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Case Study: Faulty Right Turns Can Change Lives

A wrong turn can change a life – as was the case for a Bay Area Bicycle Law client who three years ago was hit by a driver that recklessly turned across a San Francisco bicycle lane without looking. 

Once a lively and active person with a bright future and ambition, the accident caused irreversible damage to the client, nearly a year of medical leave, extensive physical therapy, and significant post-concussion symptoms. This year, Bay Area Bicycle Law attorneys were able to secure the client a settlement of nearly $900,000. 

Comparison of Damage to Vehicle After Collision with Likely Impact Location

What happened in a matter of seconds has continued to leave a mark years later, showcasing the importance of awareness on the roads and the need for proper compensation after a debilitating accident.

Lasting suffering

“At least I’m alive,” the client recalls thinking moments after the crash, before they were driven to the emergency room in an ambulance. 

The driver responsible for the accident — who admitted to talking on the phone via a hands free device — had turned right without looking for cyclists in the bike lane, and without first fully merging into the bicycle lane– a violation of California state law, which states that no person shall turn a vehicle from a direct course or move right or left upon a roadway until such movement can be made with reasonable safety and then only after the giving of an appropriate signal…”

According to our experts, the cyclists perception-reaction timethat is, the amount of time needed for them to realize that the car was turning in front of them, and then complete a reaction like braking or turning awaywas greater than 2.5 seconds. The animation below, created by our experts in this case, show that the cyclist did not have enough time to react before colliding.


The driver, on the other hand, had plenty of time to check their mirrors before and during the turn, and if they had done so, they would have seen the cyclist approaching.

Even with a helmet on for protection, the cyclist hit their head hard enough against the pavement to lose consciousness for a brief period of time. They woke up in the street, worried they’d get run over. 

Less than a week after the first ER visit, the client returned because of worsening post-concussion symptoms, including fatigue, difficulty concentrating, headache, weakness, nausea, loss of coordination, and dropping items. These symptoms should be taken seriously after a concussion and can, as in this case, require medical attention.

Over the next several months, the cyclist was unable to return to work per their doctor’s recommendations. Instead, they attended occupational therapy visits to address pain and balance issues, speech therapy visits for cognitive dysfunction, and physical therapy visits to help with neck and back pain, headache and weakness. 

Eleven months later the client finally returned to the job they’d worked hard to reach, but symptoms weren’t resolved and the traumatic brain injury continued to impact daily activities, from diminished memory to trouble walking up the stairs. A new job, which the client took because they hoped that new inadequacies would be less obvious to someone who hadn’t worked with them pre-crash, was still difficult to keep up with. The inability to multitask and constant fatigue from the TBI meant they could only work 20 to 30 hours per week. 

Gone along with the capacity to work like they once did were the activities the client previously enjoyed, like surfing and cooking complex dishes. The client instead felt a significant level of anxiety and depression. Post traumatic stress disorder has also made the former cyclists afraid to return to a bicycle. 

A neuropsychological expert says the client will likely not make a full recovery given the complexity of their neurological, cognitive, and emotional symptoms and presumed they’ll find it difficult to meet basic requirements in their former work environment.

Making a proper turn

Our client’s accident could have — and should have — been avoided altogether. Looking twice for cyclists, avoiding driving distractions, and merging into the bicycle lane before making a right turn can avoid horrible outcomes that lead to diminished quality of life. 

In California, it’s the law to merge into the bike lane before making a right turn, and the lanes even give drivers cues on how to maneuver them. Merging into the bicycle lane clues the cyclist into the fact that the car is going to make a turn, and should not leave enough room in the lane for the cyclist to pass the car to the right, thus avoiding the type of collision that happened in this case.

“These lanes are marked by a solid white line, which becomes a dotted line ending before it reaches the corner. Different from a simple white line showing the edge of the road, a bicycle lane follows specific width requirements and is clearly marked as a bike lane with symbols and/or signs,” the state Department of Motor Vehicles explains. “Bicycle lanes are sometimes painted a bright green color in order to increase visibility. Treat a bicycle lane painted bright green just like any other bicycle lane. Drivers of motorized bicycles must use bicycle lanes carefully to avoid collisions with other bicyclists.”

The failure to respect the rules of the road can result in tragedy. Even with proper and timely medical care, a brain injury can have long-lasting effects and forever alter a person’s health and well-being, just as it did for our client who was forced to make serious life changes to accommodate the permanent injuries from the collision. 

Working with an attorney at Bay Area Bicycle Law can help return the costs and losses that come along with an accident. For a free consultation, call (415) 466-3104.