It is not uncommon for car accidents to occur as a result of an accident with a bicycle. There are often common liability issues when it comes to car versus bicycle accidents. This will be the topic of discussion for this article.
The common thread behind car-bicycle accidents is that all states have in place what is known as “side of the road” rules. This basically requires that the cyclist rides on the far right side of the road or in the designated bike lane. While cyclists adhere to the side of the road rules they are still susceptible to some of the most common types of traffic accidents involving vehicles. These include:
- Hitting parked car doors which are opened
- Getting brushed by passing cars or trucks
- Getting hit by vehicles are turning right
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Fortunately, these side of road rules do not exist in isolation but in combination with other laws which protect bicycle riders who share the streets with vehicles. Where no other law prohibitions exist, cyclists are able to ride in the middle of the traffic lane and have to be afforded the same rights as other motor vehicles. That being said, side of road laws are applicable where a cyclist is not riding to speed with the current motor vehicle traffic. Further, if there is a designated bike lane provided on the road then the cyclist is required to use it. Only under the following circumstances may a cyclist leave the side of the road or bike lane, if:
- he/she is keeping up with the moving traffic
- the bicycle lane is too narrow to be shared safely with passing vehicles
- he/she wants to make a left turn
- there is debris or road hazards which need to be avoided
In the event a cyclist is struck by an individual opening the door of a parked vehicle, the principle of liability used will be negligence [https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/negligence]. A person must only open their parked car door when it is reasonably safe for them to do so, or else they may be negligent. As a result, the fault for the accident with the cyclist will fall squarely on the individual who opened the door. A negligent person might still argue the bike rider was also negligent because he or she could have avoided crashing into the door.
One of the most common causes of accidents between vehicles and bicycles is when a car is turning right. When a motorized vehicle makes a right turn it passes the path of a cyclist, whether the cyclist is traveling in a traffic lane or on a bike lane. In such circumstances the motorist is liable for the accident, because a basic rule of using the road is a vehicle must not turn unless it is safe to do so.