Generally, cyclists have rights and responsibilities when on the road. Bicyclists have the right of way when riding on a designated bicycle lane or traversing an intersection. However, even though a cyclist has the right of way does not mean motorists will yield to them.
Data from the NHTSA revealed that motor vehicle accidents injured approximately 38,886 cyclists in 2020. They resulted in 938 fatalities, representing 2.4 percent of all traffic deaths in the same year.
Suppose you were a cyclist hit by a vehicle. You have various legal options to recover damages for your losses. For instance, you can file a claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance company or a personal injury lawsuit.
Whatever legal remedy you choose, seeking legal advice from a personal injury lawyer is advisable. Usually, law firms provide initial consultations for free to potential clients. Hiring a bike accident lawyer increases your chances of recovering maximum compensation and expediting your case.
Factors Contributing to Cycling Accidents
Cyclists are especially vulnerable to injury. Aside from helmets, they have little to no protection from physical hazards on the road.
Bike accidents on roadways can occur due to various factors, most of which are driver-related. For instance, cyclist or motorist negligence, such as unsafe lane changes or distracted driving, are common causes of motor vehicle crashes.
Cycling is inherently dangerous whether you ride a bike for transportation or as a hobby. The following section of this article explores the factors that may cause a bicycle accident.
Motorist negligence takes various forms. Examples include running a red light, blowing through a stop sign, speeding, and unsafe lane changes. Generally, the root of negligence is ignoring traffic laws and rules of the road.
Distracted driving is among the leading causes of auto collisions, including bicycle accidents. When motorists do other activities while driving, it is more likely to result in serious crashes.
In some cases, motorists follow bicyclists too closely on the road. Vehicles within three feet of a rider increase the risk of being in an accident. Tailgating cyclists decreases reaction time and gives fewer options to avoid crashes or collisions.
Speeding also contributes to a lot of accidents, not just bike collisions. It increases motorists’ stopping time and limits their time to make sound decisions on roadways and crosswalks. In addition, high-speed accidents produce more impact and severe injuries, especially cyclists.
Running stop signs or red lights is also a leading cause of intersection crashes. It happens in city centers, neighborhoods, and even suburban areas. Ignoring traffic laws is hazardous in itself. But its consequences are magnified when motorists fail to look out for cyclists with the right of way.
Another form of reckless or careless driving is failure to yield. An accident is likely when a motorist fails to yield the right of way to bikers. It is especially true for cyclists in intersections and roundabouts.
Other forms of motorist negligence include the following:
- Turning without looking
- Unsafe lane changes
- Driving while intoxicated with alcohol or drugs
- Fatigue or drowsy driving
Cyclist negligence also contributes to accidents and significantly impacts the outcome of an accident claim or a personal injury lawsuit. Suppose an adjuster or a jury determines the bicyclist is at fault in an accident. The cyclist may lose their chance of recovering compensation for their losses, although that depends on state laws.
Investigators may consider riding the opposite way on a one-way road or turning suddenly into traffic as reckless cyclist behavior. For instance, suppose a rider was not wearing a bicycle helmet during a motor vehicle accident and sustained head or brain injuries. Then an insurance adjuster or a jury may determine them partly negligent for the incident.
Other examples of negligent acts include the following:
- Turning into traffic without looking or warning
- Riding on major roadways with little or no experience
- Impaired riding due to illicit substances or alcohol
Sometimes, a defective bicycle component may cause a bike accident. For instance, when a bicycle’s brakes fail, the cyclist may be unable to slow down or stop.
On the other hand, the rider may stop suddenly when their bicycle pedal or chain breaks. When this happens, the bicyclist will be in the middle of traffic and obstruct the path of other riders or motorists. Like motorists, bicycle riders should regularly inspect and maintain their vehicles to ensure they are roadworthy.
However, the bike manufacturer might sometimes be liable if the bicycle is defective upon purchase. In that case, the accident victim may file a product liability claim.
Product liability is a legal principle that provides a cause of action when a consumer encounters a defective item. Under product liability rules, the court can hold defendants or manufacturers liable regardless of their knowledge or intent.
Product liability has three categories: manufacturing, design, and marketing defects. A product might have a manufacturing defect if the manufacturer or factory assembles the product incorrectly.
Meanwhile, the product’s design is unsafe for consumers, while safer alternatives exist. Then it will fall under the design defect. Lastly, a marketing defect occurs when the company fails to post warnings about the inherent risks of the product.
Legal Options for a Cyclist Hit by a Car
Suppose a motorist’s negligence causes a road accident that leads to injuries to a cyclist. Then the injured victim is entitled to seek compensation for their losses through legal action.
Various legal options are available to accident victims to get compensation, and the right one depends on specific factors of the case. Below are common legal remedies for a bike accident case.
Cyclists in motor vehicle accidents can recover compensation from their health or auto insurer. Your provider should pay for your medical bills and emergency treatment if you carry health insurance.
Similarly, your car insurance provider may compensate for damages even if you were on a bicycle during the incident. It is particularly true in no-fault states and if the accident victim carries personal injury protection coverage.
Most importantly, cyclists can recover compensation from the at-fault driver’s insurance company. Usually, insurers offer to settle outside of court. Regardless of the situation, the at-fault party’s insurance provider only pays out damages up to the policy limits.
If your losses exceed the other party’s offers, you might have to collect directly from the at-fault driver. This scenario can be challenging as it depends on the driver’s assets.
Sometimes, you may have to file a personal injury lawsuit regarding your claim. For instance, you and the at-fault party’s insurer cannot agree to a settlement, or they deny your claim. Then you can take your case to trial and prove your case.
As mentioned before, suppose the at-fault motorist’s insurance policy limits do not meet the cost of your injuries. Then you may sue the driver to recover damages from them directly.
However, you must ensure that your case meets the requirements to establish a negligence claim:
- The at-fault party owed a legal duty to the accident victim.
- The at-fault party breached that duty.
- The victim sustained an injury.
- The at-fault party’s breach of duty caused the injury.
Establishing Fault in Cycling Accidents
Several parties, including the injured victim, can share liability in a cycling accident. For instance, cyclists can be responsible if they ride recklessly or violate traffic laws during the incident. Similarly, motorists may be liable for driving negligently or breaking traffic rules.
A manufacturer or seller of a defective bicycle or vehicle part can also be at fault for an accident. Suppose a malfunctioning or defective vehicle or car part caused the accident. They must pay for damages resulting from the malfunction or defect.
In other cases, the local government can also be responsible for a car crash. They are liable for the accident if they fail to maintain the road to keep it safe for all users. Examples of this scenario include failing to fix a malfunctioning traffic signal or remove road hazards such as potholes.
Burden of proof
Claimants in personal injury cases have the burden of proof. An injured cyclist must present compelling evidence to establish fault in a bike accident case successfully.
In general, it is advisable to take photographs at the accident scene that detail all damaged property and injuries. If a road hazard caused the accident, it is also better to take photos of that.
Aside from photographs, supporting documentation such as police reports, medical records, and expert witness testimonies can significantly help your claim.
As explained earlier, an injured cyclist can be partially liable for an accident that caused them injuries. When this happens, comparative negligence rules apply.
Comparative negligence is a legal principle that courts use to distribute fault in a negligence-based case. Comparative negligence has three types: pure comparative, modified comparative, and contributory negligence.
Pure comparative negligence allows plaintiffs to recover damages regardless of how much they were at fault for an incident. However, they can only recover damages proportionate to the amount of responsibility they contributed to the accident.
For example, the court determined the plaintiff to be responsible for 80 percent of the accident. Then the court may still award them 20 percent of the damages.
Modified comparative negligence rules follow the same logic under one condition. Depending on the applicable bar rule, the plaintiff must be less than 50 or 51 percent responsible for the accident.
If this happens, the court bars the plaintiff from recovering any damages for their losses. The U.S. employs two modified comparative negligence rules, the 50 percent, and 51 percent bar. Under these rules, plaintiffs cannot exceed 50 and 51 percent liability. Most states adopt modified comparative negligence in civil cases.
Lastly, contributory negligence prohibits plaintiffs from recovering compensation if they are responsible for the accident in any way. Suppose the court determines they are at least one percent responsible for the accident. Then the court won’t award any of the damages to the plaintiff.
Only the District of Columbia and four other states, Alabama, North Carolina, Maryland, and Virginia, apply contributory negligence rules.
Damages You Can Recover From a Bike Accident Claim
When accident victims successfully file their insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit, they may be entitled to different types of damages.
Suppose you sustained injuries that required you to seek medical attention or a quick emergency room visit. Then you may recover those medical expenses from the at-fault party. In general, accident victims are entitled to seek compensation relating to medical costs, regardless of whether they sustained minor or serious injuries.
When a bike accident causes the victim to miss work while recovering from injuries, they may also recover lost wages. Another example is that their employer terminates them from missing work. Then they may also seek compensation for lost future income or earning capacity.
Aside from injuries, injured cyclists can also seek damages for any damaged personal property. It includes their bicycle, helmet, cell phone, backpack, etc.
Physical losses are not the only thing you can recover compensation for. Like other personal injury cases, you may also receive damages for emotional pain and suffering. Examples of emotional injuries include:
- Anxiety and depression
- Mental anguish
- Post-traumatic Stress Disorder
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of consortium
In rare cases, the court may also award punitive damages to the plaintiff. It punishes the defendant and discourages others from engaging in similar behavior. However, this type of damage is only awarded at the court’s discretion.
Usually, they award punitive damages if the court determines the at-fault party’s behavior to be especially harmful or intentional.
Did you know?
Thirteen states do not implement bicycle helmet-use laws. These are Arkansas, Idaho, Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota, Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, Indiana, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Carolina, and Vermont.
Book a Free Case Evaluation With a Bicycle Accident Lawyer
A cyclist hit by a car can file a lawsuit against the motorist. However, it is advisable to exhaust other legal remedies before proceeding to trial, as it is more expensive and extensive. Regardless of your legal option, seeking legal representation from a bike accident lawyer is the best approach.
The Personal Injury Center can connect you to reliable personal injury lawyers specializing in bike accidents. Suppose you only want more information about your situation. You can browse their legal articles about personal injury claims in that case.
Lawyers in our network are knowledgeable in navigating legal processes. In addition, they are willing to answer any questions you have about your claim. Book a free consultation today!
Let a personal injury attorney help with your cycling accident claim. Reach out to The Personal Injury Center to connect you to a lawyer.
FAQs on Cyclists Getting Hit by a Car
As long as you carry uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage, you can make an insurance claim for your medical expenses. This insurance policy applies when another party is responsible for the incident.
The time it takes to settle a bike accident claim varies depending on factors such as the extent of the injuries. As each accident case is unique, proceedings can range from a few weeks to several months.
However, it is encouraged to work with a bike accident lawyer to expedite your case and receive compensation sooner.
Personal injury claims generally have a statute of limitation of two years. Accident victims that fail to file their claim within this timeframe may not be able to recover any damages for their injuries.