Written by Chris Dolan and Cristina Garcia
This week’s question comes from Patricia D. from the Mission District, who asks: I was riding my bicycle down 19th Street approaching Mission Street when a distracted driver traveling in the opposite direction struck me. He was apparently texting, driving, and traveling too fast on the roadway. When the vehicle struck me, I fell on my right side. As a result, I broke my right wrist and suffered a terrible road rash on my right elbow and shoulder area. The driver and I exchanged information before I was transported to the hospital. I recently received a call from the driver’s car insurance informing me that they would not pay for the damages to my bike or any of my medical expenses because I was at fault. Are they correct?
Thank you for your question. Adult bicyclists have the same duties and responsibilities as motor vehicle drivers under the California Vehicle Code (“CVC”) 21200. CVC 21200 provides as follows:
“(a)(1) A person riding a bicycle or operating a pedicab upon a highway has all the rights and subject to all the provisions applicable to the driver of a vehicle by this division, including, but not limited to provisions concerning driving under the influence of alcoholic beverages or drugs…”
Therefore, California laws treat bicyclists as motor vehicles that must abide by all traffic laws, which includes CVC section 21650, which provides that all cyclists must travel in the same direction as traffic. If bicyclists need to head in the opposite direction of traffic, they must walk with their bikes on the sidewalk.
For this reason, the driver’s vehicle insurance is likely denying your claim for property damage to your bicycle and personal injury claim. This denial does not completely bar you from recovering for your injuries if the other driver was also negligent. For example, suppose the police report or witnesses corroborate that the driver was speeding or texting while driving. In that case, counsel can argue that the driver’s negligent acts also caused the collision.
An issue that is likely to be raised is “Comparative Fault,” also called “Comparative Negligence.” Comparative Fault is the percentage of fault the court assigns to the injured party. California law states if the parties are found to share fault, the law requires that the amount of recovery that the injured party is entitled to be reduced by his or her percentage of fault. For example, if the injured person is found to be 30% at fault, their compensation award will be reduced by 30%. The driver’s insurance adjuster generally assigns this percentage if the case settles pre-litigation. However, if your case does not settle before trial, a jury will decide what percentage of fault will be assigned to each party.
If you were injured in a bicycle collision due to someone’s negligence, you have the right to seek compensation for your economic and non-economic damages. Due to the complexity of Comparative Fault, cases involving Comparative Fault, you must contact a qualified and skilled trial lawyer to review the situation and assist you with your claim to ensure that you receive full and just compensation for your injuries.