Increasingly, California commuters are choosing cycling as their preferred method of transportation. It’s no surprise bikes are gaining traction; they are eco-friendly and transform transportation into a healthy activity. As with every mode of transportation, bicycle accidents can happen, and the increase in cycling popularity has been matched by a rise in state-wide cycling accidents.
One of the biggest dilemmas bikers face is shared spaces. Often, pedestrians and cyclists share pathways. When a cyclist hits a pedestrian and there are resulting injuries, the at-fault party is determined by the specifics of the crash. In short, it comes down to which party—the pedestrian or the cyclist—breached their respective duty of care. Knocking over a pedestrian in and of itself does not establish fault. The pedestrian could have been texting or the cyclist could have been biking too fast. Fault is case-specific.
In bicycle accidents, insurance companies and courtrooms determine liability based on negligence laws. If you have been involved in a bicycle accident, understanding the specifics of your case can be a challenge. Consulting with a skilled personal injury lawyer is the best way to navigate the personal injury claim process.
Determining the At-Fault Party in a Collision
Determining fault in a cyclist collision is contingent on the specifics of the accident. When insurance companies, police, and juries assess accidents between a cyclist and a pedestrian, they look to identify the party that failed to execute their duty of care. To do this, they will look at the provided evidence and witness statements to understand the factors that influenced the accident. If a cyclist was biking too fast, they may be identified as the negligent party. Conversely, if the pedestrian was not paying attention and stepped into the biker’s lane, they could be considered negligent. The ruling of each accident is case-specific.
Traditionally, insurance companies and juries would identify one at-fault party in a collision accident. However, the modern approach to collision accidents takes into account the possibility of both parties contributing to the accident. In short, both parties could be determined to be at fault. For example, if a cyclist collided with a pedestrian who stepped into the bike lane, they could claim that the pedestrian breached their duty of care. However, it could turn out that the cyclist was riding with unsafe tire pressures, which influenced their ability to brake effectively. In this case, the cyclist and the pedestrian could both be considered negligent. In every case, the cyclist’s and the pedestrian’s duty of care will be considered.
What Is the Duty of Care for a Cyclist?
When riding, cyclists have a legal duty of care they must uphold. There are many ways cyclists can breach their duty of care, including:
- Running a red light or a stop sign
- Failing to wear proper safety equipment (a helmet)
- Riding their bike under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Using their cellphone while riding
- Riding a bike that is poorly maintained for optimal safety
- Not having a bicycle light on when riding in the dark
Each state has specific bicycle laws that shape a cyclist’s legal duty of care. For example, only 29 states require cyclists to wear a helmet.
What Is the Duty of Care for a Pedestrian?
Pedestrians also owe a duty of care to other pedestrians and cyclists with whom they share pathways. The duty of care a pedestrian should exercise correlates with the anticipated consequences of a potential accident. Common examples of pedestrian negligence include:
- Walking in areas that are designated for biking use only
- Crossing streets despite oncoming traffic and signs that prohibit crossing
- Failing to follow traffic signals at intersections
- Walking while intoxicated
A pedestrian’s duty of care can also be influenced by specific circumstances, such as weather conditions and visibility. If you’re involved in a collision with a pedestrian, it is important to document the circumstances of the crash.
Seek Legal Counsel With a Skilled Personal Injury Lawyer
If you have been involved in a cycling accident, it is best to seek counsel from a skilled personal injury lawyer. At Setareh Law, our team provides unmatched legal representation for plaintiffs across California dealing with bicycle accidents. Our experienced team can evaluate the facts of your case, discuss the avenues for compensation, and serve as your counsel throughout the personal injury claims process. To schedule a free consultation with one of our trusted attorneys, complete an online contact form or call today at (310) 659-1826.