When a car collides with a bicycle, often both parties will immediately try to assign blame to the other person. A bicyclist may believe the driver was not watching and the driver may claim the bicyclist came out of nowhere in front of the vehicle. Fortunately, determining fault in a bicycle vs. car accident involves more than the opinions of the people involved. Instead, fault is determined based on whether one or both parties acted in a negligent manner, which means they breached the duty of care expected of them under California law.

Duty of Care for California Drivers

Drivers have the legal duty to operate their cars in a reasonably safe manner to avoid collisions and injuries to others on the road–including bicyclists. This includes staying aware of their surroundings and following all traffic laws. When a driver does not behave in a reasonably safe manner and causes injury, that driver can be held liable for such negligent actions. Many forms of negligence can lead drivers to collide with bicyclists, including the following:

  • Driving under the influence
  • Distracted driving
  • Failing to obey traffic laws, signals, or right-of-way rules
  • Not looking before opening car doors on the street

These are, of course, only some of the negligent acts that can lead a driver to hit a cyclist.

Bicyclists Also Have a Duty of Care

Bicyclists have the same responsibility and duty of care as drivers. When sharing the road, bicyclists must follow all traffic laws, obey traffic signals, and must be aware of their surroundings. If bicyclists fail to follow the rules of the road, they can be held liable for a collision. Some examples of negligence on the part of bicyclists can include:

  • Not following traffic signals
  • Biking under the influence
  • Not using designated bike lanes or staying to the right side of the road if they are traveling slowly
  • Improper passing
  • Not signaling on turns

Who is at Fault?

Since the legal concept of negligence can be complicated, it is important to seek assistance from a legal professional who can help identify fault in your bicycle vs. car accident case. A lawyer can examine the events of the accident and help determine whether one or both parties were at fault.

If only one person was at fault, that person should be held liable for all losses resulting from the accident. For example, if the bicyclist was following the rules of the road and the driver was intoxicated when the collision occurred, the driver should have to fully compensate the bicyclist. However, not all cases are this straightforward and, in many accidents, both parties somehow contributed to the accident. Even if you were partially at fault for the accident, you may still have the right to recovery under California’s comparative negligence laws. Because determining fault can be complex, the help of an experienced bicycle accident lawyer is imperative following a bicycle vs. car accident.