If you’re in a bicycle accident in Northern California, my team at Paceline Law can be there to help. Sideswipe accidents, where a car collides with the side of your bike, can result in serious injuries even at low speeds. Don’t let this incident impact your life any more than it has to. Contact us to set up a free consultation to learn more about your legal options.
What Should You Do After These Accidents?
A sideswipe accident on a bike isn’t that much different from any other bicycle-vehicle type accident. Along those same lines, the actions you take after the accident happens are very important to how the process will play out. So, when one of these accidents happens to you, here’s what you’ll need to do:
- Get to safety along the side of the road or bike lane and check yourself for any injuries.
- Report the accident to the police or authorities, then see if you can get medical care from an EMT.
- If the driver is still around, get their contact and insurance information. If they fled the scene, make sure to tell the police when you report the accident.
- Take pictures or video at the scene with your phone. The police or a bystander can also help you with this if your phone is broken.
- Get any witness information.
- Once you have everything taken care of at the scene, go to an urgent care or emergency room to take care of any further injuries. Adrenaline will be high, so some injuries might not be apparent right away.
- Preserve any physical evidence and don’t repair your bike or any other property that’s damaged.
Should You Hire a Lawyer?
Another important part of this process will be deciding if you want to take legal action. This usually depends on how badly you’re hurt or how much damage there was to your bike. If the sideswipe was minor and you have all the insurance information you need, you can probably just file a claim and move on.
However, if the accident is substantial and your injuries are more extensive, hiring our team to work with you is a good chance to get what you’re owed.
Here’s how we approach these cases:
- First, we put together a timeline of what happened based on your account of events and evidence. Then, we evaluate your options and what your best action will be.
- Next, we’ll help you gather more evidence, including an ongoing tally of your medical records and other losses.
- We’ll talk to any witnesses, and review insurance policies to see who is at fault–and who is responsible.
- We’ll help you file either an insurance claim or lawsuit to get your damages back. Sometimes, you may have to file both.
- Lastly, we’ll support you through the entire process and generally make it easier on you and your family.
Again, what you need to do is going to depend on the circumstances of your accident. That said, the choice rests entirely with you. Either way, we’ll help guide you through the legal process.
Legal Process and Damages After an Accident
Legally speaking, a sideswipe bike accident will leave you with two options to recover damages: file an insurance claim or file a lawsuit. But before you can file your claim, you have to figure out who is legally responsible–or liable for causing the accident. Most of the time, this is going to fall on the driver that hit you. However, depending on what actually happened, others may also be responsible:
- Other drivers
- Pedestrians or other bicyclists
- Third parties, like construction companies
- Car or parts manufacturers
- Local governments in charge of the road or signage
All of these could play some part in the accident, and as a result, could be on the hook for helping to pay for your injuries and other losses. Once you file your insurance claim or lawsuit and go through the various procedures, you can recover the following damages:
- Medical expenses and costs
- Ongoing care and physical therapy costs
- Lost income or future earning potential
- Replacement or repair cost for your bike or other damaged property
- Emotional distress and pain and suffering
- Loss of quality of life
- Loss of companionship
- Punitive damages, in certain cases
Remember, your damages will differ from other cases, since they’ll be calculated based on your particular injuries and other losses. With that said, one major hurdle you’ll have to clear is the statute of limitations. You have two years from the accident date to file a claim. Otherwise, you won’t be able to recover damages at all.
Sideswipe Law in Northern California
Not only do you have legal rights under California law, but there is a specific law in place regarding sideswipes. Becoming law in 2014, the “Three Feet For Safety Act” says that:
- Drivers must give bicyclists a minimum of three feet of clearance between any part of the vehicle and the bicycle or rider.
If this isn’t possible due to road conditions or traffic, drivers must slow down and pass safely. The law, akin to speed limits, applies when:
- Passing a bicycle from behind
- Sharing the same lane and direction
- Passing a bicycle in an adjacent lane
Even with this law in place, sideswipe bicycle accidents happen quite frequently–often because drivers don’t follow the rule. Other causes of these accidents include:
- Not checking blind spots before changing lanes
- Weaving in and out of lanes
- Driving drunk or under the influence of drugs
- Driving recklessly or speeding
- Failing to signal
- Driving too fast in bad weather
Can You Avoid These Accidents?
While bicycle accidents, including sideswipes, cannot be entirely prevented due to factors beyond your control, there are ways to minimize risks:
- Wear bright clothes (even during the day) so drivers can see you easily. Also, use safety gear to lower the risk of injury if there’s an accident.
- Think about putting signal lights on your bicycle to increase visibility and awareness for other drivers. These lights, designed with specific features, work effectively both during the day and at night.
- Stay in designated bike lanes, but also avoid sudden maneuvers, and follow a predictable path. Drawing attention to your actions helps drivers recognize and give you space.
- It sounds simple, but always follow the law. Actions like weaving through traffic or riding between lanes can increase the likelihood of sideswipe accidents.
While accidents can’t be entirely avoided, these measures aim to reduce the risk. That said, if you do find yourself in any type of bicycle accident, Paceline Law will be there to support you.
Contact Paceline Law For a Free Consultation
At Paceline Law, we have extensive experience helping clients injured in sideswipe bicycle accidents. We’ll identify the at-fault driver, negotiate with their insurance company, and provide the support you need. Contact us today for a free consultation to start your claim.