While cyclists can sustain worse injuries in an accident involving a motor vehicle, that doesn't necessarily mean that the driver is always at fault. So much depends on the road, the rules, and the context of the accident. Here are some things to know when it comes to liability in car versus bicycle accidents.
General Considerations in Determining liability
Typically, rules of the road can be used to determine who is at fault after an accident involving a cyclist and car. If the cyclist didn't stop at a sign or red light, was riding between lanes to skip around traffic, or was riding on the sidewalk before unexpectedly crossing a road or merging into traffic, they're usually going to be at fault. Likewise, if the car driver was in violation by either talking on a cell phone, addressing other distractions in the vehicle, passing too closely, or otherwise not following safety rules concerning sharing the road, they're going to be at fault.
What To Do When the Cyclist Is liable
As with any other traffic accident, the first thing to do is assure 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 brakes or the airbags went off and assuming they're a good driver and decent person they're going to be upset about the accident even if there was nothing they could do. The cyclist at fault is going to be held responsible for any damage the car took, and if they don't have insurance repairs are going to have to come out of their pocket. It's always a good idea to discuss the case with a lawyer, not to shirk the responsibility of the damage they caused but to assure they aren't held to liabilities beyond what the law requires.
What a Cyclist Should Know if the Car Driver Is liable
When the driver is at fault, their insurance company is likely to be who the cyclist has to discuss damages with. In this situation, a lawyer is an absolute necessity, because the insurance company's lawyers are going to be representing their interests. The cyclist is most likely going to need to go to the hospital for immediate care, and they 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.
Other Factors and Considerations
Different areas might have different laws concerning liability in these types of accidents, so it's always important to be aware of what conditions might apply. If a pothole or road debris caused the cyclist to swerve unexpectedly, although rare to prove, that could put the burden of negligence on the locality for not maintaining the road. Whether or not the area has bicycle lanes can imply the driver should have been aware of potential cyclists on the road. Whether or not the cyclist was wearing visible clothing and had working headlights can be a factor in determining blame if it isn't otherwise clear.
If you were involved in a bike versus automobile accident and want to know if you are entitled to compensation, contact Cooney and Conway or fill out the form below.