Not every accident that happens between a car and a bicycle is the fault of the individual who is driving the car. Bicyclists must obey the laws of traffic too. In fact, it very often comes down to who—the cyclist or the driver—was in violation of the law when the accident occurred that determines fault or liability in a civil lawsuit or insurance claim.
In this article, we will discuss how Washington State bicycle laws work and what you should do if you are in an accident with a motorist.
Understanding Comparative Negligence Laws in Washington
Comparative negligence laws work to assign a portion of the blame to each participant in a motor vehicle and cyclist accident. In some cases, the motorist may be 100% to blame. In other cases, it may be entirely the cyclist’s fault. Other times, both the cyclist and the motorist acted negligently and that caused the accident.
Typically, when a motorist hits a cyclist, the motorist has minor property damage if not less. The cyclist, on the other hand, may have extensive injuries. It’s important to understand that under a pure comparative negligence rule, like Washington’s, a cyclist may recover damages even when they were mostly at fault for the accident. This is in contrast to other states that bar plaintiff recovery in cases where they are mostly at fault for the accident. Some states may bar recovery even when the plaintiff is only somewhat at fault.
However, your damages are reduced in proportion to the other driver’s liability. For instance, let’s say that the other driver is 75% responsible for the accident and your damages are $10,000. You would only be entitled to collect $7,500 of the $10,000 you are owed.
Pertinent Washington State Bicycle Laws
Major cities like Seattle are hotbeds of auto accidents. In addition, there are more cyclists on the road than ever before. According to a recent piece run by the Seattle Times, bike and pedestrian accidents have very nearly doubled over the past four years. While no one is quite sure why this is the case, auto accident attorneys have an honest answer that might startle many: There are more cases of distracted driving now than there were in the past. Cell phones, infotainment systems, texting, and other distractions have resulted in more distracted driving incidents—not just in Seattle or the state of Washington—but all across the U.S. For a number of reasons, Florida and California lead the nation in bicycle-related injuries and deaths. Nonetheless, there is not one state in the U.S. that hasn’t seen the number of bike and pedestrian accidents rise.
Last year, 122 people struck by cars either walking or on bikes were killed in the State of Washington. In 2013, there was only 60.
While sometimes, the accidents are the fault of the bicyclist, more often than not, distracted driving, including drunk driving, play some role in the accident and the results are often catastrophic. Cyclists are even more at risk for serious injury than pedestrians since they are higher off the ground and have less control over how they fall. For that reason, even though there is no statewide statute, many cities do require cyclists to wear helmets.
Why You Should Wear a Bicycle Helmet
If you are injured by a driver and you are not wearing a bicycle helmet, the insurance company that insures that driver will claim that your lack of a helmet was a contributing factor in your injuries. It could reduce your ability to collect damages if you are injured.
In addition, head injuries are very common in bicycle accidents. These can result in serious permanent damage to cyclists. Bike helmets can reduce the risk and impact of these injuries.
Rights and Responsibilities of a Motorist
In the State of Washington, an individual riding a bike has the same rights and responsibilities of any motorist on the road. That means that bicyclist can be ticketed for violating traffic laws the same way any motorist can.
That means the bicyclists riding at night are expected to have a light on their bike that is visible up to 500 feet. In addition, there may be some roads that are off-limits to cyclists. This includes some business or commercial districts depending on city ordinance.
A violation of any of these laws, including individual city ordinances, may result in the cyclist getting a ticket and may further reduce another driver’s liability preventing them from recovering the full extent of their damages. In some cases, a driver may not be held liable at all. If they were not breaking the law or not driving negligently, then they are not responsible for the accident.
For more information on bicycle-related laws in the State of Washington, please visit this website.
Signaling While Turning
Obeying all the same laws of traffic as motorists means that bicyclists too must signal when turning. They can do this by putting up either their left or their right hand. Failure to do so can result in both a ticket to the cyclist and added liability in an insurance claim.
The Role of Insurance Companies
If you’re in a bicycle accident with a motor vehicle, you will make a claim against the driver’s insurance policy. The insurance company has a fiduciary duty to protect the best interests of the policyholder. If they don’t, they can be sued by the policyholder and may become liable for any money owed to an injured party.
In other words, the insurance company is not in your corner. That’s why it’s important to have a skilled Seattle personal injury attorney litigate your claim. By so doing, we can maximize any settlement you receiver and ensure that you are compensated for all your damages.
Talk to a Bicycle Accident Attorney in Seattle Today
The attorneys at the Khan Law Firm, PLLC have recovered serious damages for those injured by negligent drivers in bicycle accidents. If the driver was even a small part at-fault, you can recover some money for your injuries. Please give us a call or contact us online for a no-obligation consultation.