Florida Bicycle vs. Car Accident: Determining Fault

West Palm Beach Bicycle accident

In many ways, Florida is a bicyclist’s dream come true; we boast beautiful year-round weather and some of the most stunning scenery in the country. In other ways, however, the Sunshine State is not particularly bike-friendly. With notable exceptions like Orlando, Florida ranks 28th in the nation in terms of “bike-friendliness,” according to the League of American Bicyclists. There are nearly 7000 bike crashes each year with over 6000 reported injuries. It’s inevitable that when we discuss a bicycle vs. car accident, we automatically think of the cyclist. After all, they don’t have a few thousand pounds of steel and plastic to protect them.

But when is the cyclist at fault in a car accident? This is important information to know, particularly if you are a driver who has been involved in a collision.

Bicycle vs. Car Accident

In these situations, it is far more likely that the cyclist will be more significantly injured. In fact, Florida has the highest rate of bicycle accident deaths in the US (0.57 per 100,000 residents versus the national average of 0.23.). A higher number of bicycles on the road surely plays a part in this statistic.

Even a minor bump from a car or truck can cause severe injuries; in other words, there is no such thing as a “fender bender” when a bicycle is involved. This can make it hard for judges, juries, and other parties to decide that the cyclist is at fault in a car accident. They are, at least initially, viewed as much more sympathetic and vulnerable. There is a perception that you, as a driver, must have been at fault.

But, remember, the increased risk of injury does not determine fault. It is important that if you are involved in a bicycle vs. car accident as a driver, you seek legal counsel immediately. Otherwise, the almost natural sympathy towards the cyclist, especially if they are severely injured, can leave you facing a mountain of expenses.

When Is a Cyclist At Fault In a Car Accident?

There are certain instances when distracted, impaired, reckless, or negligent drivers do cause a bike vs. car accident. But there are also many cases in which the cyclist is at fault.

Cyclists are required to follow the rules of the road, just as drivers are. For example:

  • They must ride with the flow of traffic instead of against it.

  • They must yield the right of way when indicated.

  • They must stay in the designated bike lane. If there is not a bike lane, they must ride as far to the right as possible. (However, they may edge closer into the lane to avoid obstacles like potholes. Always be on the lookout for this type of maneuvering. Paying attention can prevent many accidents.)

So, yes, cyclists have to stop at stop signs. They have to wait to turn left at a green light when there is oncoming traffic. They have to stop for pedestrians! The rules apply to them as well, and when they disregard them, it can have devastating consequences.

What To Do If You Are In a Bicycle vs. Car Accident

Stop. Call 911, and report the accident. It’s only human to be concerned about the cyclist; visually check for injuries. If you do speak with them, only ask, “Are you injured?” Do not admit fault or apologize. It is natural for many of us to blurt out an, “Oh no! I’m so sorry! Are you ok?” While human, it can also be seen as an admission of fault, and this can be used against you in any insurance or legal proceedings from there on out.

When the police arrive, do not admit fault. Answer their questions factually and leave out any extraneous detail. You will likely be shaken, scared, and perhaps unable to think clearly. This is why it is so critical that you limit your answers to the truth and nothing but. Don’t go into conjecture, speculation, or guesses about what happened, and don’t use law enforcement as an outlet for your emotions. Stick to the facts of the situation.

Contact your insurance company to report the accident (many policies require you to do so within 72 hours; others require immediate notification). And then, it is crucial that you contact an attorney with experience in not only personal injury and motor vehicle accidents, but bicycle vs. car accidents specifically. Do not speak with anyone else at this point; you need accurate advice first. Your attorney can then speak to other parties, like the police or insurance companies on your behalf.

Being involved in a bicycle vs. car accident can be terrifying, and it can leave you exposed to ongoing legal issues. Please contact Clayton Trial Lawyers; we will represent you aggressively – and compassionately.