Through two decades of my exclusively plaintiff personal injury practice, I have developed ties with several Bay Area cycling clubs, and, as a consequence, have handled very many car versus bicycle collisions. Since the cars got the better of the bicyclists, it is only justice that we have prevailed with excellent results on behalf of all our bicyclist clients. The contested legal issues in these cases tend to involve the motorist’s liability, i.e., the facts of the collision incident. The California Vehicle Code treats bicycles similarly to automobiles. Cyclists must obey the same rules of the road as motorists, cyclists must wear helmets, and must use headlights beginning not later than 30 minutes after sunset.
Drivers tend to not have seen the bicyclist, and so, collisions occur as the car is turned into a driveway, or as a car is turned left across an intersection where the cyclist has right-of-way, or (as in a most memorable case) where the motorist uses the opposing lane to pass slower traffic when that opposing lane is occupied by a bicyclist. Under any of these, or similar, scenarios, the motorist undoubtedly tells his insurance carrier that the “bicycle appeared out of nowhere” or that the cyclist should have taken some evasive action (as if that were possible) to avoid the collision. Insurance carriers often take their insureds at their word, and suddenly a bicyclist - who has just suffered a disabling injury - is being told by the motorist’s insurance company employee that he or she (the cyclist) is responsible –in whole or in part – for his or her own injuries. In addition, there is a strong bias against bicyclists and the use of bicycles, that is held by a large percentage of our driving population. The motorist's side of these disputed claims will attempt to profit by that bias, whether held by witnesses or potential jurors. If the injuries are substantial, it is imperative that the bicyclist promptly retain legal representation. These cases can almost always be won, but the best outcome can only be obtained by fighting these cases from beginning to end.