The state of California has “duty of care” laws that favor cyclists and pedestrians when it comes to accidents. The laws reasonably conclude that the onus of safety and vigilance rests mainly on drivers, as their negligence can cause the most harm.
Duty of care for drivers
Though casual observation of traffic may not always support this, drivers are legally required to pay attention to their surroundings at all times, not only when their vehicle is in motion, but also when it’s stopped at an intersection or even sitting in a parking spot.
It should go without saying that drivers must heed traffic signals and signs, respect right-of-way rules and refrain from any activity that distracts them from safely piloting their vehicles. This includes navigating into or out of parking spots and opening their car doors without checking their surroundings.
In rare instances, drivers may even find themselves in legal trouble if their passenger causes an accident or harm by opening their door without looking first.
Legally speaking, drivers have to work extremely hard to not be held liable for car versus cyclist or car versus pedestrian accidents.
Duty of care for cyclists
Cyclists are also held to duty of care laws, including heeding traffic signals, respecting drivers’ right-of-way when applicable, refraining from unsafe passing and maneuvering, and vigilance for pedestrians, particularly when cycling on sidewalks.
The vulnerability of cyclists puts them in much greater danger of severe injury if road conditions are unsafe due to ill-maintained streets. Uneven pavement, a crack or pothole, large debris and broken glass are among the many hazards cyclists face on the road.
These conditions can force a cyclist to swerve suddenly to avoid damage or a fall, causing car versus bike accidents where neither party was necessarily at fault.
Even poor and confusing road signage can cause accidents, as drivers and cyclists attempt to heed such signage.
No matter the situation, assuming injuries allow for it, cyclists should exhaustively document accident scenes, call police, talk to witnesses and see a doctor for an injury assessment, even if injuries aren’t immediately apparent. This will greatly improve their chances for restitution for injuries and damage to their bicycles or property.