Car Vs. Bicycle: Who Gets The Blame?

A growing number of Americans are taking to the roads on bicycles as a healthy and economical form of commuting. However, sharing the road with comparably larger vehicles increases the risk of an accident involving serious injury. Whether you commute via bicycle or prefer to commute in your vehicle, it's important to understand the liability issues that can come up in the aftermath of a collision between a cyclist and a motor vehicle.

Sharing the Road

Today's vehicles come with an amazing array of safety features to protect their occupants. Bicycles, on the other hand, completely lack safety features that safeguard riders against serious injury. So it may seem strange for vulnerable cyclists to share the road with vehicles that often tip the scales at over 4,000 pounds.

But there's one thing that works in favor of the average cyclist — cyclists enjoy the same legal status and share the same basic rights as the motorists they share the roads with. Not only must drivers treat cyclists the same as they treat their fellow motorists, but drivers can be held at fault in accidents involving cyclists.   

In return, cyclists must follow the same rules of the road as their fellow motorists. Injured cyclists can also seek damages and other compensation from negligent or malicious motorists via insurance claims and other legal actions.

Many jurisdictions also practice "side-of-road" laws that protect cyclists against certain negligent actions by drivers. These actions include being brushed by passing vehicles, being struck by motor vehicles making right-hand turns and occupants opening car doors in the path of traveling cyclists.

Negligence Goes Both Ways

Just as motorists can commit negligent actions that result in accidents, cyclists can also be held responsible for their own acts of negligence. As far as the law is concerned, both motorists and cyclists have the same status and share the same responsibilities on the road.

Imagine if you run a red light on your bicycle, only to be hit by a vehicle that has the legal right-of-way within the intersection. In this case, the liability for the ensuing accident falls solely on you due to your negligence. In addition to being barred from seeking damages for your injuries, you may be responsible for any damages suffered by the driver during the accident.

Many states have different ways of determining fault in the event of an accident involving any motorized or non-motorized vehicle. These differences can play an important role in your ability to pursue compensation for your injuries and other damages. It's always a good idea to consult with your car accident attorney to see where you stand when it comes to your accident claim.