Drivers Take Note – Bicyclists Can Be Liable for an Accident
Florida’s warmer climate means that people can ride their bikes year-round without the worry of dodging snowpack or ice patches. For drivers, not having a respite from sharing the road with cyclists requires drivers to diligently keep an eye out for bicyclists in order avoid an accident. No driver wants a bicycle accident to occur. Obviously, the outcome is not in the cyclist’s favor when one factor is the exposed position of the person on the bike and the protective, heavy structure of a car. However, accidents do happen, and understanding who may be at fault is important to determining liability. Liability is at the heart of all personal injury lawsuits because the party who is considered by a judge or jury to be liable is responsible for compensating the victim for injuries. Given the large advantage cars have over bicycles in accidents, assuming the driver of the car is always at fault is a reasonable assumption, but cyclists have a responsibility to follow traffic laws and not create unsafe situations for others on the road. Thus, cyclists can be liable for accidents. Further, depending on the circumstances of an accident, both the driver and bicyclist can share fault for the collision. A woman riding her bike in the Jacksonville was recently killed after she was struck by an SUV. While police are still trying to determine fault, area residents noted the dangerous nature of the road due to speeding drivers and intersections that present hazards to cyclists and drivers because one direction always has the right-of-way.
Florida law permits bicyclists to ride on both the sidewalks and the streets. If on the sidewalk, riders must follow the same regulations as pedestrians, such as yielding the right-of-way to vehicles when crossing the road outside of a crosswalk or intersection. When cyclists are riding on the road, they must ride in the same direction as traffic to keep vehicle flow moving, and stay in the bike lane, if available, or as close to the edge of the road as practicable.
Most bicycle accident cases come down to determining who had the right-of-way at the time of the collision. This is not always an easy issue to decide. For example, while riders are required to stay in a bike lane or as far to the right as practicable, they are permitted to leave these areas and enter the roadway to pass someone, make a left turn, or avoid a hazard. Further, drivers are expected to give bicyclists three feet of space when passing or traveling next to a rider. If a cyclist moves out of the bike lane without signaling a left turn, and a driver, knowing his/her intent despite the lack of hand signal, does allow enough room, and a crash occurs, figuring out fault will be tricky.
Because these accidents typically leave little to no evidence behind, it is vital to photograph the accident scene, especially the final resting places of the car and bike in the aftermath of the crash. In addition, gathering contact information from potential witnesses is key in case a person later decides to file a lawsuit.
What If the Driver and Bicyclist Share Fault?
If a judge or jury concludes the biker and driver share fault, it is still possible to recover compensation from the other party’s up to his/her percentage of liability. This is possible because Florida has a comparative fault rule that says if fault for a personal injury is shared among parties, the plaintiff is still responsible for his/her portion that caused the accident. For example, if a plaintiff demands $50,000 in compensation for injuries, but the jury decides the plaintiff was 30 percent responsible for what happened, the plaintiff is still entitled to $35,000 from the defendant.
Get Legal Advice
If you were injured in an accident, you may be able to recover for your injuries if another person’s negligence was the cause. Experienced personal injury lawyers, like those at the Miami law firm of Pita Weber & Del Prado, know how to assess and build strong cases to get you the money you deserve. Contact us for a free consultation.