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Understanding Car Accidents Involving Bicycles

by Layla Bryant

No one wants to get in a car accident, but if a bike was involved, you may be wondering if you will get your fair settlement. However, in some cases, the bicyclist may actually be fully responsible for your injuries and damages. If you would like to learn more, check out these commonly asked questions regarding car accidents involving bikes.

Is a Bicyclist a Pedestrian?

When children ride bikes, they often are treated as pedestrians. However, it's not their age that gives them this special treatment; it's how and where they ride their bikes. In most cases, a bike can switch between a pedestrian and a vehicle.

While the exact laws vary from county to county, in most cases, if the bike is on the road, it is considered a vehicle. If the bicyclist rides their bike on the sidewalk, however, they are usually considered a pedestrian. Therefore, regardless of age, a bicyclist on a sidewalk is typically considered a pedestrian, and vehicles must treat them as such. For this reason, however, if a bike is on the road, it must follow the same driving rules as cars and trucks. If it fails to do so, it is breaking the law just like any car or truck.

Can a Bike Be Responsible for the Accident?

If the bike was a pedestrian at the time, they probably won't be found responsible unless they were behaving erratically or purposely tried to cause the accident. However, if the bike was considered a vehicle at the time of the accident and you can prove they violated traffic laws, they may be found liable for causing the accident.

As with accidents only involving vehicles, however, you may also be found partially responsible for the accident. Regardless of where you live, this could negatively impact your settlement. For example, the bicyclist ran a red light while you were driving and texting. Even though the bicyclist broke the law and caused the accident, you may be found partially responsible for breaking the law too. The courts may argue you would have had time to stop if you weren't distracted.  

In some states, this means you get no settlement. States that follow contributory negligence only allow settlements for people who were 0% liable for the accident. Most states, however, follow the comparative negligence rule. In these states, as long as the bike was mostly responsible, you get a settlement.  

What Are Common Mistakes Made by Bicyclists?

Many newer bicyclists make mistakes when it comes to picking out and maintaining their bikes. They may pick a bike that is too big, lacks safety mirrors, or hasn't had the tires properly inflated. Similarly, newer bicyclists may not understand the rules of the road, especially if they don't have their driver's license, and they may not realize that riding a bike under the influence of drugs or alcohol is illegal.

New and experienced bicyclists may also forget to use hand signals when appropriate. These hand signals tell the drivers if they are stopping, turning right, turning left, or driving straight at an intersection.

Last, some bicyclists who get impatient or feel overly experienced may act as a pedestrian while on the road at times. For example, a bicyclist gets stuck in traffic but sees the other side of the road is clear, so they switch sides. While this is perfectly acceptable for a pedestrian who should be walking against traffic, the bicyclist is breaking the law by driving against traffic.

More and more people are riding bikes on the road, but if they are on the road, they must follow the rules of the road like any driver. Failure to do so could leave them liable for your injuries. If you would like to know more, or if you need a consultation, contact a car accident attorney in your area today.