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Bicyclist Accidents: Understanding Duty of Care and Contributory Fault

Date : 6/21/2017  
Name :  Jacob Maslow 
State :  All States 
URL :   
Category :  Accident Law 
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Bicyclist Accidents: Understanding Duty of Care and Contributory Fault

Bicycle accidents can be deadly when the bicyclist is hit by an automobile. Negligence will play a role in the accident, and this negligence will result in the bicyclist's injuries. The rider may be at fault for the accident, but in many cases, the bicyclist was the victim.

Bicycle Accidents

You can file a personal injury claim when a car-bicycle accident occurs.

Pedestrian accidents account for 10% of fatalities in Colorado each year. Sadly, many of these accidents involve alcohol. Accidents occur most often after 6 pm. when visibility is limited and an automobile driver can't see the bicyclist.

Driver's Duty of Care

Automobile drivers must always follow proper care when driving. A driver cannot purposely hit a pedestrian, in this case, if the pedestrian is not following the rules of the road. There is what's called "duty of reasonable care."

Drivers must be:

  • Careful
  • Prudent
  • Aware

A driver must adhere to normal cautions and remain vigilant while behind the wheel of the vehicle. If a pedestrian is riding their bike nearby, the driver must remain cautious and do everything in their power to prevent a potential accident from occurring.

The bicyclist can argue that the driver didn't react properly when they saw them enter the roadway and fall off their bike. Most drivers would slow their vehicle and swerve to avoid the accident when possible.

If a driver was distracted and still hit the bicyclist, this would not be normal behavior and following duty of care.

Is a Bicycle a Vehicle?

Automobiles must adhere to traffic laws, but bicyclists must also adhere to these same laws. In almost every state, a bicycle is considered a vehicle. This means that the rider must adhere to the rules of the road.

An example of this is an accident that occurs at an intersection.

  • Driver A (automobile) drives their vehicle through the green traffic light.
  • Driver B (bicycle) arrives and continues through the red light and gets hit by Driver A.

In this scenario, as long as Driver A was following the rules of the road, Driver B is at fault for the accident.

The claim would come down to who had the right away at the intersection. While you may not need special training or a license to ride a bicycle, you're still required to adhere to the same laws and restrictions as a motor vehicle.

Both Drivers Can Contribute to an Accident

Many accidents are the fault of multiple parties, and this means that neither the motorist nor bicyclist are at complete fault for the events of the accident. This is a complicated case in personal injury law, and the rules governing such a case vary from state to state.

There are two general rules that will be followed depending on the state:

  1. Contribution to the accident may be calculated in your state. A good example of this is a motorist speeding and hitting a bike that passed through the intersection illegally. The jury may find that the bicyclist was 70% responsible for the accident meaning that the motorist can only be 30% responsible for the bicyclist's losses or damages.
  2. In states where the percentage of fault is not calculated, the jury will only require the defendant to pay if they were more than 50% responsible for the events leading to the accident.

There is shared blame in an accident, and contributory fault will dictate how a personal injury case pans out.

Cyclists and drivers both have a duty to enhance and ensure their safety. This duty can include many of the following:

  • Remaining vigilant and trying to avoid accidents
  • Taking defensive driver courses
  • Driving defensively
  • Increasing visibility on the road
  • Abiding by the rules of the road

Bicyclists must try to increase their visibility. The NHTSA reports that 20% of all bicyclist deaths occur between 6 pm. and 9 pm. Males account for 88% of deaths and one in five bicyclists are under the influence of alcohol at the time of their accident.

Lack of visibility is often a main factor in these accidents.

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