RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE ACCIDENT
Piecing together news stories, it appears the rider, a 61-year-old man, was riding in an exit lane while leaving the mall parking lot. The driver of the car made a left turn into the mall. The driver apparently turned too soon, entering the exit lane rather than the entrance lane, causing a collision with the bicycle rider.
If those are the facts, little if any fault should be attributed to the bicycle rider. If evidence suggests that the rider had an opportunity to anticipate and avoid the accident and failed to do so, he might be held partially responsible (in the language of the law, he could be found contributorily negligent). The large majority of fault should plainly be attributed to the driver of the car, who carelessly entered the wrong lane and evidently failed to observe the bicycle.
THE RISK OF URBAN BICYCLING
The accident points to the perilous nature of riding a bicycle in a state that is dominated by cars and trucks. While San Diego is heralded as a bicycle-friendly city, bicycles are less visible than cars. Drivers who are watching for cars, not for bicycles, often fail to see a bicyclist until it is too late.
Bicyclists should do everything they can to make themselves visible. Bicycle safety tips include wearing bright clothing and flying a bicycle flag. Bicyclists should also anticipate that drivers might not see them although, in this case, it would be difficult to anticipate that a driver would turn into the wrong lane. The news stories do not indicate whether the bicyclist was wearing a bicycle helmet, but doing so is always a wise precaution.
COMPENSATION FOR INJURIES
The bicycle rider was hospitalized with broken ribs, fractured facial bones, and bleeding on his brain. The brain injury may be the most serious of those, although it is good to know that his injuries have not been characterized as life-threatening. Bleeding within the skull can cause an increase of pressure on the brain as blood accumulates. If the bleeding does not stop naturally, surgery may be required to relieve the pressure and save a patient’s life.
Most traumatic brain injuries heal over the course of time, although the brain is particularly vulnerable to a second injury during the healing period. Traumatic brain injuries can affect the ability to think, reason, and remember. They can also have an impact on balance and sensory perception. We hope the bicycle rider makes a full recovery from his head injury. We also hope he waits to settle his claim until his doctors are able to assess whether the injury will have a lasting impact. Settling too soon would be a serious mistake if his brain injury turns out to be more serious than he believes it to be when he settles his claim.
Broken ribs are extremely painful. They can also be dangerous if sharp bone fragments puncture lungs or pierce blood vessels. Broken ribs make breathing so painful that patients sometimes take only shallow breaths, placing them at risk of contracting pneumonia. Again, some months may need to pass before the bicyclist will be in a position to know the full extent of his injuries.
Depending on their location, fractured bones in the face may need to be repaired by a maxillofacial surgeon. Some facial injuries have an impact on eyesight or breathing. Facial injuries from car accidents often cause permanent scarring.
We know nothing about the bicycle rider’s employment, but he will be entitled to compensation for lost wages caused by the accident. His medical expenses are likely to be substantial. Compensation for pain and suffering may be the largest part of his claim against the driver’s insurance company. Victims of bicycle accidents who experience serious injuries should always consult with a car accident attorney to be sure they understand their rights before they think about settling their claim for compensation.