Personal Injury -- Plaintiff Law
Who is at fault when an accident or collision occurs between a cyclist and an automobile? And how is that fault determined?
First, let's go over the basic liability rules that apply to bicyclists. They must:
- Obey traffic laws
- Consider their own safety
- Take the safety of others on the roadways into consideration
The same state personal injury laws that govern vehicle accidents also govern bike accident lawsuits.
Severe — and sometimes fatal — injuries can result from an accident involving a bicycle versus a car. We've already discussed the fact that the same laws of the road cover bicycles as well as motor vehicles. But how is liability determined when a car and a bicyclist are involved in a collision?
It all comes down to negligence.
Was the driver of the car negligent or reckless? Was the cyclist also careless, thereby contributing to — or even solely responsible for — the collision?
Examples of recklessness on the part of a driver include:
- Swerving or drifting into a bike lane
- Running or not coming to a complete stop at a stop sign
Examples on the part of a cyclist include:
- Making an abrupt turn into moving traffic
- Ignoring state laws specific to cyclists
- Ignoring one-way street signs
Note that courts hold drivers to a higher standard in bicycle versus auto collisions involving children on bikes. Likewise, courts do not expect young children to show the same knowledge or respect for road safety as older children or adults.
Every bicycle versus auto collision must be evaluated individually to determine liability using the facts specific to each case. Witness testimony might factor in, if available.
Cyclists are indeed obligated by the same rules of the road as cars, such as coming to a complete stop at a stop sign, for example. There are also state laws that apply only to cyclists, including:
- Texas: Nighttime riders must have a front-facing lamp visible to drivers from a distance of at least 500 feet.
- New York: New bicycles, or those intended for nighttime rides, must have either reflective tires or wide and spoke-mounted reflectors. In addition, there are certain requirements such as front-tire reflectors must be amber-colored or colorless, and rear reflectors must be red or colorless.
- Arizona: Cyclists under the age of 18 are legally required to wear a helmet while riding in certain counties and cities.
Any cyclist injured in an accident involving a motor vehicle should have their claim assessed by an experienced personal injury attorney. While serious injuries might call for filing a lawsuit seeking financial compensation, your health insurance policy may already cover minor injuries. Just be sure to have all documentation ready for the insurance claims adjuster before you make your call.