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Bicycle Accidents


As more people choose to travel via bicycle than by car, the number of bicycle accidents has increased. Even though bicycles do not travel as fast as other moving vehicles, bicycle accidents can be more dangerous and result in more serious accidents because of the relative lack of protection afforded to bicyclists.


Bicyclists generally have the same rights as motorists to use public highways and streets. A bicyclist must observe the rules of the road and traffic regulations governing motor vehicles except as specifically provided otherwise. 

Bicyclists are required to exercise ordinary care for their own safety. This means which must exercise the same level of care that prudent persons of like age, intelligence, and experience would exercise under the same or similar circumstances.  

A motor vehicle, such as a car, truck, or motorcycle, is not entitled to the right of way over a bicycle. The driver of a motor vehicle must exercise due care to avoid injury to a bicyclist.  


Bicyclists, like motor vehicle drivers, can be negligent when operating their bicycles on the road. If there is an accident, the negligence of a bicyclist may be used by a motorist as a defense to liability.

For example, an adult bicyclist may be guilty of negligence if they turn in front of an approaching motorist without first checking for approaching vehicles. Another example is where a bicyclist fails to follow the speed limits of the road, resulting in an accident with a car.

Other common examples of bicyclist negligence include:

  • Not bicycling in the proper lanes
  • Failing to use proper turn indicators or hand signals
  • Bicycling while intoxicated

In cases where the bicyclist is filing a lawsuit for injury damages, their damage award can sometimes be reduced if their own negligence is a cause of their injury. In some jurisdictions, they may be prevented from collecting damages (depending on the circumstances as well as local laws).


Bicyclists are clearly much more vulnerable than car drivers when they share the road. If a car and a bike are in an accident, the bicyclist is, of course, more likely to get injured or die. In fact, over 1,000 bicyclists died in road accidents in 2015, and many thousands more were injured.

Most bike accidents happen in urban areas, and males account for a much higher proportion of bicycle accident deaths than females. The age range for bicyclist fatality victims is increasing. Accidents like these are very common at intersections. It is not uncommon for either the car driver or bicyclist to have an elevated Blood Alcohol Content (BAC).

Bicycles and cars are both considered to be vehicles according to the law, and both bicyclists and car drivers are obligated to follow all traffic laws. Accordingly, if there is a lawsuit over a bicycle-car accident, both vehicle operators will be examined as to what they were doing when the accident occurred, and whether each contributed in some way to the accident occurring. Even so, bicyclists should be aware that they might be able to recover damages from the car driver in the accident for their injuries.


Here, again, is the issue of both cars and bicycles being considered vehicles for purposes of the law. In an accident between two cars (two vehicles), a court will examine each party to the accident for their possible fault or negligence. So, in a lawsuit over an accident between a bike and a car (two vehicles), each party's fault or negligence will also be examined.

So how do we determine whether either party's negligence contributed to the accident? What constitutes negligence?

Both the bicyclist and car driver have a “duty of ordinary care” to watch out for others on the road, and both must follow all “rules of the road,” or traffic laws. One of the most common laws at issue in the bicycle-car collision is right of way laws.

Right-of-way refers to the order of procession at an intersection. Right-of-way in the absence of traffic signals belongs to the first person to arrive at an intersection. Where there are traffic signals, they should be followed, of course, although bicycles may have trouble triggering traffic sensors. Another common right-of-way issue is where the car driver makes a right turn and hits a bicyclist. This is referred to as right turn right-of-way, and creates negligence on the car driver's part. This type of car-bicycle accident is very common.

Bicyclists are required to follow “side-of-road” laws. If they are not keeping up with the pace of traffic, they must move as far over to the right side of their lane as possible. They are

also required to use bike lanes, where they are available. Failure to follow these rules may constitute negligence by the cyclist.

Of course, if the bicyclist keeps the pace of traffic, they may ride in the middle of the lane. Bicyclists should take car to improve their visibility, especially at night, by wearing light or reflective clothing and using lights and reflectors.

Conversely, car drivers are required to keep a safe distance between themselves and a bicycle while driving. Three feet is a distance commonly considered safe. Car drivers driving too close to bicyclists would be considered negligent. Cars drivers cannot pass bicycles unless it's safe to do so, and they can maintain a safe distance between the car and the bicycle. Cars brushing bicycles as they pass is one of the most common types of car-bicycle accidents.

Car drivers can also be considered negligent for failure to obey any other traffic laws, such as laws against speeding, or laws against driving while intoxicated.

Bicyclists can be considered negligent for violating traffic laws as well. For instance, if they fail to heed traffic signals or stop signs, and are involved in an accident, their negligence will be take into account. They can also be held negligent for an elevated BAC at the time of the accident.


Establishing liability is important because it determines whether the bicyclist will be able to recover damages for any injuries, and how much. If the bicyclist takes the car driver to court, they may claim that the car driver's negligence caused both the accident and their injuries.

The car driver will attempt to defend themselves, and may point out negligent behavior on the part of the bicyclist that contributed to the accident. This comparative negligence can limit the amount of damages the bicyclist can recover.


Child bicycle accidents are usually incidents where a car strikes a child who is riding a bike. This type of accident typically happens on residential roadways, in parking lots, or near schools. These can often be serious child injury cases due to the child's size, and often times because the child cannot be initially seen.

These bicycle accidents can sometimes present more challenging aspects in terms of legal repercussions. For instance, child bicyclists often are not held to the same standards as an ordinary adult bicyclist when it comes to what counts as negligent bicycling.


Where a child is riding a bicycle, his or her negligence is measured by different standards than adults. A child bicyclist may be too young to be chargeable with negligence. Where the bicyclist is a minor, that bicyclist is chargeable only with such care as would be exercised by a prudent person of like age and experience. 

Although a child may have sufficient judgment to be held liable for negligence, he or she may not be held for such negligence where the bicyclist is so young as to be incapable of exercising any care or discretion.

Under certain circumstances, it can sometimes be possible to hold the parents of a child bicyclist liable for injuries they cause (though these types of laws can vary from place to place).


As in any accident case, figuring out who is liable for injuries will depend on many factors. Courts do not automatically assume that a driver was being reckless or negligent if they struck a child bicyclist while driving. However, there are certain conditions where a driver might be held liable for a child bicycle accident.

For instance, if a driver knows that there are children frequently riding bikes in an area and drives recklessly through that area, the court might consider the driver's knowledge and subsequent actions as factors when determining liability.

Another common situation is where a driver strikes a child riding a bike in a school zones. Most school zones require the driver to slow their speed to 25 mph. If the driver disregards this, they could receive additional penalties if they are found responsible for a child bicycle accident.


If a person is found liable for a child bicycle case, it could result in legal consequences. These usually consist of a compensatory damages award. The monetary damages will typically cover expenses such as medical bills, hospital expenses and other costs. Damages may increase if the case is a fatal one.

In some cases, criminal consequences may apply as well. These may result in additional consequences, such as jail time or a loss of driving privileges. Lastly, penalties may increase drastically if driving under the influence (DUI) is a factor.


If you or a loved one were involved in an accident while riding your bicycle, and sustained injuries, consider contacting a personal injury lawyer. The lawyer can discuss your case and your possibilities for recovering for damages, and can represent you in court if you decide to file a lawsuit. A local lawyer will know both the laws of your state, as well as any city ordinances that may affect the issue of negligence in your case. Call our office today at 212-994-7777 or complete the convenient online contact form to set up a consultation.