Anyone who commutes by bike or rides one for fun or exercise will tell you that drivers don’t give them enough space or pay enough attention to notice them. Some may even have encountered drivers who have tried to intentionally run them off the road.
In Columbus and Phenix City, we are blessed with many designated riding trails which allow for safe use of the roads, but even some of those can be found in dangerous proximity to automobile traffic.
Meanwhile, any driver will tell you that bike riders act like traffic lights, stop signs, and lane directions don’t apply to them.
So who is right—especially after a collision with a bike rider?
Both can be. Bicycle riders have the same legal right to the road as anyone in a car, truck, or SUV, and drivers can only pass a bicycle rider when there is room to safely get around them.
Meanwhile, bike riders also have the same obligation and must follow all laws of the road. That includes riding in the bike lane whenever one is available or on the far ride side of the road, except when turning left, when one is not. When cyclists don’t obey these rules, they may be considered at least partially at fault for collisions.
WATCH: Gary Bruce discusses driver liability in pedestrian accidents.
Common Causes of Bicycle-Car Collisions
There are many ways that collisions between bicycles and other vehicles can happen, but some causes are more common than others.
How Drivers Cause Collisions
- Failure to yield: Drivers must yield to bicyclists in the bike lane, and collisions may occur when a driver needs to enter the bike lane to turn right and does so without checking to see if the bike lane is clear.
- Speeding: The faster a driver is going, the less time they have to react to avoid a collision with a bicyclist.
- Distraction/Intoxication: When a driver isn’t fully sober or focused on the road for any reason, they may not even notice a bike rider in plain sight.
- Overly aggressive driving: Tailgating, brake-checking, and “buzzing” (driving too closely to the side of another road user, often at a high speed) are dangerous behaviors even when the other person is in a car, and they can cause fatal injuries when done to a cyclist.
- Disregarding designated bicycle crossing areas: Drivers must stop at bicycle crossing areas just like they must stop at pedestrian crossing areas.
How Cyclists Cause Collisions
- Not stopping at stop signs or traffic lights: Cyclists must obey traffic signals just like everyone else, and if they don’t cede right of way at an intersection, they could be held responsible for a resulting crash.
- Turning without signaling: Bicycles don’t come with turns signals like cars do, but cyclists are still expected to signal with their hands to give the drivers around them an idea of when and where they are going to make a turn.
- Riding against traffic: While pedestrians are coached to walk against traffic to make themselves more visible to drivers, cyclists are considered part of traffic, and must move in the same direction as cars.
- Riding after dark without the legally required lights and reflectors: Georgia law requires a white light on the front of all bicycles that illuminates 300 feet or more ahead, and a red reflector on the back that is visible from 300 feet away. Riding without these is the equivalent of driver in a vehicle with a busted headlight or taillight.
Another potentially liable party that doesn’t always get mentioned is local government. There are many bike trails in Columbus and Muscogee county, as well as in Russell County in Alabama, and when bike lanes and paths are available, cyclists MUST use them rather than riding in car lanes. However, when bike paths are poorly maintained, uneven, cracked, or potholed, bicyclists can easily lose control of their bikes and become injured.
We have seen many bicyclists injured by failure of construction companies to properly repair paths or who leave debris in the area. Sometimes the fault is with others.
The process for getting compensation and the statute of limitations for these accidents are very different when the government or a government contracted construction company is the liable party instead of a private citizen, so you should get in touch with an experienced personal injury lawyer as soon as possible to make sure you don’t lose your opportunity to get any compensation at all.
The truth is cases against a city are different than a case against a county government, and you must file notice very early on in each case to purse your potential claim.
Related Reading: Can I Sue for Tripping on a Broken Sidewalk in Georgia?
Why Drivers Are More Commonly Found at Fault
Arguably, the driver of a car owes a higher duty of care to the people around them than a rider on a bicycle because the car driver is capable of causing significantly more harm during a crash.
If a bicyclist hit a pedestrian or collides with another bicyclist, any resulting injuries are usually pretty minor. If someone in a car hits a pedestrian or bike rider, it will not be just a “fender bender.” The pedestrian could easily be killed.
Meanwhile, if a bicyclist strikes a car, the car might sustain a dent, but the cyclist could be thrown from their bicycle and severely injured.
“With great power comes great responsibility,” so because vehicle drivers have more potential to cause harm, they also have a greater responsibility to prevent collisions whenever possible.
Who Pays in a Bicycle-Car Collision?
If the person in the car is found to be at fault, their auto insurance must pay for the injured cyclist’s injuries, even though the victim was not in a car—just like it would pay for the injuries of a pedestrian who was struck.
It is also possible for the cyclist to use their own underinsured motorist automobile coverage to contribute to the recovery.
If you have questions about where the compensation will come from after a car-bicycle collision, contact our team for a free consultation to discuss the details of your accident with an experienced lawyer.
Get Gary Bruce
At the Law Offices of Gary Bruce, we’ve seen just about every kind of crash, and heard just about every kind of excuse from the negligent parties involved. But when you’ve done nothing wrong and were injured anyway due to someone else’s actions, you don’t deserve to have to pay out of pocket for that.
Get in touch with our experienced auto and bicycle wreck lawyers for a free, no obligation consultation.