Bicycle collisions can cause serious injuries and permanent disability for cyclists, and riders have a right to hold negligent drivers accountable for these losses. Unfortunately, injury victims also have the burden of proving the at-fault driver’s negligence in a lawsuit—and if they cannot prove negligence, they will not be able to recover payment.
Proving Negligence in a Bicycle Crash Case
In all personal injury cases, it falls to the victim to prove that the negligent party acted in a way that resulted in injuries. Since many victims are already struggling after a bike collision, an attorney can take over these legal matters, collecting evidence to prove negligence while you recover.
You will need to prove that:
- You were injured. You are entitled to two types of damages. Economic losses are financial. These include medical expenses, time off from work, and property damage. The other type is called non-economic, which essentially means your suffering. This includes physical pain from the crash, your pain as you recover, fear during the crash, inconvenience, and emotional trauma. Due to the serious nature of car-bike collisions, it is rare for a cyclist not to suffer medical costs, lost time from work, and other losses.
- You were owed a duty of care. A duty of care is a responsibility to keep someone reasonably safe from harm. For example, an at-fault driver has a duty of care to prevent collisions by following the rules of the road, yielding to pedestrians and cyclists, and remaining sober and undistracted behind the wheel.
- The duty of care was breached. Once a duty of care is established, you will be required to give detailed evidence showing how that duty was breached. For example, surveillance footage showing the at-fault driver weaving dangerously between lanes proves that the driver was not behaving as a rational or reasonable person should.
- The breach caused your injuries. It’s not enough to show another party’s wrongdoing. You will also have to provide a direct link between their actions and your injuries. This is one of the biggest hurdles to overcome in an injury case, especially when victims are not treated immediately for their injuries. An insurance company may try to argue that, although its driver acted irresponsibly, something else could have caused the injury after the crash occurred.
Who Can Be Held Liable for a Bicycle Collision?
The person you should sue for damages (called the defendant) is the one whose actions led to your injuries. In most cases, the defendant is the driver of the car, truck, bus, or other vehicle who struck you while you were riding your bike. However, there may be other negligent parties who share liability for the crash.
Potential defendants in a bicycle crash case might include:
- Bicycle manufacturers or retailers. If a defect or maintenance problem on your bike caused the crash (such as a missing reflector or worn-out brakes), the company who sold the bicycle, bicycle parts, or accessories could be liable.
- Bikeshare operators. Many DC residents and tourists use Capital Bikeshare to rent bicycles for use throughout the D.C. metro area. If you were injured on a rented bicycle, it is worth investigating the company’s record of maintaining and replacing broken vehicles.
- A local municipality. If the collision was caused by potholes, inadequate signage, dangerous intersections, construction, or other unsafe conditions, another possible party to sue could be the city, county, or state in charge of road maintenance.
- Negligent repair shops. If a faulty condition on your bicycle led to the crash and your bike was recently serviced by a mechanic, the shop could be at fault.
- Property owners. You might be owed compensation from a public or private property owner if the collision was caused by the owner’s knowledge of and failure to address a dangerous condition.
What If I am Partly to Blame for the Crash?
Even if you share fault for your injuries, you still may be able to recover damages. While Washington DC previously barred cyclists from recovering injury compensation if they were even 1% at fault for the crash, the District recently passed legislation allowing injured bicyclists and pedestrians to recover damages after a crash.
Like many other states, Washington DC now operates under the doctrine of comparative negligence in bike injury cases. This means that as long an injured cyclist is less than 50% responsible for the crash, they can recover damages. However, the amount of damages awarded will be reduced by their portion of fault. For example, if you are awarded $100,000, but the court finds you to be 25% negligent, you will only receive $75,000.
Even though comparative negligence makes it more difficult for insurers to pin the blame on a cyclist, they will still try to get you to assume as much of the blame as possible in order to pay you less in your claim. For example, the other driver’s insurer may attest that you violated the law or were operating your bicycle in a negligent manner.
However, Washington DC bike laws are fairly generous to cyclists, allowing them to ride in traffic, in bicycle lanes, and even in crosswalks. Cyclists can even split lanes, use hands-free phones, and overtake other vehicles on either side. If you are not sure whether you were breaking a traffic law, you need someone on your side who knows these regulations inside and out.
Why It’s Vital to Contact an Attorney After a Collision
The right bicycle crash attorney can be extremely helpful even before you decide to hire them. At my practice, I offer a free consultation to listen to the details of your crash and explain what I would do in your situation—all at no cost to you.
If you decide to retain me as your counsel, I dig into the details of your case. This can include examining police reports, medical records, and insurance policies to find the most effective way to argue your case. If I am unable to collect compensation for you, you will not owe me any attorney fees, making your contact with me risk-free.If you or someone you love has been hurt in a bicycle crash, I will fight to get you the compensation you deserve. Contact me today to get the help you need.