Bicycle accidents can be dangerous and life-threatening. As with any other accident, it may be difficult to determine who is at fault. As a general rule, the person who is less careful is the one who is more at fault, but a number of factors play into the equation. In some instances, the wrong person was cited for the accident. The police or insurance adjusters may decide that you were at fault, even though you were following the rules of the road. And at other times, a person may believe the accident was her fault when the jury may find otherwise.
Determining who is at fault is a matter of deciding who was negligent. Fault can be shared. As a general rule of thumb, if one person was less careful than the other person, the less careful person is more at fault. Your payment may be reduced by the percentage of fault that the court assigns to you.
Fault varies with each case. Although common sense may make it seem obvious which person was careless, that does not necessarily mean the law will view that person as such. There may be laws or rules that were violated that alter who is at fault. Other factors that play into your percentage of fault are whether the driver was distracted, such as talking on a cell phone; whether the bicyclist darted in between traffic; or whether one of the parties was “on the job” working at the time of the accident. The key to getting the jury to assign fault is making a reasonable argument.
Even if you were the only person involved in your accident, you still may not be at fault. You may have been injured attempting to make an evasive action to avoid getting hit by a vehicle. Or you may have been injured by a defective or recalled product, such as wheels, brakes, pedals, seats, etc. Negligent repair of your bicycle by a repair shop may be the cause of your accident. Poor maintenance of the roadway or bike path could also be a factor, in which case the municipality may share some fault in contributing to unsafe conditions. Dog owners may also be liable for dogs causing bike accidents, whether by attacks or by darting out.
Obtain a copy of the accident report. Sometimes the police officer will state an opinion as to who is at fault, what traffic law was violated, or whether a traffic violation caused the accident. If the officer left out an important detail or got something wrong, go to the police station and submit a revision for the report. Additionally, even if a police officer assigns fault to you, that may not necessarily be the case; police officers are not accident reconstruction experts.
Because there are so many factors that come into play, it is important to gather as much information as possible and to preserve as much physical evidence as possible.
At Murphy & Prachthauser we practice personal injury law the way it should be practiced – motivated and equipped to do our best for you. We take pride in being good lawyers who help people.
If you have a case you would like to speak to a lawyer about, please contact us to schedule a free consultation and get an experienced team of lawyers working on your behalf.