Car accidents happen every day, including accidents that involve cyclists. Accidents in Utah have reached a 30-year high lately, posing an important question: are cyclists at fault if they’re involved in an accident, or does that responsibility fall on the driver? Knowing your rights in an accident is half the battle.
As it turns out, there’s no flat “yes” or “no” answer to this question. Instead, there are some factors that determine who is at fault when there’s an accident of any kind, including bike accidents.
One of the most significant factors is whether cyclists follow traffic laws while riding their bikes.
Failure to do so could indicate either partial or whole fault in the accident. The same goes for drivers. If traffic laws aren’t followed, and an accident is the result, you’ll be partially or wholly responsible for the accident.
Let’s take a deeper look.
What laws do cyclists need to follow?
Like motor vehicles, cyclists are expected to follow the law when riding on public roads. These laws don’t always apply to private property, but they are advisable since they’ll keep you safer. Those laws include:
- Have front-facing and rear-facing reflectors.
- Have functioning brakes.
- No passengers unless your bike is built or adapted for two.
- Obey all traffic laws as if you were driving your car.
- Don’t ride with your hands off the handlebars.
- Use the bike lane when there is one.
- When riding, keep to the right (not the middle of the lane).
Do cyclists cause accidents?
Cyclists are capable of causing accidents, even though it might seem impossible since motor vehicles are larger and can cause much more damage. But as it turns out, the fault isn’t based on injuries. Instead, it’s based on who is following the law vs. who isn’t.
Of course, that means the cyclist and the driver can share fault for the accident, whether it’s split evenly or with one party bearing more guilt than the other party.
When are cyclists at fault?
It’s important to ride on sidewalks and bike lanes whenever possible on Utah roads. If you must share the road, keep to the right since bicycles are slower than cars, and you don’t want to hold up traffic. Defensive riding is your best bet to avoiding a bike accident.
But not being the best at defensive riding isn’t enough to make you at fault. Being the at-fault driver involves breaking the law. Examples include:
- Ignoring traffic signs — This involves not obeying stop signs, stop lights, pulling into traffic, etc.
- Not having night lights — As we mentioned before, you must have front- and rear-facing lights on your bike. Failure to have them or turn them on at night can cause an accident.
- Not yielding — This involves turning when you don’t have the right of way. Local laws will dictate when you have the right-of-way vs. when you should yield. Generally speaking, you should always yield to oncoming traffic.
- Riding against traffic — This involves riding in the opposite direction of traffic. Note that this is just as illegal and dangerous for cars as it is for cyclists.
If you’re a cyclist who broke one of these laws and was involved in an accident, you’ll likely be partially or entirely at fault for the accident.
When are drivers at fault?
Just like cyclists must follow the rules of the road, so must drivers. The only difference is that the law for drivers can be slightly different. Different types of fault include:
- Distracted driving — While cyclists can be involved in a bike accident because they were distracted, it’s much more common for vehicle drivers to become distracted while driving.
Being on a smartphone, listening to music, and paying attention to passengers are common forms of distracted driving that often result in bike accidents.
- DWI — It’s possible but unlikely for cyclists to ride under the influence. But drivers commit DWIs all the time and are absolutely at fault if they cause an accident with more than the legal limit of alcohol in their system.
- Disobeying traffic laws — It’s very important that drivers follow all traffic laws, including following the speed limit, obeying stop signs and signals, drifting out of the lane, etc. If disobeying a traffic law results in a bike accident, the driver is partially or entirely at fault.
- Driving in the bicycle lane — Bicycle lanes are reserved for cyclists and are not meant for drivers to use. Causing an accident after driving in the bike lane will put the driver at fault.
- Using unsafe equipment — It’s every driver’s responsibility to ensure that their vehicle is properly operating. Malfunctioning brakes and broken headlights are examples of hazardous driving equipment that might cause an accident.
Remember, the driver can be partially or entirely responsible for the accident if one or more of these laws are violated.
So, as you can see, fault in accidents is based on the law, not on injuries. Even if you’re severely injured, you’re at fault if you’re the one who broke the law. This could be partial or entire fault, depending on whether the driver also broke the law.
If you’ve been in a bike accident and aren’t sure who’s at fault, your best bet is to contact a lawyer, as they know the law inside and out.
Flickinger Boulton Gooch & Robson can help.
Were you in a bike accident? It can be tricky to determine who was at fault, which is why you want a personal injury lawyer on your side. Flickinger Boulton Gooch & Robson can help. We have over 150 years of experience in personal injury cases and offer free consultations where we review your case and determine how we can best help you. Call us at 801.500.4000, or fill out the form on our website if phone calls aren’t your thing. Either way, Flickinger Boulton Gooch & Robson is here for you in your time of need. Get started today.