Bicyclists often take to our roads and streets during warm weather months, and many ride for enjoyment or use bicycles as their chosen mode of transportation nearly all year round. Though most bicyclists take precautions for their own safety while riding on roads with other vehicles, they are, nevertheless, particularly vulnerable to harm. A bicyclist has little to no chance of escaping injury or death if hit by a car or other motor vehicle.
Some accidents between bicycles and other vehicles are caused, at least in part, by the carelessness of bicyclists or their failure to adhere to rules of the road and other traffic laws. Many others are caused by the negligence of drivers of motor vehicles, however. A driver may fail to notice a bicycle’s presence, for example, because the driver neglected to keep a proper lookout for bicycles as well as larger vehicles. Motorists may also cause accidents by failing to give bicyclists the right of way or by attempting to pass bicyclists without affording them sufficiently wide buffers of safety.
Nearly half the states in this country have recognized the dangers caused to bicyclists by driver negligence and have passed additional laws designed to protect bicyclists who share roads with other vehicles. On September 16, 2014, for example, the State of California passed a law requiring motorists who pass bicyclists on California roads to give the bicyclists a three-foot buffer of safety when passing. In addition to California, 22 other states have enacted 3-foot passing laws and one (Pennsylvania) has required a 4-foot buffer. The other states with 3-foot passing laws are Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. Ohio is also in the process of considering the enactment of a bicycle-passing law.
Any incidence of driver negligence, including the violation of one of these passing laws, can result in injury or death to a bicyclist and the liability of the responsible driver for the damages suffered by the injured bicyclist or deceased bicyclist’s family as a result. If you have been injured or one of your family members has been killed in an accident between a bicycle and another vehicle, you may be entitled to compensation through legal action. The Killino Firm’s bicycle accident, personal injury, and wrongful death attorneys have extensive experience with all types of bicycle and other vehicle accidents, including those involving injuries or deaths to bicyclists caused by driver negligence. Contact The Killino Firm’s accident attorneys for expert assistance with your bicycle accident case.
Holding Drivers Responsible for Bicyclists’ Injuries and Deaths
How will these passing laws help you if you have been injured while riding a bicycle on a road in one of these states? A driver’s violation of this bicycle passing law will be considered negligence on the part of the driver in an action brought to recover damages for a bicyclist’s personal injury or death. States’ negligence laws require proof of several things before a defendant may be held liable for an accident victim’s injury or death. The plaintiff must prove that the defendant had a duty to exercise reasonable care for an accident victim’s safety; that the defendant breached, or failed to fulfill, that duty (i.e., that the defendant was negligent); that the defendant’s negligence was a cause of the victim’s injury or death; and that the plaintiff suffered damages that are allowed to be compensated under the law as a result of the victim’s injury or death.
A defendant’s breach of the duty of care owed by the defendant to another party is considered negligence under all states’ negligence laws. Plaintiffs may more easily prove a defendant’s negligence when the defendant has violated a traffic law or rule of the road, as the proof of the law or rule violation is all that is required to establish the defendant’s negligence. This is known in negligence law as negligence per se. In such cases, after a plaintiff has succeeded in establishing a defendant’s law or rule violation, the plaintiff need only establish the causation and damages elements of the negligence action in order to recover damages from the defendant.
A driver may be found negligent in such an action, for example, by failing to signal before changing lanes. As signaling a lane change is required by traffic laws for all vehicles (including bicycles), a driver’s failure to signal a lane change will be considered negligence in an action to recover damages for the bicyclist’s injury or death. As noted above, however, the plaintiff’s job is not done upon establishing the driver’s failure to signal a lane change. The plaintiff must also prove that the driver’s failure to signal was a cause of the bicyclist’s injury or death. If the injury or death was caused by something other than the lane change or other incidence of driver negligence, the plaintiff will not have succeeded in proving his or her case against the defendant driver.
The plaintiff will also need to prove that he or she suffered damages as a result of the victim’s injury or death that are compensable under negligence law. An injured bicyclist’s medical expenses incurred as a result of an injury caused by a defendant’s negligence, for example, may be recoverable in a negligence action if the plaintiff succeeds in proving that the expenses were incurred as a result of the injury caused by the defendant.
Obtain Expert Assistance from The Killino Firm, P.C.
The Killino Firm’s team of bicycle accident, car accident, and personal injury lawyers has extensive experience with all types of bicycle and other vehicle accident cases, including those arising out of the negligence of drivers who share our roads with bicyclists. Contact The Killino Firm for a cost-free evaluation of your case and additional information about your legal rights and options.