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How Does a Bike Rider’s Behavior Affect the Right to Recover Damages?

Victims of bicycle accidents can suffer injuries ranging from simple strains and bruises to bone fractures and brain injuries. An injured rider may be entitled to compensation for their injuries from other at-fault parties to an accident. A victim may recover economic damages, such as medical expenses and lost wages, and noneconomic damages, such as pain and suffering. However, a bike rider’s careless behavior, including disregard of the rules of the road, may limit their recovery of damages.

Under California law, bike riders have the same legal responsibilities as motorists while traveling on public roads. Riders must exercise due caution and follow all applicable traffic laws, including prohibitions on driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. If a biker’s carelessness or disregard of law contributed to the accident, their damages can be reduced based on California’s comparative negligence law.

Comparative negligence apportions the parties’ fault and their corresponding share of damages payable and recoverable. California uses a “pure” comparative negligence approach, which means that even if a victim’s actions were the principal cause of the accident, he or she may still recover from other parties to the extent of their fault.

In bicycle accidents involving other vehicles, the biker’s failure to follow applicable laws may be asserted as comparative negligence. However, it must be determined that the violation contributed to the collision. For example, evidence that a biker was weaving in and out of traffic on a city street is relevant only if the accident occurred in the course of that conduct.

Another factor to be considered is whether the accident or the resulting injury was due in part to the bike rider’s failure to maintain equipment on the bicycle, such as the brakes, or to use proper personal safety equipment, such as a helmet. Although California law does not require adult bike riders to wear helmets, lack of protective headgear can greatly increase the severity of accident injuries. As such, these lapses in taking preventive measures may also result in the reduction of a personal injury award under comparative negligence law.

To learn more about how the Law Offices of Richard J. Staskus can assist you with your bicycle accident case in the San Jose metropolitan area, call us at 408-606-9150 or contact us online for a free consultation.

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