Of all the bike accidents that happen—for any reason—only 11 percent involve a car. The law is geared to protect bikers, so in most cases the driver will be at fault. But not all the time. There are certain circumstances where you can have a cyclist at fault for a car accident.
Nearly half of the car-bike collisions take place at an intersection. It’s at these spots where problems like a driver’s inability to estimate a biker’s speed, or simply being unable to see them due to a variety of factors, can come into play.
Rules for who has the right-of-way are split into 2 categories, based on whether traffic signals are at the intersection. When there are no signals, whoever arrived first has the right-of-way, much like cars at a 4-way stop. When traffic signals are in place, then the light itself can govern right of way.
Here’s where a potential trouble spot for cyclists can happen. If a traffic light relies on a sensor to change, it’s possible those sensors won’t pick up the presence of a bike. The cyclist can either position the bike closer to the sensors in the road or simply wait until no other cars are coming. But they can’t take matters into their own hands, regardless of how long they’ve waited for the light to change.
Bikers are also required to ride with the flow of traffic, which means being on the right side of the road. The left side is left for walkers. Being on the wrong side is a sure way for a biker to end up legally culpable for any mishap.
The general rules of negligence also apply to bikers. They must apply a reasonable standard of care. That means wearing clothing that can be easily seen and having lights if biking at night. In our age of being “plugged in” wherever we go, it means bikers have the same rules as drivers when it comes to not looking at one’s mobile device while biking. The cyclist must be present to the situation, just as the driver is.
In most cases, a cyclist’s fault will impact their ability to collect damages, rather than putting them in a position of having to pay. Depending on what state you live in, any negligence at all on the part of the biker can prevent their ability to recover damages.
States that use contributory negligence rely on the principle that if someone is even 1 percent at fault for an accident, then damages are off the table. Even in states that use the more lenient principle of comparative negligence will still reduce any damages awarded by the percentage the biker was considered at fault.