Under Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act (HTA), a bicycle is considered a vehicle, like a car or truck, and cyclists are bound to adhere to the same traffic laws. That also affords cyclists the same rights as motorists.
It’s a cost-effective way to commute but cycling on public roads can be dangerous. In the event of a collision with a motorist, you’re also more likely to be seriously injured.
What do you do in the aftermath, and how is fault determined in a bicycle accident? Do you need the services of a bicycle accident lawyer to get fair compensation? We deal with these questions and more, in the guide below.
How Is Fault Determined In A Bicycle Accident?
Let’s examine a crucial factor in a road accident damages claim – the issue of fault.
In an average car accident involving two or more motor vehicles, one or the other party is deemed legally responsible for the accident.
In Ontario road accidents involving a car and a pedestrian or cyclist, the following rule applies: Both pedestrians and cyclists are seen as vulnerable road users, and not at fault.
Therefore you, on your bicycle, are automatically assumed to be without legal fault. Instead, that fault rests with the other party, the motorist. That is set out in the Ontario Highway Traffic Act in section 193(1), as the ‘reverse onus’ rule. It means the onus of proof lies with the motorist.
Put another way, unless the car’s driver provides evidence to the contrary, they’re deemed responsible for the accident. If the vehicle driver failed to prove that the cyclist caused the accident through willful negligence, their own negligence or conduct is assumed to be the cause.
What To Do To Avoid Being In A Bicycle Accident
Bicycle accidents can lead to chronic disabilities and even traumatic brain injuries. It’s always better to avoid being in an accident in the first place. Limit the possibility of a road accident while out on your bike by following these simple tips:
- Follow the traffic rules
- Don’t take shortcuts that necessitate riding on sidewalks or outside of the bicycle lane
- Stop at intersections just like cars
- Wear an approved cyclist’s helmet (CPSC is the benchmark for helmet certification in Canada. A CPSC sticker means your helmet is tested to ensure high safety standards)
- Wear reflective clothing when cycling on a dark road at night
- Use appropriate hand signals to alert motorists to your next move
- Keep your bicycle in a roadworthy condition, and do regular bike maintenance
Why is this all so important? It keeps you safer on the road and makes it harder for the motorist and their insurance company to refute your claim after an accident.
Why Should You Hire A Bicycle Accident Lawyer?
A collision with a car can be emotionally and especially physically traumatic for a cyclist. Naturally, you’ll want compensation for your injuries and trauma sustained in such an accident.
Unfortunately, many bicycle accident victims are unaware of the freedom this reverse onus law gives them. It takes any burden of proof off the shoulders of injured cyclists and allows them to pursue compensation claims.
The Benefits Of Retaining An Experienced Bicycle Accident Lawyer
Although the reverse onus law makes it simpler to institute a claim, you need to retain an experienced bicycle accident lawyer as soon as possible.
That will increase your chances of success and make negotiating a fair claim easier. If you can easily show that the driver was speeding, ignored stop signs, chatting on a cell phone while driving, or engaged in other reckless behavior – it’s easier to build a case.
Without such irrefutable evidence, you will need an experienced personal injury lawyer to assist you. Going at it alone is never advised, even with the reverse onus law on your side. There’s a simple reason for this.
You’ll likely have to deal with the motorist’s insurance company. And they will be looking for reasons not to be held liable. A good bicycle accident lawyer at your side is the best way to handle their legal maneuverings and be successful.
A lawyer can advise you on the documents you need to build a strong case and handle all the court proceedings and relevant admin. A confidential consultation will prepare you for the rigors of a personal injury case.
Why Do So Few Cyclists Pursue A Compensation Case?
Many cyclists don’t realize they have the same rights on the road as motorists. You’re both entitled to and obligated to share the road and obey the traffic rules.
In the event of a traffic accident, you are always allowed to seek damages.
These may be non-economic damages, such as physical trauma and medical issues arising from the accident.
Then there are also economic damages. These damages get awarded for financial losses such as loss of income, lost wages, and accident-related medical expenses. You are entitled to seek compensation for all of these.
Pursuing Compensation After A Bicycle Accident Involving A Motor Vehicle
Do you know what to do in the aftermath of a bicycle accident?
Even though you may believe you are to blame, you are not legally at fault unless proven. For example, can the driver prove you didn’t take proper safety precautions such as wearing protective gear and a helmet?
Even if that is true, you can still argue that the accident would not have occurred if not for the driver’s negligence. That is where a bicycle accident lawyer’s expertise is of great value.
What if You’re Found Liable For The Accident?
In most cases, the driver is assumed to be at fault and thus liable. However, this doesn’t help if they can prove that you disregarded the rules of the road.
What if the car driver can prove that they were not negligent but acted reasonably, whereas you did not? It doesn’t mean you’re not entitled to benefits.
Under Ontario’s Accident Benefits, an injured cyclist is (just like an injured pedestrian) entitled to certain no-fault accident benefits when they are involved in an accident with a motor vehicle. Regardless of fault, these are available to anyone involved in a road accident.
Keep medical records of all your procedures, treatments, and medication costs from the accident. Your medical provider can confirm whether or not you’ll need ongoing long-term medical treatment because of the accident.
If you can’t work due to your injuries, your loss of income gets included in your claim. Damage to your bike and any other costs associated with your accident may also be relevant.
How Soon To Contact Bicycle Accident Lawyers
How soon should you access legal counsel after a bike accident?
Of course, your first step is to receive appropriate medical attention.
Next, collect the following items to use as evidence of the accident.
Photographs or illustrations of the accident scene, a police report and description of the incident, contact details of eyewitnesses, proof of helmet and other protective gear worn at the time, and photographs of your damaged bike.
If you can’t collect such evidence due to medical limitations, ask a friend or family member to do this.
After that, consultation with an experienced bicycle accident lawyer is crucial. Again, if you can’t do so a family member may initiate this on your behalf.
There is a limited period in which to do so. In most cases, you have a maximum of two years to put in a claim. However, it’s to your advantage to do this as soon as possible after the accident. It makes it easier to build a strong case.
A valid reason to delay it would be because of ongoing treatment for any catastrophic injuries and the complications that arose after the fact.
What To Do If A Loved One Was Killed In A Bike Accident
You are entitled to recover compensation if your spouse, parent, child, or other next of kin died in a bicycle road accident.
The driver owed them a duty of responsible road use. That applies even if they died a while later from complications of injuries sustained in that accident.
A free consultation with a bicycle accident lawyer at a reputable law firm like Fosters Law is the first step to making a case.
You can claim for the medical bills resulting from the accident, and even their lost income if they supported you financially at the time of their accident. In addition to this, funeral and burial expenses will be taken into account.
Once again, even if your loved one was technically to blame for the accident, it does not necessarily imply legal fault. And you would still be entitled to mandatory accident benefits.
Determining Fault In Bicycle Accidents: Final Thoughts
Bicycle collisions can be a traumatic experience, particularly when you’re a cyclist hit by a motorist. Serious injuries and even catastrophic and disabling or disfiguring injuries are common in these accidents.
Fortunately, the law is on your side when seeking compensation and benefits for your injuries.
Don’t delay, get the compensation you deserve. Contact us today for more information on what a good bicycle accident lawyer can do for your case.