Particularly when they involve an automobile, bicycle accidents can result in serious and sometimes fatal injuries. Lawsuits to recover damages for injuries in bicycle accidents with automobiles involve many of the same issues as any auto accident lawsuit. As with other vehicle accidents, liability for bike accident injuries often comes down to negligence particularly whether the automobile driver's negligence caused the cyclist's injuries, and whether any negligence by the cyclist caused or contributed to the cause of the accident.
Bicycle Accident Liability Basics
Bicyclists and drivers are obligated to obey the rules of the road. These rules include traffic laws, as well as the duty to exercise ordinary care in regards to one's own safety and that of others on the roadways. Like other vehicle accident lawsuits, bicycle accident lawsuits are governed by state law, and often informed by state and local traffic laws.
Negligence and Bicycle Accidents
When a cyclist sues to recover damages for injuries suffered in an accident with an automobile, the outcome often depends on two questions:
- Did negligence (or recklessness) on the part of the driver cause the accident and resulting injuries to the bicyclist?
- Did any negligence of the bicyclist cause or contribute to the accident?
Driver Negligence or Recklessness
Negligence by a driver can take many forms. For example, speeding, running a stop sign, and drifting into a bike lane all constitute driver negligence, or even recklessness if done with knowing disregard for the safety of others.
In a lawsuit alleging negligence by another person, plaintiffs typically must prove that the defendant acted in a way that violated a duty owed to the plaintiff. In auto accident cases, this means violating the basic duty of care owed to everyone else on or near the roadways.
Accident lawsuits come down to facts specific to the individual case, and often the ability of the plaintiff to prove negligence through eyewitness testimony or other evidence. In auto accident cases, however, behaviors which constitute traffic violations can constitute "negligence per se." This means that if a driver was cited for a violation such as speeding at the time of the accident, evidence of the speeding violation counts as evidence of negligence. The burden then shifts to the defendant to prove that he or she did not cause the plaintiff's injuries.
Whether a cyclist sues a driver, or a cyclist is sued for causing someone else injury, cyclist negligence can determine the outcome of the lawsuit. Examples of cyclist negligence include riding the wrong way on a one-way street, running a stop sign, and turning abruptly into traffic.
Negligent cyclists may be unable to recover damages for injures they suffer in accidents involving cars. Such negligence is called contributory or comparative negligence meaning that the cyclist's negligence, at least in part, caused the accident to happen, and thus caused at leased some of the cyclist's injuries. If a cyclist rode negligently, and that negligence caused injury to someone else, the cyclist may be held liable for that person's injuries.
In accident cases involving children on bicycles, courts hold drivers to a higher standard. See specifics on child bicycle accident liability for more details.
Accidents involving automobiles and bicycles often involve serious injuries and can result in large liabilities. Like other types of vehicle accident lawsuits, bicycle accident lawsuits often come down to the issue of negligence specifically, whether the driver's negligence caused the accident and whether the cyclist's negligence caused or contributed to the accident. Many traffic violations (for both automobiles and bicycles) may constitute negligence. In most jurisdictions, however, failure to wear a bicycle helmet does not count as evidence of a bicyclist's negligence.