We often assume that when a car hits a bicyclist, the driver is to blame. After all, they were piloting a big, heavy machine, and they should have been more careful around vulnerable, exposed people. This notion is true to an extent, but a driver shouldn’t be held responsible when someone does something unexpected or inappropriate. Liability in accidents between cars and bikes depends on the behavior of each person.
The Severity of an Injury Does Not Affect Liability
Regardless of how badly someone is injured, they could still be at fault in an accident. At-fault drivers can be killed, and so can at-fault bicyclists. Culpability depends on each person’s behavior.
The severity of an injury affects compensation only. If you are at fault, you may still be eligible for a large payout from your insurance company, helping cover your extensive medical costs. The same is true for the victim of an accident.
Regardless of your mode of transport, whether you were driving or riding a bike, your actions affect the outcome of your case. Below, we will explore various scenarios in which either a driver or biker could be responsible for an accident.
Car Driver Liability
According to the NHTSA, 30% of bicycle accidents are caused by drivers. This is a high percentage, and it suggests that drivers are more likely to be liable in car/bike crashes.
Car drivers are often guilty of disobeying traffic laws when they hit a biker. They may be speeding, running red lights, ignoring stop signs, and so on. Distracted driving is a common problem, where drivers are busy eating, playing with the radio, or texting while driving. Drivers can be reckless, impatiently weaving around cars without noticing a biker on the other side. Most tragically, drivers could be intoxicated, posing a danger to everyone around them.
Bikers can be just as guilty of disobedience as drivers. If they ignore traffic laws, they can be held responsible for an accident.
Like pedestrians, bikers are often guilty of crossing incorrectly. They go at a “DO NOT CROSS” sign, or they simply cross at places with no designated crosswalks.
Bicyclists sometimes take risks while traveling as well. Trusting their skill, they may weave between cars. They sometimes ride the dividing line between lanes, squeezing between stopped traffic. Capable bikers may get away with this behavior for a while, but it still qualifies as breaking traffic laws. If an accident occurs, they could be held responsible.
In Arizona, personal injury cases operate on a system of “comparative negligence.” The law understands that in any injury, both the plaintiff and the defendant can contribute to the overall injury. Therefore, each person can be held at least partially liable.
In a lawsuit between a bicyclist and a driver, the court assigns a percentage of fault to both parties. Perhaps the biker was weaving between cars, but the driver was speeding. In this scenario, the court may rule that the driver was more at fault. Its verdict is that the driver was 60% responsible, and the biker was 40%.
In comparative negligence, a plaintiff can receive compensation proportional to the defendant’s liability. To put it more simply, if the defendant is 60% responsible for damages, the plaintiff can receive 60% of the overall reward. Let’s say the plaintiff asks for $100,000 in compensation. If they are 40% responsible for their injuries, they can receive a total of $60,000, which is 60% of the overall damages.
Arizona is one of only 13 states that practices “pure comparative negligence.” In this system, even if the plaintiff is 99% responsible for their injures, they can still receive 1% of the damages in a lawsuit. A plaintiff who is 100% liable receives nothing.
If you’ve been in an accident between a bike and a car, contact our firm today. Whether you were the driver or the biker, determining liability will be complicated, and we can help. You can reach us online or call us at (602) 483-6114.