Can I File a Claim if I was Partially at Fault in a Bicycle Accident?
Jan 17, 2023 - Bike Accidents
If you were involved in an accident while riding your bike, you may be facing significant financial costs. You may also be dealing with pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, and various other forms of non-financial loss. In Pennsylvania, injured cyclists can recover financial compensation for all of these losses—if they can show that someone else is to blame.
The most common scenario in which a cyclist can recover financial compensation is after being hit by a car, truck or SUV. If the driver was negligent (as is often the case), then the driver’s auto insurance policy should cover the cyclist’s injuries. But, auto insurance companies will often try to avoid liability by claiming that cyclists are responsible for their own accidents. If they can prove this, then they aren’t liable for cyclists’ injury-related costs and expenses.
But there is also a third scenario. This is when both the driver and the cyclist share responsibility for the accident. When this is the case, who pays?
Understanding the Law on Partial Fault in Bicycle Accidents in Pennsylvania
When two parties (i.e., a driver and a cyclist) share responsibility for an accident, the accident is governed by the law of “comparative negligence.” Pennsylvania’s comparative negligence law states:
“[T]he fact that the plaintiff may have been guilty of contributory negligence shall not bar a recovery by the plaintiff . . . where such negligence was not greater than the causal negligence of the defendant . . . against whom recovery is sought, but any damages sustained by the plaintiff shall be diminished in proportion to the amount of negligence attributed to the plaintiff.”
What this means is that if you were injured in a bicycle accident and you were 50 percent at fault or less, you are entitled to financial compensation. If you were zero percent at fault, you are entitled to recover 100 percent of your accident-related losses. If you were between one percent and 50 percent at fault, the amount of your recovery will be reduced in proportion to your percentage of fault. So, for example, if you were 25 percent at fault, you would be entitled to recover 75 percent of the financial and non-financial costs of your accident.
But, if you were 51 percent at fault or more, you would not be entitled to any financial compensation under Pennsylvania law. So, as you might imagine, insurance companies will often focus on this 51-percent threshold. If they can show that a bicycle rider was primarily at fault in an accident—even if this is just barely the case, they can completely avoid liability for the rider’s injuries.
5 Tips for Dealing with a Bicycle Accident in Which You May Have Been Partially at Fault
Given that this is the case, what should you do if you have concerns about the insurance companies denying your claim? Here are five tips for dealing with a bicycle accident in which you may have been partially at fault:
1. Do Not Assume You Were Partially at Fault
No matter what happened, you should never assume that you were partially at fault in a bicycle accident. Numerous factors can play a role in a collision, and even if you think you may have been negligent, it is still very possible that there was nothing you could have done to avoid the collision.
2. Do Not Let the Insurance Companies Convince You that You Were Partially at Fault
You also should never let the insurance companies convince you that you were partially at fault. Insurance companies make liability determinations with their best interests in mind, and they will often overlook potential factors such as inattentiveness and distracted driving.
3. Hire a Lawyer to Thoroughly Investigate the Accident
Instead of relying on the insurance companies, you should hire a lawyer to thoroughly investigate your bicycle accident. Your lawyer can send an investigator to the crash site, obtain the driver’s phone and employment records, and examine all of the available evidence to determine what really led to your crash.
4. Have Your Lawyer Deal with the Insurance Companies
Once your lawyer makes a determination of liability, you will want to have your lawyer deal with the insurance companies on your behalf. Your lawyer can use the available evidence to dispute their allegations of comparative negligence, and your lawyer can use his or her experience to negotiate for a fair settlement.
5. Make Informed Decisions Based on Your Lawyer’s Advice
In all aspects of your bicycle accident case, it will be important to make informed decisions based on your lawyer’s advice. Your lawyer can tell you if the insurance companies are trying to take advantage of you, and you can rely on your lawyer’s advice to avoid settling for less than you deserve.
What if My Child was Partially at Fault in a Bicycle Accident?
What if it wasn’t you that was injured in a bicycle accident, but instead it was your child? If your child was injured in a bicycle accident, Pennsylvania’s comparative negligence law may or may not apply.
Under Pennsylvania law, a child who is under seven years old generally cannot be considered negligent. Between the ages of seven and fourteen, there is a presumption against negligence, though this presumption can be overcome in some cases. In other words, when children get injured in bicycle accidents, there is a greater chance that their parents will be able to recover full compensation for the financial and non-financial costs of the accident.
Discuss Your Legal Rights with a Bicycle Accident Lawyer in Pennsylvania
If you need to know more about your legal rights after a bicycle accident in Pennsylvania, we encourage you to contact us promptly. With offices in Allentown, Bethlehem, Doylestown, Stroudsburg and Easton, we represent individuals and families statewide. To arrange a free, no-obligation consultation with an experienced bicycle accident lawyer, please call 888-777-7098 or tell us how we can reach you online today.