Car Bike Accident: Who Is At Fault?
The driver of a car is often at fault for causing a car bike accident, however a bicyclist can also be partially at-fault. Under Michigan’s “comparative fault” law, an injured bicyclist can still recover pain and suffering compensation after a car bike accident unless he or she is found to be more than 50% at fault, in which case the bicyclist can still recover excess economic loss and excess medical but not pain and suffering damages.
Why does it matter who was at fault in causing a car bike accident?
Fault (referred to as negligence under our civil tort laws) matters in a car bike accident because: (1) the driver of the automobile must be responsible for causing the crash for the bicyclist to recover pain and suffering compensation; (2) a bicyclist who is more than 50% at fault cannot sue; and (3) the bicyclist’s settlement will be reduced by his or her percentage of fault.
When the driver of an automobile is 100% responsible for causing a crash with a bicyclist – which is most frequently the case – the question of who is responsible is simple.
However, if a bicyclist is also found to be responsible to some degree for the crash, then the issue becomes more complicated and a comparative negligence standard is used to allocate the percentage of responsibility between the operator of the car and the bicyclist.
Under Michigan’s auto law, a bicyclist who is responsible for causing a crash is not automatically disqualified from suing a driver who caused the crash for pain and suffering compensation.
Here is how the comparative fault law works in Michigan:
• First, if it is determined that the bicyclist is more than 50% responsible for the crash, then the bicyclist will be disqualified from suing. (MCL 500.3135(2)(b))
• Second, if the bicyclist is 50% or less at fault, then Michigan law requires that his or her percentage of negligence (i.e., being at-fault) be used to proportionately reduce the amount of the bicyclist’s recovery for pain and suffering compensation. (See: M Civ JI 11.01, 16.02 and 16.05) This means that in the case of a car bike accident involving an award of $ 1 million for pain and suffering compensation, if the driver of the car is determined to be 70% at-fault and the injured bicyclist’s comparative fault is 30%, then the injured bicyclist’s recovery will be reduced by $300,000, leaving him or her with a $700,000 settlement.
Pain and suffering compensation after a car bike accident
Once it has been established that it was the driver of the vehicle who is at fault for causing a car bike accident, the injured bicyclist may be able to recover pain and suffering compensation from the driver responsible for causing the crash as well as excess medical expenses and lost wages and other economic damages.
A successful pain and suffering compensation claim against the driver who caused the crash with a bicyclist will require the injured bicyclist to show that as a result of his or her crash-related injuries he or she has suffered a “serious impairment of body function.”
Excess medical expenses and excess lost wages cover those medical bills and wages whose amounts exceed what is covered under the applicable auto insurance policy and/or what is guaranteed to injured bicyclists under the No-Fault law.
How do you determine who is at fault for a car bike accident?
Determining who is at fault or negligent in causing a car bike accident involves examining the actions of both the driver of the car and the bicyclist. Factors to consider include whether the driver and/or bicyclist were: (1) being careful; (2) violating traffic laws; (3) driving while distracted; and (4) driving while intoxicated.
Common reasons that drivers may be at-fault for a car bike accident
Below are some of the most common driving behaviors that result in drivers being determined to be responsible for causing a crash with a bicyclist:
• Failing to yield the right-of-way
• Disregarding traffic controls and traffic signs
• Turning in front of bicyclists as they are lawfully going straight forward
• Turning into bicyclists as they are lawfully crossing the street onto which the car is turning
• Overtaking or passing a bicyclist
• Passing a bicyclist too closely (less than the statutorily required 3-feet safety distance)
• Opening a vehicle door into a bicyclist’s path
• Driving while distracted
• Driving while intoxicated
• Loss of control
It does not matter who is responsible for No-Fault benefits
For a bicyclist who has been injured in a car bike accident, it does not matter who is at fault because in Michigan the law guarantees that the bicyclist is entitled to No-Fault benefits “without regard to fault.” (MCL 500.3105)
Regardless of who is responsible for causing the crash, No-Fault PIP benefits (which are also called “personal injury protection” benefits) help pay for the injured bicyclist’s medical bills, lost wages (if he or she is disabled from working) and transportation costs for traveling to and from doctor appointments, household replacement services and attendant care services.
To recover No-Fault benefits after an automobile crash with a bicyclist in Michigan, an injured bicyclist must file an application for No-Fault benefits – which is also called a “written notice of injury” – with the responsible auto insurance company within one (1) year after the crash. (MCL 500.3145(1) and (4))
Failure to file a timely application for No-Fault benefits will result in the injured bicyclist being forever disqualified from claiming and recovering No-Fault benefits from the insurance company.
Want a free consultation with an experienced lawyer? Call Michigan Auto Law
If you are a bicyclist and you have been injured in an automobile crash, you can call toll free anytime 24/7 at (800) 777-0028 for a free consultation with one of our experienced auto attorneys to discuss who is responsible for causing your crash. You can also get help from an experienced accident attorney by visiting our contact page or you can use the chat feature on our website.
(Source: “What Every Michigan Bicyclist Must Know,” League of Michigan Bicyclists, Version 4.0, Updated 2019)