More people in our cities are embracing cycling as a more convenient, healthy, and environmentally friendly way of commuting to work and for adventure. However, the surge in bicyclists in our neighborhoods and busy streets has also increased bicycle accident cases. 

Bicycle accidents can result in severe injuries and even fatalities, especially since riders only have a few safety features like helmets and elbow and knee pads to protect themselves. When a bicycle is involved in an accident, determining fault is crucial. The question of who is at fault if a bicycle is involved in an accident depends on several factors and the case’s specific circumstances. However, most of the bicycle accidents that happen on our roads arise from negligence.

What is Negligence?

Negligence refers to the failure to exercise a reasonable duty of care, resulting in injury or damage to others. Every road user is expected to fulfill their duty of care towards others, and when people fail to do so and cause accidents, they must be held liable for the resulting damages. Negligence is fundamental when determining fault in most personal injury cases, including bicycle accidents.

Who is Usually at Fault in a Bicycle Accident?

Several parties can be responsible for an accident involving a bicycle. These include:

  • A negligent driver
  • The bicycle rider
  • Other third parties
  • When a Negligent Driver is at Fault

In most cases, the driver of a motor vehicle is usually at fault for a bicycle accident. Drivers owe cyclists a duty of care and should be particularly cautious when driving near riders, approaching intersections, or parking along busy streets. 

Some common driver errors that can result in bicycle accidents involve the following:

  • Speeding – This is a common cause of bicycle accidents. It reduces a driver’s reaction time, making it difficult to avoid colliding with bicyclists. 
  • Dooring – This is when drivers open their doors without looking out for approaching cyclists. This leads to a cyclist being knocked over their bike. The driver can be held responsible in such a case.
  • Driver inattention – When the driver is distracted, such as while talking on their phone, texting, or changing the music, their attention to the external surroundings is minimal. This can lead to a bicycle accident where the driver is at fault. 
  • Failure to yield – Failing to give way to bicyclists at intersections or while turning can also result in a bicycle accident where the driver is at fault for the collision.
  • Impairment – Whether due to drugs or alcohol, impairment reduces a driver’s cognitive abilities, making them fail to see an approaching cyclist, leading to severe accidents.
  • When a Bicyclist is at Fault

Like drivers, bicycle riders are also subject to observing the rules of the road. Failure to do this can be termed as negligence, and the bicyclist may be wholly or partially at fault. Let’s look at some instances where this can be the case.

If cyclists fail to obey traffic rules by running a red light or ignoring a stop sign, they can be liable for the accident. Riding on the wrong side of the road or not using the designated bike lanes can be considered negligent of the rider, where they bear liability for the accident. When a cyclist fails to pay attention to oncoming motorists or swerves into another traffic lane, this can lead to an accident where they can be held liable.

  • Fault by Other Parties

Other third parties may also share responsibility for a bicycle accident. Government entities responsible for road design and maintenance may be at fault if hazardous situations like potholes or inadequate signage contribute to the accident.

Similarly, bike manufacturers may be held responsible if their product is found to have defects that lead to a bicycle’s malfunction causing an accident. Property owners may also share liability if they negligently maintain their premises, resulting in hazardous conditions that lead to a bicycle accident.

California’s Pure Comparative Negligence in Bicycle Accidents

Pure comparative negligence law in California applies to bicycle accident cases. Under this law, if the driver and the bicyclist share responsibility for the accident, their compensation is reduced by their percentage of fault. Even if a bicyclist is partially at fault, they can still recover damages, only that the amount awarded will be reduced in proportion to their assigned percentage of fault. For instance, if a court determines that the cyclist is 30% at fault and the damages awarded are $100,000, the cyclist would receive $70,000 (70% of the total damages).

Work With an Experienced Bicycle Accident Attorney

Determining fault following a bicycle accident can be challenging. If you have been involved in a bicycle accident in Burbank, California, you will need aggressive representation to recover your damages. Contact the experienced bicycle accident attorneys at Avaness Law today at (818) 724-7222. We can help you navigate the legal complexities and ensure you receive fair compensation.