What to do if Involved in a Crash with a Motorist as a Bicyclist in California

posted in: Discussion, Useful stuff | 0

What to do if Involved in a Crash with a Motorist as a Bicyclist in California

In California, cyclists are afforded the same rights and responsibilities on most roadways as any other vehicle operator. They share busy, city streets, and more leisurely back roads with motorists each and every day. Staying safe on the road, especially within the city, is therefore a challenge, given that you’re surrounded by drivers, many of whom are in a hurry or otherwise distracted. Even with these daily challenges, your commuting and hobbyist trips likely go off without a hitch most of the time, but crashes can and do happen.

Remaining Safe a Bicyclist

California’s statewide laws govern bikes and motorists, and there are some bike-specific laws with which you must be familiar as well. Towns, cities, and counties can write and enforce their own bike ordinances too, which means you should familiarize yourself with local laws wherever it is you plan to ride. Remaining current on local and state laws lessens your chances of being in an crash and makes it less likely you’ll be found at fault, if an crash does happen.

As a cyclist anywhere in California, you must:

  • Ride with the flow of traffic, rather than against it,
  • Use bike lanes, whenever they’re present, follow all posted traffic signs and signals,
  • Ride responsibly and act predictably to allow others on the road to anticipate your moves,
  • And ride to the far right whenever you can.
  • Wear a helmet if you’re under age 18. While only minors are required to wear a helmet statewide in California, there are dozens of reasons to wear a helmet when riding your bicycle, regardless of your speed, skill, or roads traveled.
  • Although you should hug the right shoulder whenever possible, there are circumstances in which you’re permitted to enter traffic:
  • If you’re changing lanes or making a left turn at the next intersection, you’ll need to merge with or traverse traffic. Just be sure to signal appropriately and to give yourself and others on the road ample warning and space.
  • A bike rider can additionally ride in traffic, as long as he or she is moving as quickly as the rest of the traffic flow. If you’re moving slower than other vehicles, you’re expected to ride to the far right instead.
  • If you are riding near dusk or dawn or after dark, you must have your bike properly outfitted with lights and reflective gear. California law mandates a white headlight, a yellow or white reflector on all sides, and a red, rear reflector, at minimum. This gear helps keep you safe but also limits your chances of being held responsible, should a crash occur.


What to do if Involved in a Crash

When a crash happens, it can be jarring, not just physically but emotionally. Try to keep your cool and follow these essential steps:

  • Contact the police and stay at the scene, if possible, in order to give your statement.
  • If you’re injured or suspect you’re injured, seek immediate medical attention rather than waiting for the police to arrive. You can follow up with the police to give your statement later.
    Even if you’re unsure you’re injured, seek medical attention as soon as possible after the crash. Sometimes, you can suffer injuries and not realize it.
  • Follow-up with eyewitnesses, seek statements, and take pictures of the crash scene.
  • Get photos of your bike, your possessions, and yourself, after the crash.
  • Get hold of your insurance company to report the crash, since you’re covered by your auto insurance, even if you’re riding a bike.
  • Track all of your medical bills, lost work time, bike repair or replacement costs, and any other expenses associated with the crash.
  • All of these details will be necessary for any insurance claim.Whether you ride for pleasure or as a primary form of transportation, cycling is a healthy and invigorating activity. Staying safe on the road is always a top priority, but even when you’re on the alert, crashes can still happen. Familiarize yourself with local and state bike laws to decrease your chances of being involved in a collision. When riding safely, and with a little luck, you’ll hopefully never experience a collision with a motorist.

Useful Information

California’s cycling laws
California’s helmet laws
Reasons to wear a helmet
Light requirements for a bicycle in California


*This article was not written by a legal professional, so if you do need any assistance after a claim, be sure to speak with a licensed attorney in California.

Article provided by Deanna Power of Personal Injury Help. Deanna is a casual cyclist in Boston, MA. If you have any questions, she can always be reached at drp@personalinjury-help.org