If you’re riding a bike and you get in an accident while you’re doing something that you’re not supposed to, such as riding on the wrong side of the road, not using proper reflectors at night or not wearing a helmet, you can still file a lawsuit against the driver that hit you. However, the jury may find you partially negligent because of your actions. If that happens, the negligence laws in your state will determine whether you’re able to recover damages from the driver.
Negligence laws vary from state to state. If you are in a state that uses a pure comparative negligence system, then you’re able to recover damages, but the amount that you can recover will be reduced by your degree of negligence for the accident. For example, let’s say that you end up with $8,000 in total damages from an accident. While it was primarily the driver’s fault, the jury also finds that you were 25 percent negligent because you didn’t follow the rules of the road while on your bike. This means that the amount you can recover is reduced by 25 percent, so you can collect $6,000 in damages from the defendant.
Other states use a proportional comparative negligence system which only allows you to recover damages if you’re found to be below a certain degree of fault for the accident. Certain states set this amount at 50 percent negligence, while others set it at 51 percent negligence. In the above scenario, you would still be able to recover $6,000 in damages, because you were only 25 percent negligent. If the roles were reversed and you were 75 percent negligent while the driver was 25 percent negligent, then you wouldn’t be able to recover damages in any of state that uses a proportional comparative negligence system. In fact, the driver would be able to file a lawsuit against you for any damages that he incurred.
If the accident occurs in a no fault state, then you wouldn’t be able to file a lawsuit against the driver because the law prohibits it. Each driver is supposed to have his own personal injury protection in his insurance plan which covers him in the event of an injury. Since cyclists may not have this kind of insurance protection, no fault states do allow them to file a claim under the insurance company of the at-fault driver if they are injured from the accident.
It can be difficult for juries to determine negligence in accident cases. Both the driver and the cyclist are responsible for following the rules of the road and avoiding collisions. While you may be breaking the law if you’re riding in the wrong direction or not wearing a helmet, neither of those mean that you can’t file a lawsuit against the driver that hit you. The driver will still generally be considered negligent to at least some degree for hitting you, unless the way you were riding left no realistic method for the driver to avoid an accident.
If you’re trying to recover damages for an injury, whether you were wearing a helmet can play a key role in the success of your case. If you weren’t wearing a helmet and the injuries were around the head or neck area, the defense can argue that you were only injured due to your own negligence, which could result in your damages being reduced or your case being dismissed. However, this defense obviously won’t work if you suffered other injuries that a helmet would not have prevented.
The smartest thing that you can do after you’ve been in an accident is consulting with a personal injury attorney. Your attorney will be able to advise you on how strong a case you have and how any possible negligence on your part could affect your lawsuit, based on the negligence laws in your state. There are many factors to consider with a personal injury case after a traffic accident, and an experienced attorney who understands the legal system gives you the best chance of success.