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Even when a bicyclist is wearing a helmet, he or she can suffer a traumatic brain injury (TBI) in an accident. Although California law requires every cyclist under the age of 18 to wear a helmet, those helmets only reduce the chances of a serious brain injury by about 40 percent. According to the American Journal of Surgery, more than 50 percent of all bicyclists have suffered a TBI after a bike accident. One study performed by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration concluded that the chances of a TBI increase dramatically when a person rides a bicycle at night or rides in urban areas with heavy traffic

TBIs don’t require a blow to the head

When a motor vehicle is involved in an accident with a bicycle, the cyclist can be catapulted from the bike onto the street. He or she might even collide with another vehicle or a stationary object. Although most TBIs involve a blow to the head, a person’s head need not hit anything at all in order to suffer such an injury. The force of a motor vehicle impacting the rider or their bike can cause the rider’s brain to crash into the hard interior of the skull and damage their brain. A helmet might serve its intended purpose once the rider ends up on the pavement, but a severe brain injury might have occurred two or three seconds earlier.

TBI symptoms

TBIs can have profound and wide ranging consequences that are often permanent for a victim. Those can include but certainly not be limited to:

  • Cognitive difficulties involving concentration and memory
  • Speech and comprehension difficulties
  • Sensory deficits involving touch, temperature variations, posture and coordination
  • Double vision, blurred vision, impaired depth perception
  • Loss of control of the bladder and bowel
  • Emotional instability


The extent of a TBI determines whether a lifetime of medical and personal care will be required for a person. These injuries can be financially and emotionally devastating for victims and their families. They might even result in an untimely death. Damages can include:

  • Past medical bills and medical bills reasonably expected to be incurred in the future
  • Lost earnings and earnings reasonably expected to be lost in the future
  • Any permanent disfigurement
  • Any permanent disability
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of a normal life
  • Funeral and burial costs in the event of a wrongful death

The right to cycle safely

Remember that California law clearly states that bicyclists have the same rights on the roads as motorists have. Some motorists don’t respect those rights, and others never see the bicycle or don’t see it until it’s too late. In some bicycle accidents, road conditions are the cause of a crash. Potholes, sinkholes, repair materials and gravel have all caused or contributed to bike crashes.

Frequently Asked Questions

What if I have permanent brain damage from an auto accident?

If you were injured due to someone’s negligence and you suffered permanent brain damage, then you are entitled to compensation for, among other things, all medical treatments, physical and cognitive rehabilitation, and loss of quality of life. You are entitled to compensation for future damages, as well as those already incurred at the time of your personal injury claim.

What if I suffered a brain injury and wasn’t wearing my helmet?

The law requires anyone under 18 to wear a helmet while riding a bicycle on California streets. However, a violation of criminal law doesn’t automatically mean you are negligent in a civil case. The law looks at which party was at fault, and if the driver was negligent, then he or she will have to pay for your injuries even if you weren’t wearing a helmet. However, as we have written about in more detail elsewhere, defense attorneys and insurance companies often try to place blame on a cyclist for not wearing a helmet. Having an attorney who specializes in bicycle accidents is especially important if you suffered a brain injury and weren’t wearing a helmet.

Is there a time limit on settling a brain injury personal injury case?

Yes and no. There is a strict and very important time limit on filing a lawsuit with a court. For most brain injury cases, this time limit is two years — but in certain circumstances it can be much shorter. That is why it is important to reach out to a personal injury lawyer promptly after you have been in a bicycle accident. Once a lawsuit is filed, however, there is not a strict time limit on resolving the claim. This can be especially important for those who have suffered brain injuries with long lasting effects, and who need to allow their symptoms to stabilize before knowing how much their case is worth.

Contact Bay Area Bicycle Law

Whether your bicycle crash was caused by a motorist or road conditions, don’t hesitate to contact us about your TBI or the TBI of a family member.
We are the only firm based in San Francisco and Northern California to specialize exclusively in representing bicyclists.
We offer free consultations and case evaluations, and we’ll carefully assess liability and damages in your case. It’s better to talk with us sooner than later, especially if your case involves dangerous road conditions and a government entity. Strict claim notice provisions might apply, and you’ll want to serve a timely and proper notice.