Bicycle accidents are relatively common in Pennsylvania, causing 16 fatalities and 1003 injuries in 2019. Unfortunately, children account for over 20% of the total crashes and are most vulnerable to injury or death. Determining who is at fault for an accident between a car and bicycle can be complicated, as both the cyclist and the driver can be liable for causing or contributing to the accident. Our experienced bicycle accident and injury attorneys explain how to prove fault in accidents involving a bicycle and car in Pennsylvania.
General Traffic Rules for Bicyclists
Under Pennsylvania law § 3501 (a), every cyclist on the road is granted the same rights as a vehicle operator, but they are also required to follow the same rules and regulations. Though this is a general rule that can be subject to exceptions by other laws regarding bicyclists, this is a good rule of thumb. This means that if you are riding a bicycle, you must stop at all stoplights and stop signs, yield to pedestrians, and make safe lane changes by signaling and maintaining a safe distance ahead of other vehicles. If a bicyclist breaks a traffic law that causes an accident with a car, they can be held liable for the injuries and damages to the driver.
Steps to Prove Negligence from a Collision in Pennsylvania
In order to establish that a driver or a cyclist is at fault for a car accident, you must prove that one or both of the parties involved were negligent. Negligence claims are complicated and require extensive evidence establishing all four of the following conditions. The first condition is that the defendant owed you a duty of care to keep you safe. This condition is relatively straightforward—both the driver of a car and a bicyclist owe to all others on the road a certain level of responsibility to ensure the safety of other vehicles and/or cyclists. The second condition to prove negligence is that the defendant violated that duty of care. This will require evidence of some sort of reasonable carelessness such as texting and driving, or cycling under the influence, among other things. The next condition is showing that the violation caused your injuries. This condition can be difficult to establish because there must be a direct relationship between the violation and your injuries. Finally, you must establish that the injuries you suffered have caused you significant damage. If you can meet the legal criteria for all four conditions, then you may file a negligence claim that can prove that a driver or a cyclist is at-fault following a car and bicycle collision, entitling you to compensation for your injuries.
In most cases, the majority of traffic accidents involving a bicycle and a car determine the driver to be at-fault. This is because the person riding a bicycle is much more likely to sustain severe injuries following a collision, evidence that is essential to establish the final condition of negligence claims. Additionally, there are fewer traffic requirements for bicyclists than for drivers, making it less likely to meet the criteria to meet condition two. Nonetheless, bicyclists have been found at-fault for accidents that have resulted in injuries to a driver and damages to their car.
Following a traffic accident, it is important to contact law enforcement as soon as possible as the police report will likely become a vital piece of evidence establishing negligence. It is also imperative to take pictures of your injuries and the scene of the accident, but be mindful not to post about the accident on the Internet. Finally, receive medical care immediately after an accident, even if you aren’t sure you are injured. You may have an injury that surfaces over time, and ensure that you hold onto your medical records and any bills associated with medical care.
Modified comparative fault in Pennsylvania
In some cases following a collision, the bicyclist and the driver might both be partially responsible. In these cases, Pennsylvania follows the modified comparative fault rule. This rule states that in order to recover compensation, a plaintiff must not be more than 50% at fault for the accident. Additionally, the amount they recover will be reduced by their percentage at-fault.
For example, suppose that Amy was speeding and ran a red light, striking a bicyclist—Caleb—who did not have a light on the front of his bike at night. Caleb sustained serious injuries from the collision, and sues Amy for negligence. However, the jury finds Caleb to be 20% responsible for the accident for breaking the law that requires an active front light if riding between sunset and sunrise. Amy is 80% responsible for speeding and running a red light. This means that Amy cannot recover anything for any of her injuries, because she is more than 50% at fault for the accident. Additionally, if Caleb’s injuries amount to $500,000, he can only recover $400,000—or 80% of his total damages.
Children and Negligence in Bicycle and Car Accidents
As stated earlier, children riding bicycles are more vulnerable to injury and account for a relatively large proportion of accidents involving a car and cyclist. However, cases become incredibly more complicated when young children are involved. Remember, the first component in establishing a negligence case is that there is a duty of care one must uphold on the road. This amount of care is naturally increased for drivers around children riding bicycles, and the amount of care that is required of a child is reduced. For drivers in areas often comprising of young children, such as neighborhoods, schools, parks, or any other area where children are expected to be, they are expected to exercise more care and caution.
Determining negligence for cases involving children become difficult when the child is somewhat at fault for the accident. Children will be held to a higher level of “reasonable care” as they age, and have more intelligence, capacities, and experience. Thus, Pennsylvania law has divided minors into three different age categories. Those under the age of 7 are incapable of negligence altogether, as they are unable to exercise due care for themselves and others. This means that a defendant cannot argue that a child under the age of 7 was guilty of any contributory negligence in the accident, and they cannot be held legally liable for any behavior that may otherwise be deemed negligent. Children in between age 7 and 14 are also presumed incapable of negligence, but the presumption can be disputed. Cases typically consider whether the child acted with care that would be consistent of a child of similar age and experience. Finally, children 14 and over are considered capable of contributory negligence, unless there are special circumstances such as a lack of intelligence that would suggest otherwise.
Call our Car and Bicycle Accident Attorneys
Bicycle accidents can lead to devastating injuries for both the driver of a car and especially the cyclist. Whether you were the bicyclist or the driver involved in a bicycle-car accident that resulted in injuries, you are entitled to compensation. Proving negligence can be incredibly complicated, especially if both parties are partially responsible, so it may be wise to have our experienced Philadelphia auto accident attorneys evaluate your case today. Call our law firm at (215) 709-6940 to schedule a free consultation for your bicycle-car accident case.