Who is Legally Liable if a Bicyclist Hits My Car?
Under Louisiana law, in automobile accidents, legal liability is not determined solely on the basis of which vehicle strikes which vehicle. There are circumstances in which the struck vehicle takes some action or engages in some behavior prior to the impact that is the cause of the accident. For example, this is somewhat common in left-turn accidents. The vehicle making the left turn is often the vehicle that is struck by the vehicle in the lane of traffic that is being crossed. But, because turning left is considered a dangerous maneuver, Louisiana law mandates a higher level of duty on a driver making a left turn. Further, as a factual matter, the vehicle traveling normally in the oncoming lane may not have had enough time to avoid the accident. As such, the driver of the vehicle making the left will be held legally liable even if the other vehicle made the first contact during the crash. Note two aspects of legal liability in our example: a legal aspect (a heightened duty of care when making a left turn) and a factual one (could the other vehicle have stopped?). Both are evaluated in Louisiana vehicle accidents.
So, back to the question of a bicyclist who hits a car. Generally, the same type of analysis will be applied. Because bicyclists are highly vulnerable, automobile drivers have a heightened duty of care when bicyclists are sharing the road. Indeed, vehicles passing a bicycle on the road are legally required to maintain a three-foot distance from the bicyclist. See Louisiana Rev. Stat., Art. 32:76.1. Violating this law will likely make the driver of the vehicle liable even if the bicycle makes first contact. Other facts will also determine liability. Did the driver make any maneuvers just prior to the crash that caused the bicyclist to lose control of his or her bicycle, leading to the crash?
We can look at an example from news reports about a recent fatal crash involving bicyclists on state Highway 24 near the city of Houma. See news report here. According to the report, the bicyclist was riding north on the shoulder of Highway 24 while a 2007 Chevrolet Silverado was traveling south in the other lane. The driver of the Chevrolet attempted to make a left turn into a driveway in the bicyclist’s path. However, likely, the driver of the Chevrolet saw the bicyclists and terminated the left turn maneuver and stopped the vehicle before crossing the bicyclist’s path. However, as reported, for reasons under investigation, just as the Chevrolet was stopping, the cyclist steered into the road and struck the Chevrolet. The bicyclist was ejected from his bicycle and died from the resulting injuries.
When evaluating legal liability, many other facts will need to be uncovered, including:
- The precise distances involved when the Chevrolet stopped moving — in other words, did the bicyclist have time to stop?
- What reasons would account for the bicyclist steering into the road just before the accident — was that an attempt to avoid the crash?
- How fast was the bicyclist traveling? — as reported, he was on a motorized bicycle
- Was impairment a factor with either person involved?
- Was the bicyclist wearing safety gear?
- And more
Our Attorneys Can Help
For more information, contact the Louisiana personal injury lawyers at Mansfield, Melancon, Cranmer & Dick LLC. We have a proven track record of success handling many types of Louisiana personal injury cases, including car accidents, boating accidents, motorcycle accidents, premises liability accidents, and cases involving nursing care facility abuse/neglect. Contact us by calling one of our offices: New Orleans at (504) 500-1108, Baton Rouge at (225) 612-0800, or Lafayette at (337) 409-0003. You can also request a free consultation by using our “Contact Us” page.