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Bike Injury Lawsuits: Much Ado About Negligence

With more people jumping on their bikes to get exercise and to commute to work, and with more cities incorporating dedicated bike lanes into their infrastructure, bike riding is experiencing a renaissance. Perhaps not surprisingly, this increased number of bike riders on the road has lead to a similar increase in traffic accidents involving bicycles. Although dedicated bike lanes can reduce the number and severity of bike accidents, bike-motor vehicle accidents are still relatively common and often very serious. All too frequently, the crash is caused by a motorist who failed to keep a good look out or to otherwise follow traffic rules regarding passing bicyclists. In these cases, many bike riders who are injured are filing lawsuits against the motorist, seeking compensation for injury to themselves and their bikes.

In a number of ways, bicycle injury lawsuits are similar to any other traffic accident. One of the distinguishing features, however, is that people may be much less familiar with the traffic laws and regulations that apply to operating a bicycle or operating motor vehicles around bicycles. This is particularly true if a city has only recently adopted bike lanes or launched a campaign to increase bike travel and, thereby, reduce traditional traffic congestion. As with car accidents, however, the crux of bicycle lawsuits is often negligence, which directly implicates these traffic laws. Here are some frequently asked questions regarding negligence, and how it may affect a bicycle crash lawsuit:

  • What is negligence? “Negligence” is a legal term that means failure to take proper care. The civil law generally requires people to act in a reasonably safe manner to protect other people from harm. If someone fails to take proper care when passing a bicycle on the road, for example, then he or she may be liable for any injury to the bicyclist resulting from his or her failure to take proper care. In most jurisdictions failure to abide by traffic laws and regulations is a presumptively negligent act.
  • How do I know if a driver negligent? This depends on the law of your state. However, typically, a driver is negligent if he or she fails to abide by local traffic rules and regulations, or if he or she operates the motor vehicle in an unsafe manner.
  • How do I know if a bicyclist was also negligent? This is an important question because whether the bicyclist was also negligent can significantly affect the outcome of a case. In some states, if a bicyclist was negligent at all during an accident, he or she will be barred from recovering any compensation from a motorist who was also at fault.  As with motorists, bike riders are likely presumptively negligent if they fail to abide by traffic laws or otherwise fail to operate the bike in a safe manner.

Negligence is an important legal concept and will be the basis of almost any bicycle crash personal injury case. If you have questions about negligence or about filing a lawsuit as an injured cyclist, consult with a qualified and experienced attorney.