Car vs. Bicycle Accidents: Who's at Fault?

In bustling cities and even in quiet suburban streets, the interaction between bicycles and cars is a daily occurrence. With a rise in environmentally conscious choices and a push towards healthier lifestyles, there is an increase in bicycle commuters. But with this shift comes the inevitable: accidents involving bicycles and cars.

When such an incident occurs, a fundamental question arises – who’s at fault? Determining liability isn’t just crucial for moral reasons but also has legal and insurance implications. As such, victims must seek counsel from an accident attorney to help unravel the complexities surrounding such incidents.

But first, let’s first explore the intricacies involved in bicycle-car collisions, including the potential liable parties and the factors that help determine fault.

Who Can Be at Fault?

Determining fault in a bicycle-car accident involves examining the actions of the possible parties involved. These include:

1. The Cyclist

Just like motorists, cyclists have a duty to obey traffic laws. Common reasons a cyclist may be at fault in an accident include:

  • Failing to obey traffic signals or signs, such as running a red light

  • Riding against traffic rather than with it

  • Not using hand signals to indicate turns

  • Riding unpredictably or swerving between lanes

  • Riding under the influence of drugs or alcohol

When any of these instances happen, a cyclist may be held liable for the incident.

2. The Driver

Motorists must be constantly aware of their surroundings, especially when bicycles are nearby. They might be found at fault due to:

  • Distracted driving, such as texting or talking on the phone

  • Failing to yield the right of way to a cyclist

  • Not checking mirrors or blind spots before turning or changing lanes

  • Speeding or driving recklessly

  • Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol

These negligent acts can name them as defendants in an accident claim. Thus, if you’re a cyclist and you’ve been injured in a bicycle-car collision, working with a bike accident lawyer would be a good idea as they can help establish the driver’s fault for what happened.

3. Local Authorities

Sometimes, the condition or design of the road can contribute to accidents. This can be due to:

  • Poorly maintained roads with potholes, cracks, or other hazards

  • Inadequately designed or marked bike lanes

  • Malfunctioning traffic signals

  • Poor signage or visibility issues, especially at intersections

In these instances, the local authorities or cities which have supervision over these poor road conditions may be held responsible for the collision.

4. Manufacturers

On rare occasions, a faulty bicycle or car part can lead to an accident. This could be due to:

  • Brake failures

  • Steering mechanism faults

  • Defective tires or other components

If any of these circumstances caused the collision, the manufacturer involved may share liability for what happened.

How to Determine Fault in a Bicycle-car Accident

Once you're aware of the potential at-fault parties, the process of actually determining the fault begins. Here's a guide:

1. Understand Traffic Laws

Both cyclists and motorists are required to adhere to traffic laws. Therefore, familiarize yourself with local traffic laws pertaining to both bicycles and cars. For instance, if a cyclist is hit after running a stop sign, they might be deemed at fault. Conversely, if a car doesn’t give a cyclist the right of way when the law requires it, the driver is likely responsible.

2. Examine Road and Weather Conditions

Sometimes, the state of the road or weather can play a significant role in an accident. For instance, slippery roads, obscured traffic signs, or potholes might contribute to a collision between cyclists and drivers. Hence, understanding these conditions can help pinpoint if either party was more at risk due to them.

3. Assess Visibility Factors

Visibility on the road is crucial. Was the cyclist wearing reflective gear? Were the car’s headlights functioning correctly? The answers to these questions can help determine if either party was negligently low on visibility, which contributes to the accident.

4. Check For Negligence

Negligence refers to reckless behavior or the omission of care that another party would typically exhibit. Was the driver distracted by their phone? Was the cyclist weaving between lanes without signaling? Determine whether the parties committed acts of negligence to determine liability.

5. Gather Eyewitness Accounts

Often, bystanders or other drivers will have a clear view of what happened. For example, a shopkeeper on the roadside might have seen a car speeding before hitting a cyclist, serving as a testimony against the driver’s behavior. Indeed, witness testimonies can offer an impartial perspective when determining fault and might highlight details that the primary parties didn’t notice.

6. Document the Scene

Physical evidence can offer indisputable facts about an incident. Therefore, take photographs of the scene, the positions of the vehicle and bicycle post-accident, any skid marks, road signs, signals, and any other relevant details. These can be invaluable in recreating the incident to understand fault.

7. Obtain a Police Report

It’s always important to report an accident to the police. A police report will often include an officer’s professional judgment about who was at fault based on the evidence and testimonies at the scene. As such, it can help determine the liability of the parties involved.

8. Seek Professional Input

In complex scenarios, experts can recreate the accident to determine the fault. For instance, consider hiring an accident reconstruction expert if the liability isn’t clear. They can recreate the events leading up to what happened and determine the likely series of events.


Determining fault in a bicycle-car collision isn’t always straightforward. It requires a combination of understanding the laws, examining the evidence, and sometimes seeking expert opinions.

Therefore, both cyclists and motorists should keep the above information in mind to determine who may be at fault and liable for compensation. This way, the process of determining liability would be much easier and faster.

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