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Bicycles, like cars and trucks, are permitted to navigate most roads. Bicyclists must follow the rules of the road and drivers are required to drive carefully around bikes. Failure to do exercise proper care could leave both parties liable for injuries on the road. When bicycling accidents occur, how is fault ultimately determined?
To determine who is liable for a bike accident, it is critical to establish that someone acted in a negligent manner and caused the collision to take place. Note that engaging in a negligent act does not mean that a person intended to cause harm. It only means that the person should have known that it could cause harm.
There are several elements that must be proven to show that negligence played a role in a bicycle accident.
Legally speaking, there is a difference between negligence and recklessness. In some cases, recklessness may be referred to as gross negligence. Put simply, a driver who is reckless shows a higher level of disregard for the safety of others. For instance, if a driver was impaired, was speeding despite the presence of posted road signs or was driving on the shoulder, that could be considered gross negligence.
Drivers may be considered negligent if they are talking on a cell phone or have too many passengers in their car at the time of the accident. In California, those who are under the age of 18 cannot drive between the hours of 11 p.m or 5 a.m. if they have been licensed for less than 12 months. Violating any laws regardless of the driver's age may strengthen a victim's case.
Bicycling accidents don't always occur because of an inattentive or reckless driver. In some cases, they occur because a bicyclist was not obeying the rules of the road. A cyclist may also be considered at least partially liable for his or her injuries if an accident occurred at night and the victim was not wearing reflective clothing or did not have reflective gear on the bike.
In New Jersey, people riding at night must have a headlamp attached to their bike. The bike must also have a rear lamp that can be seen for at least 500 feet. In Texas, riders must also have a lamp on the front of the vehicle and a lamp or reflector on the back that can be seen for up to 500 feet. In New York City, reflective tires are also required in addition to a lamp and reflector.
If a cyclist is not in compliance with state laws, a driver may make a valid defense that he or she never saw the person on the bicycle. Cyclists who do not stop at red lights or other traffic signals and are struck by a car as a result may also be partially or fully liable for their injuries.
Most states also require bikes to have brakes that are sufficient to stop without going into a skid. If faulty brakes caused a bike to careen into another lane or otherwise make an unpredictable motion, the bicyclist may be at fault. However, if the brakes failed because they were made or installed improperly, the manufacturer may be held liable instead.
Injuries cost money, including time away from work, medical bills and other complications. You should have an attorney help you with your claim. Not sure if you have a good injury case? Speak to a local personal injury attorney about the merits of your case. This one step can help you protect your rights and take the proper next steps.