Bike and Car Collisions: Understanding Liability and Fault

Any car accident can result in some serious injuries, but collisions with cyclists who share the road with cars are especially damaging. Collisions between cars and bikes have been increasing in Maryland, with a 20 percent rise in the past five years.

Because cyclists are largely unprotected and so much smaller than the other vehicle, injuries from car collisions may result in months or even years of medical challenges, financial difficulty and changes to your employment.

However, deciding liability in bicycle accidents can sometimes be challenging. Many riders assume that because they are smaller and more vulnerable on the road, the driver of the other vehicle is responsible to pay for damages in the event of personal injury. This is not always the case. If you’ve been injured in a bicycle accident, here’s what you should know about liability and fault.

Cyclists Can Be at Fault

First, it’s important to realize that cyclists can have at least some fault in a car-bike collision if the cyclist was not following the rules of the road, especially rules for right of way. The most common mistakes that lead to accidents are:

  • Failing to stop at a stop sign. This is one of the main causes of accidents in intersections, and slowing down or rolling stops do not count as full stops, even for cyclists.
  • Passing a vehicle on the right when not in the bike lane. Because bikes are so small, cyclists sometimes weave in and out of traffic as they can fit. This behavior leads to collisions.
  • Riding against traffic. In intersection collisions where the cyclist has the right of way, 60% of riders are going against traffic. Because the rider and the car driver did not follow the rules of the road, the cyclist would share some fault. Cars expect bikes to share the same sides of the road.

There are other factors that can affect whether or not a cyclist is partially of fully responsible for the accident. This will affect what type and how much compensation a person might get for your injuries.

Another factor that might be considered in a case is personal safety precautions. For example, bike riders should wear reflective clothing and may be required to have lights on the bikes when riding at night. If a person is hit while riding a dark bike in black clothing at midnight, the motorist’s defense of “I did not see the rider,” could be valid. In Maryland, a lamp and red reflector is required for all bikes riding on highways at night.


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