Cyclists and motorists seem to be quite aware of each other in large cities. In some cases, motorists can even be somewhat annoyed at the fact that a few cyclists tend to ignore a few traffic laws. However, some cyclists also have a bit of animosity towards motorists as they can often seem unwilling to share some if not all of the road.
Irrespective of these misconceptions both cyclists and car drivers can be liable for contributing to or causing a traffic accident.
The Law is the Same For Cyclists
A cyclist can find themselves in a unique position in the road, and they are often in a precarious position as they make their way around faster and bigger vehicles. However, no matter how vulnerable a cyclist may seem they have an obligation to follow the same laws of the road as motorists. This ultimately means that a cyclist must yield to pedestrians, avoid unsafe movements between lanes and they must also obey all traffic signals and signs.
If and when a cyclist violates one of the traffic laws and an accident is subsequently caused, the cyclist may be found liable. This means that they could be responsible for the injuries to another person and any losses they sustained too.
Shared Fault and Negligence
When it comes to determining who was at fault for a bicycle/car accident the concept of negligence is usually used. In other words, someone operating any sort of vehicle such as a car, bicycle or truck has a duty of care towards other road users. If someone should fail to act with care they could be found negligent if another person was subsequently injured.
In addition to using negligence when assessing who was at fault for a bicycle/car accident, every single state follows a version of the shared fault rule. This rule can affect how personal injury settlements are assessed.
Contributory negligence is only used by a few states, and under this system, if the defendant shows that the plaintiff’s negligence may a contribution to the accident (Regardless of how small the contribution is), the plaintiff will not be successful in their claim. This system can seem quite harsh, but the good news is that only Washington D.C.,
Maryland, Alabama, Virginia, and North Carolina use this rule.
When a state follows a comparative negligence rule it basically divided fault between all of the parties. For example, Trevor was at an intersection and made a left turn without looking, Philip who was on his bicycle rode directly in front of Trevor causing Trevor to swerve and crash his car. Trevor may claim that Philip is at fault for swerving in front of him when he was making a left turn. However, when the comparative negligence rule is applied, Philip’s liability could be reduced. This could happen if it was found that Trevor was also at fault for the accident.
Pure Comparative Negligence
Liability is split according to the percentage of fault. This means if the cyclist is deemed 30 percent responsible, the driver is said to be 70 percent responsible. If the cyclist’s damages total $10,000, for example, the cyclist will be able to collect from $7,000 from the driver.
Modified Comparative Negligence
Liability is always split according to the assumed percentage of fault. As soon as a plaintiff is found to be 50% liable or more, they are usually unable to recover a settlement. Which means if a plaintiff is found to be more than 50% at fault for the accident, the plaintiff will not be able to recover any money from the defendant.
Preventing an Accident
It’s important that while cyclists remember they have to obey the rules of the road, they should also remember that cars and other vehicles are a lot bigger than bikes. They should also remember that drivers of these vehicles are a lot more protected than they are. Every time a cyclist is on the road they should take care to avoid an accident. This means that they should refrain from drinking alcohol before they ride a bike. Cyclists should also make sure they are as visible as possible to motorists by wearing bright clothing and ensuring their bicycle is well lit.
A vital piece of equipment that can help to prevent fatal bicycle accidents is a helmet. If a cyclist is involved in an accident and they were not wearing a helmet, it is unlikely that they will receive a settlement from the driver, even if the driver was at-fault.
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