Although a collision with an automobile is the greatest hazard cyclists face, there’s one reassuring bit of news: the fact is, it’s a relatively uncommon occurrence. Most bicycle accidents are in fact solo accidents involving a defect or some other hazard in the road or trail. Additionally, in most accidents, whether involving a road hazard or an automobile, the rider is a child. In short, collisions between adult cyclists and automobiles are relatively rare occurrences.
Nevertheless, occasionally a cyclist and an automobile will collide. Regardless of whether a bicycle accident is a solo accident, or involves a collision with an automobile, the accident is usually the result of somebody’s negligence– the driver’s negligence, the cyclist’s negligence, both the driver and the cyclist, or the local government responsible for the condition of the roads and trails. Because somebody is usually at fault in an accident, many cyclists prefer to call accidents “crashes” or “collisions,” instead of “accidents,” because they believe that the word “accident” means that nobody is to blame. In fact, “accident” simply means that the crash wasn’t the result of an intentional act– it wasn’t done “on purpose.” Even so, although it is “an accident,” the crash is almost always the result of somebody’s negligence. If the negligent party is the driver, the cyclist has a legal right to be compensated for his or her injuries.
Negotiations with the driver’s insurance company will always focus on which party was negligent, and to what degree. If the cyclist and the insurance company can agree on the question of negligence and the amount of damages, the case will be settled. If they cannot reach agreement, it will be necessary for the cyclist to prove that the driver was negligent in a court of law in order to recover compensation for the injuries received.
Despite the threat of a lawsuit, or rather, because of it, the vast majority of injury cases are settled out of court. However, because the legal and accident forensics issues can be complex, cyclists who have suffered anything more than very minor injuries should always discuss their case with an attorney experienced at handling bicycle accident cases before talking with the driver or the driver’s insurance company.
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