Can I Sue A Cyclist After An Accident?
It is rare that you hear about motorists suing cyclists for causing accidents, as cyclists typically sustain the most damage in roadway incidences. However, though rare, it is not unheard of.
Cyclists have just as much responsibility as drivers to operate safely when on the road. Not only that, but most state laws require cyclists to abide by the same or similar rules of the road as vehicle operators. If a biker demonstrates carelessness, recklessness or complete disregard for safety, and if he or she causes an accident in the process, the other party to the incident may be able to sue for damages.
That said, know that though the law does allow vehicle operators to sue cyclists for damages, such lawsuits are rarely successful. This is because most states hold vehicle operators to a higher standard of care than cyclists, as cyclists are more vulnerable. Moreover, because cyclists typically sustain more damages than drivers in vehicle versus bike collisions, cyclists have stronger countersuits. If you are serious about filing a lawsuit and hope to prevail in your efforts, the best thing you can do is retain the help of a skilled car accident attorney.
When a Bicyclist Is at Fault for Hitting Your Vehicle
Though bicycling laws vary across state borders, it is safe to say that all states consider bicyclists vehicles of the road to some degree. Because bicycles are technically “vehicles,” cyclists must abide by many of the same rules of the road as automobiles.
Moreover, many states have unique laws in place to protect cyclists from injury while sharing the road. Many of those laws have to do with where bicyclists may ride (usually in a bike lane and/or as far to the right of the right lane as possible); safe passing etiquette (which dictate the specific distance motor vehicles must give bikes when passing them); sidewalk riding (which dictate if, when and where bikers may ride along the sidewalk); biking under the influence; right of way conduct; and dooring.
If a cyclist violates a biking law or rule of the roadway, you may be able to file a claim for damages that he or she causes. Examples of rules bikers may break that can cause accidents are as follows:
- Riding through a stop sign or stop light
- Riding in opposition to the direction of traffic
- Failing to use the bike lane
- Failing to yield
- Turning abruptly without giving a signal
- Changing lanes abruptly without giving a signal or checking to make sure the adjacent lane is clear
- Crossing the street in front of an oncoming vehicle
If a biker commits any of these faux pas, the for an accident he or she causes may rest solely with him or her.
Damages You May Collect When a Bicyclist Hits Your Vehicle
If a bicyclist hits your vehicle, chances are high that he or she sustained considerably more damage than you or your car did. However, that does not mean that your automobile drove away from the incident scotch free.
Bicycles — especially those going at high speeds — can cause significant and costly damage to vehicles they hit. Damages may include but are not limited to the following:
- Scratches to the paint
- Dents to the body
- Broken glass
- Broken mirrors
Each of these damages can cost you a pretty penny to repair. For instance, to repaint a small section of your vehicle, you are looking at paying between $150 and $3,500. Dent repair costs anywhere from $50 to $2,500, and both car glass and mirror replacement run between $200 and $400.
Unfortunately, the at-fault bikers’ auto insurance is unlikely to cover the cost. Instead, you may have to file a claim against the biker’s homeowners’ or renters’ insurance policy, the limits of which may not be enough to pay for your vehicle repairs.
What if a Cyclist Caused an Accident Between You and Another Vehicle?
A bicyclist does not necessarily have to hit your vehicle for him or her to cause damages. Many bicyclists unwittingly cause accidents between two vehicles when they violate the rules of the road.
For example, say a bicyclist suddenly rides out from his or her tree-lined driveway into the road and right in front of you. To avoid hitting the biker, you may swerve into oncoming traffic and hit another car. In this case, the biker clearly shares some blame for the incident. However, as in the event that a cyclist hit your vehicle, you will unlikely be able to collect compensation from his or her auto insurance company. Instead, you may have to file a claim with the biker’s homeowners’ or renters’ insurance policy. If this proves unsuccessful, or if the policy is not enough to cover the cost of damages that both you and the other driver sustained, you may have no choice but to pursue a lawsuit.
What if a Cyclist Hits You While You Were Walking on the Sidewalk?
Cyclists often share paths with pedestrians. Yet, studies indicate that shared bicycle and pedestrian paths are quite dangerous, with the second largest share — 36.1% — of cyclist injury accidents occurring on these roadways. Of these accidents, more than 16% involve a pedestrian.
Given that biking speeds can get up to between 30 to 45 miles per hour, bikers can cause considerable harm to pedestrians. Types of injuries common in pedestrian-biker accidents are as follows:
- Broken bones
- Road burn
- Traumatic brain injury
In addition to physical injuries, a pedestrian may sustain property damage to a cellphone, laptop, glasses and clothing.
If a bicyclist hit you on a shared pedestrian-bike path, you may be able to file a claim against his or her homeowners’ or renters’ insurance policy for medical expenses, lost wages and property damage. If your damages exceed the policy limits, you may be able to sue the biker for the difference.
Beware of Comparative Fault Laws
If you consider suing a cyclist following an accident, familiarize yourself with your state’s comparative fault laws first. Depending on which doctrine your state follows — pure comparative negligence, modified comparative negligence or contributory negligence — the biker may be able to file a counterclaim against you for damages. If your state is a pure comparative negligence state, you may end up owing the biker money even if he or she shared most of the fault for the accident.
How is that possible, though? Per the pure comparative fault doctrine, parties to an accident may recover compensation for their damages so long as their percentage of fault is not 100%. The courts will merely reduce the biker’s award or settlement by the percentage of fault he or she assumes. Even if the courts allocate 90% fault to the biker, you could end up paying considerably more for his or her medical expenses and lost wages than what your property damage claim is worth.
If your state abides by a modified comparative fault rule, the biker need only show that you shared between 50% and 51% fault for the accident for him or her to have a case. Only in a contributory negligence state are you safe from a possible counterclaim.
Consult With an Experienced Bicycle Accident Lawyer
Bikers can and often do share fault for auto accidents. They also share fault for many pedestrian accidents. However, holding bikers accountable is tough, especially given that they usually end up with the most injuries. If you believe you have a case, and if you wish to pursue it further, schedule a free initial consultation with Mike Morse Law Firm to discuss its viability and your recovery options.