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Can cities be held liable for cycling accidents on public paths?

On Behalf of | Mar 29, 2024 | Bike & Pedestrian Accidents

Bicycling offers numerous benefits, but like any other physical activity, it can result in accidents. But, if the bicycle accident is caused by the city, can the city be held responsible for their public pathways in San Diego County? This blog delves into the potential for residents to seek accountability from cities for bicycle accidents stemming from negligence in pathway maintenance and construction.

Understanding city liability

Cities are tasked with maintaining public spaces, including bike pathways. Bicycle accidents occurring due to negligence, such as poorly maintained pathways, can potentially lead to legal action against the city. Though, successful claims often hinge on proving the city’s knowledge of hazards and the city’s failure to address them.

Liability for poorly designed pathways

Unfortunately, our state generally shield cities from liability based on the design and location of paved and unpaved trails based on the doctrine of trail immunity. Nonetheless, dangerous conditions unrelated to the trail itself are not so exempt.

Dangerous conditions

All cities in San Diego County must maintain their bike pathways in adherence to safety regulations outlined by state and local guidelines to ensure cyclist safety. Specifically, California Code, Government Code, Section 835 allows residents to hold cities liable for any dangerous conditions on bicycle pathways.

However, the bicycle accident must have been caused by the dangerous condition, and the risk must have been foreseeable. In addition, the city must have known or should have known (actual or constructive notice) of the dangerous condition with enough time to remediate it. Or, the negligent or wrongful act or act of omission of the city employee that created the dangerous condition must be within the scope of that employee’s employment.

Legal grounds for lawsuits

In conclusion, while cities may have immunity in many bicycle accidents, there are circumstances where cities in San Deigo County could potentially be held liable. Residents have the option to sue cities for bicycle accidents caused by negligence, but the success of such lawsuits depends on proving negligence, causation and either notice or scope of employment.