establishing Fault

After you retain a bicycle crash attorney, they will investigate the accident to understand who was at fault. For their claim to be successful, bicycle riders must show someone else was fully or partially responsible for the crash. In bike accidents, the other party is usually:

  • A pedestrian
  • Another bicyclist
  • The driver of a motor vehicle like a car or a motorcycle
  • A government entity, if the bicycle crash was due to poor road conditions

What if You Are Also at Fault?

If you or your loved one were partly at fault — for example, you didn’t follow bicycle safety rules or failed to properly maintain control of the bike — you can still recover. However, your compensation will be reduced by the respective percentage of fault. So, if you were 40% at fault and the total damages are $100,000, you can recover $60,000.

The Role of Bicycle Accident Reconstruction Experts

Your lawyer may hire a bicycle accident reconstruction expert to arrive at an accurate picture of what happened.

While bicyclists have the same rights and must obey the same traffic laws as motorists, law enforcement officers don’t have sufficient training in cycling laws or bicycle crash investigations. They may not notice key details or understand the mechanical aspects and traffic and human factors contributing to bicycle crashes, leading to wrong determinations of fault.

A bicycle accident reconstruction expert will look at many different things, including:

  • The police crash reports and other documentation like accident reconstruction reports
  • Photographs, videos, and measurements of the location
  • The mechanical condition of the bicycle and any motorized vehicles
  • The bicycle components
  • The bicycle’s frame compared to the cyclist’s height and leg length
  • The rider’s speed and the speed of the vehicle before the collision
  • Traffic signals
  • Skid marks on the traffic lanes from the motor vehicle
  • The surface conditions of the traffic lane
  • The bike lane or bike lanes
  • The road conditions and roadway surface on the crash scene
  • The weather conditions and other environmental factors on the day and time of the crash
  • The clothing of the cyclist
  • The inflation of the bicycle tires
  • The cyclist’s helmet
  • The rider’s actions

After completing the analysis, the bicycle accident reconstruction expert will produce a report you can use as supporting evidence for your claim.

2. Identifying the Applicable Insurance Coverage

After establishing fault, your bicycle accident lawyer will identify the applicable insurance coverage. The driver’s insurance would usually apply if the crash involved a motor vehicle. Knowing their policy limit is critical to building your legal strategy.

3. Gathering Evidence

Next, your attorney will collect information and evidence that document your or your loved one’s injuries, cost of treatment, and other losses like lost wages or property damage, including:

  • Physical evidence
  • The police crash report
  • Medical and billing records
  • Video footage from onboard cameras
  • Expert witness reports from accident reconstruction experts and other bicycle experts

This process can take weeks or months, depending on how promptly the medical providers and other stakeholders process the document requests.

In the case of a bicycle rider with non-fatal injuries, you would also need to heal fully or reach maximum medical improvement. Only then will you know the total value of your claim, which is crucial as you can’t go back and ask for more money later.

4. Filing an Insurance Claim

Once the investigation and evidence gathering is over, your bicycle accident lawyer will typically file a claim with the motorist’s insurance company. Your attorney will handle all communications and negotiations and try to reach a favorable settlement.

5. Filing a Lawsuit

Many cyclists can settle with the insurer of the car driver. Sometimes, however, it’s necessary to file a lawsuit to recover the full value of your claim. This is often the case with cyclists with injuries that are minor or difficult to see.

The first step in a bike crash lawsuit is filing a complaint with the court and serving it on all interested parties, like the motor vehicle’s owner or their employer. The deadline for filing a lawsuit is:

  • Two years from the date of the accident for personal injury and property damage
  • Two years from the date of death for wrongful death
  • Six months for claims against government employees or entities

In bicycle crashes involving minors, the deadline for filing a lawsuit starts to run the day they turn 18.

6. Discovery

After you file your bicycle crash lawsuit, the discovery phase begins. This is a formal information gathering process. Through your respective attorneys, you and the defendant will ask and answer written and oral questions under oath. You can also request and provide documents relating to the crash.

7. Settlement Negotiations

While the parties can settle at any point, bike accident settlement talks typically start after discovery. The settlement process can be as informal as the attorneys exchanging emails back and forth or as formal as making a statutory offer to settle, also known as a 998 offer.

8. Mediation

Some bicyclists benefit from mediation, a voluntary or court-ordered method for alternative dispute resolution in which a neutral mediator helps the parties reach an agreement.

9. Trial

Many bike traffic accident cases go to trial after settlement talks and mediation fail. At the trial, the bicycle rider and the other side will present evidence, and a jury or judge will decide the outcome.

Have You Sustained Injuries in a Bicycle Accident? Call Us.

As an injured cyclist, you may be eligible for compensation under California’s bike safety and traffic laws. At Khalil Law Group, we represent bicycle riders and their families in motor vehicle crashes. If you were injured in a bike crash in Orange County, call (714) 617-7870 or fill out our contact form to schedule a free consultation with a bicycle accident attorney.