In the majority of states, a bicycle is classified as a vehicle and is therefore expected to follow the same rules of the road as motorists. In bike accidents at intersections, fault – or liability – usually comes down to who had the right of way*. Essentially, preferential treatment is not given to bicyclists.
*Right of way rules: when two vehicles approach an intersection not controlled by a traffic signal or that is controlled by a stop sign, the vehicle arriving first has the right of way. If the vehicles arrive at the same time then the vehicle to the right has the right of way. If the intersection consists of one major and one minor road then the vehicle on the major road has the right of way. At intersections with traffic signals, the right of way is determined by the signal.
Accidents at stop signs:
The most common type of intersection collision with bikes and cars (9.7 percent of all intersection accidents) involves a cyclist who has a stop sign and a motorist who does not. The cyclist rides out into the intersection in front of a car after stopping at the stop sign. Barring extenuating circumstances, the cyclist is at fault. The majority of these accidents involve bike riders under the age of 15; indicating the young person’s lack of depth perception to understand the distance and speed of the approaching vehicle may have been at play.
The second most common type of intersection collision with bikes and cars (9.3 percent of all intersection accidents) involves a motorist who has a stop sign and a cyclist who does not. The motorist drives out into the intersection in front of a cyclist after stopping at the stop sign. Barring extenuating circumstances, the motorist is at fault.
Riding against traffic:
Riding against the flow of traffic is dangerous and illegal; the act is also responsible for a large portion of bike accidents. Bicyclists are sometimes tempted to do this because they are small and can fit alongside the road next to on-coming vehicles. The increase in accidents with this behavior comes from:
- Drivers not expecting vehicles to be driving against the flow of traffic
- Decreased time to maneuver away from a collision
The bottom line is that cyclists who ride against traffic are breaking the law and putting themselves at increased risk for collision.
Failure to yield:
The third most frequent type of intersection accident (7.1 percent) involves a bicyclist’s failure to yield. The cyclist stops at the intersection and then rides into the intersection without yielding, often because they didn’t see the car or misjudged the car’s distance or speed. Again here, the cyclist is often young. In failure to yield accidents, the cyclist is usually at fault.
Car turning left – the “left cross”:
In the “left cross” accident a motorist and bicyclist approach the intersection from opposite directions, and as they enter the intersection, the motorist turns left, colliding with the cyclist. Usually the motorist doesn’t see the cyclist or misjudges the cyclist’s speed. In most cases, the driver of the car will be liable to the cyclist.
Car turning right – the “right hook”:
A “right hook” accident happens when a car passes a bike as both approach an intersection and then the car turns right at the intersection and cuts the cyclist off; the bike passes a slower car on the right and the car makes a right turn into the bike; or when a car and bike are waiting at a light. The car turns right when the light changes, cutting off and sometimes hitting the bike.
In most of these situations, the car will be at fault.
Why does liability matter?
Bicyclists have an especially big interest in avoiding a collision with a motor vehicle because they are more likely to be injured. With injuries comes pain, medical expenses and possibly lost wages. If the bicyclist is found liable for the accident then he will not be able to recover for any of these injuries or expenses.
If you or a loved is dealing with an accident or injury, you have enough to deal with. Let an experienced accident attorney fight for the full compensation that you deserve. It is not uncommon to receive a settlement from the insurance company that is five to ten times bigger with the help of a lawyer. Call the caring accident attorneys at Tario & Associates, P.S. in Bellingham, WA today for a FREE consultation! We have been representing residents of Whatcom County, Skagit County, Island County and Snohomish County since 1979. You will pay nothing up front and no attorney fees at all unless we recover damages for you!