Injuries arising from bicycle accidents merit special attention, not only due to a bike rider’s vulnerability to very serious injuries, but because of intersecting and sometimes conflicting laws depending on whether a bicyclist is considered a pedestrian or a vehicle. The joy and freedom one experiences riding a bike, an age old pastime reminiscent of one’s careless childhood days, can turn ugly frighteningly fast due to the negligence of a driver who is not keeping a proper lookout.
The pedestrian generally has the right of way, and while the bike rider is sometimes given the same protections as a pedestrian, in many scenarios the bike rider is given the same duties as a motorized vehicle. Thus, liability is often disputed by insurance companies in bicycle accidents. Bicyclists may also face claims of comparative fault when not equipped with proper lights and reflectors when riding during hours of darkness. Helmets are not required by State law, but may be required by a specific city or county. Interestingly, bicyclists are not prohibited from wearing headphones or earbuds.
The Rules of the Road generally require bikes to keep to the right, and permit bike riding on the shoulder of a roadway and in any designated bike lane. Passing vehicles are required to pass to the left of the bike, at a safe distance, and not to return to occupy the lane until clear of the overtaken bicyclist. The Rules of the Road, however, do not require motorists to yield to bike riders except when the bicyclist is using a sidewalk. The most common scenario in this instance is when the motorist is entering or exiting a driveway. On the other hand, bicyclists who are crossing a roadway at any point other than a marked or unmarked crosswalk shall yield to all vehicles. A bicycle rider crossing in a marked or unmarked crosswalk is often given the same protection as a pedestrian. A bike rider shall not enter into a crosswalk or the path of a vehicle, however, which is so close that the driver cannot safely yield.
Common accident situations that give rise to disputed liability include bicyclists who are struck by a motor vehicle when a car is turning, passing, or opening a door. Dogs are also known to charge bike riders.
Under Washington law, a bicyclist often will be entitled to PIP or medical payment coverage regardless of fault from the policy of the motor vehicle involved in the accident. If the striking vehicle was uninsured, the bike rider may likely have uninsured motorist coverage through his or her own motor vehicle policy even though they were not operating their insured vehicle.
Due to the sometimes confusing and conflicting laws that turn on whether the bike rider is judged like a motor vehicle and subjected to the same duties as motor vehicles or is instead afforded the protections provided to pedestrians, anyone involved in a bicycle accident should promptly seek the help of experienced lawyers.
At Becker Franklin Rovang, we have successfully represented individuals injured in bicycle accidents. Contact us now to schedule your free consultation.