When a car meets a bicycle, it tends to go badly for the cyclist. The size and speed of a car makes them the greatest threat facing today’s cyclists. So, it would stand to reason that motorists would bear the blame for any accidents in which these two vehicles collide.
Well, that’s not always the case.
There are, of course, many instances that would place blame on the shoulders of the person driving a vehicle, but there are also a number of scenarios in which outside parties could be found at fault. There are also some situations in which the cyclists themselves could be blamed for the accident, with no backlash hitting the motorist whatsoever.
Determining fault in the event of a cycling accident requires evidence and a skilled attorney. Without one, you might be found at fault for something that was in no way your doing. That’s why, if you are involved in such an accident, you should never try to negotiate directly with the other party or their insurance provider without a skilled legal professional backing you.
How can you know who is at fault in the event of a cycling accident? And what kind of evidence is needed to prove guilt or innocence?
As stated above, the driver is not always at fault. But when a driver ignores the rules of the road and allows their own negligence to cause an accident, they are at fault and liable for damages.
It is a driver’s responsibility to check for cyclists when turning. This is one of the key causes of cycling accidents and represents a classic case of driver fault.
Operating a vehicle at speeds which exceed the mandated speed limit also creates a driver-at-fault scenario. That doesn’t apply only to maniacs who are doing 80 mph down a residential street. Even going so much as five mph over the speed limit is speeding, can be ticketed, and creates an at fault situation in the event of an accident.
Distracted driving is something that gets a lot of attention in the media. It also creates an at-fault scenario for drivers if they were to strike a cyclist. Many people believe this means talking on the phone or texting while driving, and it does. But there are other distractions that exist. Applying make-up, playing with the radio, drinking a beverage, and eating are all examples of distracted driving that could place a cyclist in harms way.
Drivers do not own the road. They are mandated by law to share the road with cyclists and pedestrians who are crossing the street. There are many instances each year of drivers who force cyclists off the road by swerving into reserved bike lanes or failing to yield the right of way at crosswalks. Passing a bike rider in an unsafe manner would also be an at-fault action.
Any violation of vehicular law would place fault firmly in the lap of the driver. If someone were to run a red light or a stop sign, the fault is theirs. And, as should come as no shock, driving while under the influence of a controlled substance such as alcohol or drugs instantly makes a driver at fault. What’s more, New Jersey laws also holds restaurants, bars, liquor stores, and private social hosts accountable for overserving drunk drivers in the event of an accident.
As just mentioned above, New Jersey holds restaurants, bars, and liquor stores accountable for drunk driving accidents under Dram Shop laws. So, if a drunk driver strikes a cyclist, the bar that they purchased alcohol from could be held at fault if they served the driver despite clear signs of intoxication or if the driver was found to be under the legal drinking age.
Social hosts are also held at fault if a drunk driver consumes alcohol at their party in excess, leaves, and strikes a cyclist.
Municipalities can sometimes be found at fault in the event of a cycling accident. Road hazards such as potholes or uneven pavement could prove to be the reason why a motorist and cyclist collide. In such a case, neither are at fault and both have a strong case against the city or town that failed to make road repairs.
If a traffic light is not working and an accident occurs because of it, this once again falls on the shoulders of the governing body. When determining fault, it’s important to know who controls the road in question. Some NJ streets are county or state owned, and the burden of repairs falls on those divisions of the government.
If the bicycle or vehicle suffers some kind of malfunction as a result of manufacturer negligence, then the manufacturer of that specific bicycle or car would be found at fault.
Cyclist at Fault
There are some instances in which the cyclist themselves can be found at fault, even if they suffer grievous injury as a result of the accident.
Most states consider a bicycle to be a vehicle, no different than a car. That means cyclists have to obey the same rules of the road.
As such, if a cyclist runs a red light or stop sign, they are at fault. If they fail to yield the right of way when necessary, they are at fault. There are also hand signals that cyclists are supposed to use when making a turn or stopping to alert motorists. Like a car, bikes are also supposed to travel on the right side of the road and never ride against the flow of traffic.
If a cyclist is biking aggressively or not keeping a proper lookout, they could ultimately be found responsible for their accident.
As you can see, there are many factors that determine fault in any accident involving an automobile and a bicycle. Trying to take on the legal system yourself can be a costly and ultimately fruitless mistake.
That’s why it’s so important to have an experienced law firm like Marc A. Futterweit at your disposal. Call us today at 973-442-0200, or visit us online to learn more about your right to compensation following a cycling accident.