Bicycle Accidents: Who’s at Fault?

Every year, hundreds of bicyclists die in traffic accidents involving motor vehicles, and thousands more are injured, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) data. Drivers can play a big role in reducing those statistics, but it’s a two-way street, and bicyclists have responsibilities as well. Even though bicycling is not as common in the Kansas City area as it is other major cities, according to an analysis of DHSS injury statistics, bicycle related injuries make up roughly 11% of all roadway injuries in Missouri.

Liability for Bicycle Accidents

Liability in bicycle accidents is usually determined according to which vehicle had the right-of-way. When two vehicles approach an intersection where there is no traffic signal, the vehicle that arrives first generally has the right-of-way. If both get there at the same time, the vehicle to the right has the right-of-way. If the intersection consists of a major street and a minor street, traffic on the major street has the right-of-way.

Intersections pose an especially serious threat for bicyclists, for the following reasons:

  • Motorists may not see bicyclists because they are small and often blend into the background
  • Many bicyclists are not familiar with the rules that they must follow at intersections
  • Extra safety precautions are not always taken by motorists and cyclists at intersections

When a traffic signal is present, the signal determines the right-of-way, although at times the sensor may be unable to detect the presence of a bicycle. If this happens, the cyclist should move closer to the sensor, wait until it is safe to cross against the light, or cross at the crosswalk. For laws specific to Missouri regarding red lights, see Section 304.285.1

Gathering Evidence

Many times there is little or no physical evidence from which to reconstruct a bicycle accident. For this reason, it is important that you document the scene by photographing all visible injuries, skid marks, and all involved bicycles and vehicles, showing them in their final resting positions after the accident.

Eyewitness testimony is often the most important evidence regarding how a bicycle accident occurred. If there are witnesses available who saw the accident, ask them for their contact information, including name, address, and phone number. They may be able to provide valuable information later should you need to file a lawsuit to recover damages later on.

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