How to Determine Fault in Car-Bicycle Accident in Washington State

Categories: Bicycle Accidents

Car-Bicycle Accident

Washington is one of the most bicycle-friendly states in the country. However, this distinction does not mean that bicycle vs. car accidents don’t happen in Washington. And when these accidents occur, they usually involve severe and even life-threatening injuries.

Accidents between a bicycle and a car are not always the driver’s fault. Determining who is liable in a bicycle vs. car accident is critical. The bicycle accident attorneys at Brett McCandlis Brown & Conner have extensive experience in helping unravel a situation’s complexities so you can focus on recovering from your injuries. Call or get in touch with us online today.

Common Causes of Car-Bicycle Accidents

Many dangerous and negligent practices contribute to serious bicycle accidents. Some of the most common causes of car-bicycle accidents on roadways are:

  • Intoxicated drivers,
  • Distracted drivers,
  • Aggressive drivers,
  • Drowsy drivers,
  • Impatient drivers, and
  • Roads that are in disrepair.

Cyclists are more vulnerable to injury than motor vehicle drivers. The most common bicycle-related injuries affect the upper or lower extremities, followed by the head, face, abdomen, and neck.

Bicyclists usually have more severe injuries than motor vehicle passengers when a 20-pound bike collides with a 4,000-pound motor vehicle. But injury alone does not determine fault.

Responsibilities of a Motorist

In Washington, an individual riding a bike has the same rights and responsibilities as a motor vehicle driver. Law enforcement can ticket bicyclists for violating traffic laws like any other motorist. Violating traffic laws may further reduce another driver’s liability, preventing them from recovering full compensation for injuries.

How to Determine Fault in a Car Accident with a Bicycle?

The focus of any investigation in a bicycle-car accident turns on who was negligent and to what degree. Determining who is liable in a bicycle vs. a car accident depends on the circumstances. The issue of fault often turns on which party—the cyclist or the driver—violated the law when the accident occurred. This inquiry determines fault in a civil lawsuit or insurance claim.

Who Is at Fault in a Car-Bike Accident?

To recover damages from a bicycle-car accident, you must establish that someone else was at fault to recover damages. How you determine fault in a car accident with a bicycle depends on the nature of the accident. Most personal injury claims bicyclists make against motor vehicle drivers are negligence claims. In some cases, a driver may not be held liable at all. If the automobile driver did not break the law or drive negligently, they are not responsible for the accident. Other cases involve a cyclist at fault in the car accident.

What Is Negligence?

To prove a motorist’s negligence in a personal injury lawsuit in Washington, a bicyclist must show the following:

  • The driver owed the bicyclist a duty to exercise reasonable care to avoid harming others on the road;
  • The driver breached their duty of care by failing to exercise a reasonable degree of care; and
  • The bicyclist suffered substantial damages caused by the driver’s failure to exercise reasonable care.

In a car-bicycle accident, the driver is more likely to be at fault, depending on the circumstances.

Sometimes a cyclist is at-fault in a car accident. A bicyclist can be wholly or partially to blame, and the motorist must prove the bicyclist is negligent.

Examples of a bicyclist’s negligence include:

  • Rolling through stop signs,
  • Swerving into another lane,
  • Failing to follow traffic signals, and
  • Ignoring the road.

In these cases, discussing the matter with an attorney is also a good idea.

Negligence Per Se

In many jurisdictions, “negligence per se” means that a defendant is automatically considered negligent if they violated a law, rule, or ordinance during the accident. But negligence per se does not generally apply to Washington car accidents unless the driver violated drunk driving laws. However, a judge or jury may consider a violation as evidence of negligence.

Pure Comparative Fault for Negligence in Washington

Washington law applies the theory of pure comparative negligence to bicycle vs. car accidents. The law assigns each participant a percentage of fault in causing the accident.

Even if a bicycle crash is mostly your fault, you can still recover the portion of the damages you prove are the other party’s fault.

For example, if the motor vehicle driver is 75% responsible for the accident and your damages are $10,000, you would be entitled to $7,500 of the $10,000 awarded. Even if you were 90% at fault, you could still recover 10% of your damages from the other party under pure comparative fault.

Recovering Damages in Car-Bicycle Accident Injuries

Washington law allows some bicycle accident victims to recover damages. The compensation available in car-bicycle accidents often includes economic damages. Economic damages are monetary losses caused by your accident, such as medical expenses, lost wages, and property damages. Noneconomic damages may also be available. Noneconomic damages represent non-monetary damages caused by your accident, such as pain and suffering, loss of consortium, and disfigurement.

The Role of Insurance Companies

If a motor vehicle causes a bike accident, the injured bicyclist can file a claim against the at-fault driver’s auto insurance policy. Seeking legal counsel is essential. The driver’s insurance company represents the driver’s interests, not yours. Having a personal injury lawyer on your side will likely increase any settlement you receive. An experienced bicycle accident attorney will seek compensation for all the damages you are entitled to recover.

When a bicyclist causes a car vs. bicycle accident, your car insurance policy will only typically cover an accident you caused while riding your bicycle if you have purchased additional coverage for such instances.

Contact Experienced Washington Bicycle Accident Attorneys

The attorneys of Brett McCandlis Brown & Conner have achieved exceptional results for our clients injured by negligent drivers in bicycle accidents. Our bicycle accident attorneys will handle all aspects of your case so that you can focus on recovering from your injuries. We will focus on seeking recovery on your behalf. You could receive compensation even when the other party was only minimally responsible for your injuries. Determining who is liable in a bicycle vs. car accident can be complex. Let us help.

Our Washington bicycle accident lawyers travel throughout the state, helping seriously injured people wherever they live. We have several offices throughout Washington State. Please give us a call or contact us online for a no-obligation consultation.

Author Photo

Matt Conner

Matt Conner has a proven track record of success. Following his graduation from Willamette University with a double major in mathematics and economics, Matt worked as an economist for the Office of Economic Analysis for the State of Oregon before moving onto working in mortgage banking and real estate.