Determining Fault in a Bicycle Accident
Any time someone is injured in an accident, questions are raised, and fingers get pointed, in an effort to determine who was at fault. Things are no different in a car-on-bicycle accident or any other collision between a motor vehicle and a cyclist. Determining fault in a bicycle accident can be as complicated as in any other.
You might think the driver is always at fault when there’s a collision between their vehicle and a bicycle rider. That’s understandable – after all, cars and trucks are much bigger and faster. There are laws like California’s three-foot rule that specifically protect cyclists from passing vehicles.
Making that assumption, however, is inaccurate.
Duty of Care for Drivers & Cyclists
When assessing fault in a personal injury lawsuit, the court will evaluate the duty of care owed by both the driver and cyclist and how each acted upon that duty.
A Driver’s Duty of Care
Generally speaking, drivers owe a duty of care to everyone by operating their vehicles in a safe manner. That means obeying traffic laws, paying attention to the road, and taking measures to avoid collisions. Drivers breach that duty of care when they are distracted, speeding, disregarding traffic laws (including the three-foot rule), driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and failing to check for bicyclists in their surroundings.
This is just a sample of what a driver’s duty of care entails and how it may be breached. But drivers aren’t the only ones who owe a duty of care to others on the road – cyclists do, too.
A Cyclist’s Duty of Care
It’s a common misconception that bicyclists are always offered the right-of-way when they share the road with motorists. This simply isn’t true because bicyclists assume the same rights and responsibilities that drivers have on the road. Many people assume they don’t have these responsibilities because a cyclist is likely the only party that will get injured in a collision with a vehicle.
Common ways that cyclists can breach their duty of care include the following:
- Failing to signal turns
- Failing to stop at stop signs and red lights
- Failing to use a designated bike lane when one is available
- Riding while distracted by a cell phone
- Riding while under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Failing to have lights and reflectors as required by law
- Failing to properly maintain their bicycle
As you can see, a bicyclist’s duty of care isn’t dissimilar from a motorist’s, and that’s why it can be more complicated than expected to determine fault in a bicycle accident.
When assigning fault for the purposes of determining the outcome of a car-on-bicycle accident lawsuit, the court will take each party’s duty of care into account and assign a percentage of fault to each. If the plaintiff has less fault than the defendant, damages may be ordered.
Contact Us for Legal Assistance
If you were injured in a bicycle accident, the Law Office of Robert J. Kaiser can help. Our attorney has more than 20 years of experience fighting for personal injury victims and helping them achieve meaningful compensation for their injuries.
Learn more about how we can help you during a free consultation. Contact us online now to get started.