Who Is Liable in a Bicycle vs. Car Accident?

Car on the pedestrian path or crosswalk with the downed bicycle

When a bicycle collides with a car, the consequences can be devastating. In an instant, lives can be forever altered. But determining who is liable in these accidents isn't always straightforward. It's a complex puzzle that requires careful examination of the circumstances. Let's get into the key factors that play a role in assigning liability and help you understand your rights in the aftermath of a bicycle vs. car collision.

Determining Liability in Bicycle vs. Car Accidents

Determining liability in bicycle vs. car accidents requires careful consideration of various factors and parties' adherence to the rules of the road. These—and more—can be used to establish fault and determine the responsible party.

Factors Influencing Liability

Cyclist's Actions

If the cyclist involved in the accident failed to comply with traffic signals, such as running a stop sign or red light, rode between lanes to bypass traffic, or unexpectedly crossed a road or merged into traffic from the sidewalk, they may be deemed at fault.

Driver's Behavior

Conversely, if the driver was engaged in distracted activities like talking on a cell phone, addressing other distractions inside the vehicle, passing too close to the cyclist, or failing to follow safety rules related to sharing the road, they are likely to be held liable.

Other Factors and Considerations

Apart from the general considerations mentioned above, additional factors and local laws can influence liability in bicycle vs. car accidents. 

Road Conditions

In some instances, road conditions may contribute to the accident. For example, if a pothole or road debris caused the cyclist to swerve unexpectedly, the burden of negligence may shift to the local authority responsible for road maintenance. 

Bicycle Infrastructure

The presence or absence of bicycle lanes in the area can also impact liability. If the area has designated bicycle lanes, it can reasonably imply that drivers should be aware of potential cyclists on the road. This can influence the determination of blame in the event of an accident.

Visibility and Safety Measures

The visibility and safety measures taken by the cyclist can also play a role in assigning liability. Factors such as wearing visible clothing and having working headlights can contribute to establishing fault, particularly in cases where fault may not be immediately clear.

Additionally, liability laws may vary across jurisdictions. Different areas might have different laws concerning liability in these types of accidents, so it's always important to know what conditions apply.

What To Do if the Cyclist Is At Fault

As with any other traffic accident, the first thing to do is ensure everyone is okay. In a car versus bicycle situation, it's almost always going to be a factor of the cyclist sustaining injuries, but there are ways the driver might also be injured if they slammed on the brakes or the airbags went off.

The cyclist at fault will be held responsible for any damage the car took, and if they don't have insurance, repairs will have to come out of their pocket. It's always a good idea for the cyclist to discuss the case with a transportation injury lawyer, not to shirk the responsibility of the damage they caused but to ensure they aren't held to liabilities beyond what the law requires. Similarly, it can be a good idea for the driver to speak to an attorney for guidance and assistance in getting compensation. 

What a Cyclist Should Know if the Car Driver Is Liable

When the driver is at fault, the insurance company will likely be who the cyclist will talk to and discuss damages. In this situation, a lawyer is crucial because the insurance company's lawyers will represent their interests. The cyclist is may need to go to the hospital for immediate care, and/or they may need to go to a doctor outside of the emergency room within the next few days to be further evaluated for any hidden injuries, which might be more of a long-term issue than an emergency. The cyclist should document everything which happened or is said after the accident and wait for a police report based on what both parties said at the time and what any available witnesses might have seen.

If you were involved in a bike versus automobile accident and want to know if you are entitled to compensation, need help navigating the process, or have questions, don't hesitate to contact Cooney and Conway or fill out the form below. 

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