When children take their bicycles onto roads shared by other bicycles and cars, disastrous consequences can result if the drivers of these vehicles fail to take reasonable care for the safety of others. Both bicyclists and motor-vehicle drivers are required to follow traffic laws, or “rules of the road.” If, for example, a driver or other bicyclist violates traffic laws and posted signs in school zones, neighborhoods, or other areas in which children on bikes are present, those individuals may be held liable in actions for damages for the resulting injuries suffered by children bicyclists.
If your child has been struck by a negligent driver or cyclist while riding a bike, you may be entitled to compensation for the injuries your child has suffered. Child bicycle-accident lawyer Jeff Killino is dedicated to helping families and children in situations like yours. Call him today at 877-875-2927 to learn more about your legal options.
Protect Your Child
There are several steps that you as a parent can take to protect your child while he or she is riding a bike. Teaching your children the following safety guidelines will decrease their chances of being injured as a result of the negligence of other cyclists and motor-vehicle operators:
- ALWAYS wear a helmet!
- Wear bright clothing while riding
- Slow down and watch for traffic when approaching an intersection
- Always stop at stop signs and traffic signals and look both ways for oncoming traffic
- Ride on the correct side of the road
- Watch for pedestrians and other cyclists
- Use reflectors and lights when riding after dark
By taking these safety precautions, your child can diminish his or her chances of contributing to or being involved in a dangerous collision.
If an accident nevertheless occurs, the protection of a bicycle helmet may make the difference between your child’s sustaining minor or far more serious injuries. Traumatic injuries account for approximately two-thirds of all cyclist deaths, and studies estimate that the use of a helmet could have prevented anywhere from 45-88% of these injuries. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, however, only 11% of bicyclists wear helmets while riding.
Legal Liability for Injuries Caused to Children in Bicycle Accidents
Bicycle accidents involving children bicyclists can occur for many reasons, many of which may be the fault of no one other than the child. A child who runs into a parked car, for example, if the car is legally parked, may be entirely responsible for the injuries suffered as a result.
Liability for Injuries Caused by Negligent Maintenance
If, on the other hand, a child is injured while riding a bike because a bicycle path or road is poorly maintained, those responsible for maintenance of these surfaces may be found liable for injuries sustained by your child under certain circumstances. If a municipality or other governmental entity is responsible for such maintenance, however, the municipality may be relieved of liability for injuries suffered by a child as a result if the municipality enjoys sovereign immunity in the jurisdiction in which the action is brought.
A defendant may also be protected under a state’s Recreational Use Statute if, for example, the accident occurred as a result of a poorly maintained surface on land held open to use by the public free of charge. When a landowner holds land open in this manner, the owner is relieved of the duties, under certain circumstances, of keeping the premises safe for public use and warning of dangerous conditions. The existence of this duty or lack thereof may depend, however, on whether the land is improved or unimproved.
Liability for Injuries Caused to Bicyclists in Motor-vehicle Accidents
Most collisions between motor vehicles and bicycles occur at intersections, and many are the result of a motor-vehicle-driver’s negligence. Other accidents may result from a bicyclist’s negligence or a combination of bicyclist and motor-vehicle-driver negligence.
- Applicability of Traffic Laws
Under the laws of most states, bicycles as well as motor-vehicles drivers are considered “vehicles” whose drivers are subject to the laws related to vehicle use and operation. Liability or fault can be attributed to the driver of a motor vehicle when the driver commits a traffic violation or otherwise engages in negligent driving. Actions that may lead to a finding of fault on the part of a motor-vehicle driver who causes injuries to a child bicyclist include the following:
- Driving above posted speed limits
- Driving above speeds safe for weather or road conditions
- Failure to give the right of way to bicyclists who have the right of way under the circumstances
- Failing to stop at stop signs or other traffic signals
- Failing to signal for a turn at the time required by law
Most intersection accidents between bicycles and motor vehicles occur as a result of right-of-way violations, according to statistics. Bicyclists and motor-vehicle drivers are charged with knowledge of all rules of the road, including those related to rights-of way, and ignorance of these laws is no excuse for a failure to comply with a rule’s strictures. Parents should make sure to learn these rules, therefore, and teach them to their children to avoid a finding of contributory negligence on the part of a child bicyclist as a result of violating a rule of the road or other traffic law.
Different right-of-way rules apply to intersections with traffic signals and those without. In an intersection without traffic signals, the vehicle that arrives first is generally considered to have the right-of-way. If vehicles, including bicycles, arrive at an unmarked intersection at the same time, the motor vehicle or bicycle farthest to the right has the right-of-way. In addition, if one road is a major street while the other is a smaller, more minor throughway, the vehicle on the major street has the right-of-way regardless of which vehicle arrives first or which is farthest to the right.
In intersections with lighted traffic signals, the signals must be followed by cyclists and motor-vehicle drivers, alike. In intersections with stop signs, the rules giving the right-of-way to the vehicle farthest to the right and to the vehicle that first arrives generally apply.
- Negligence in the Absence of Traffic Violations
The driver of a motor vehicle may be held liable for injuries suffered by a child bicyclist even if the driver’s negligence does not include a traffic violation. If a driver fails to keep a proper look-out for bicyclists and causes a collision and injuries to the bicyclist as a result, the driver may be held liable for damages as a result of negligent driving even in the absence of a specific traffic-law violation.
- Contributory Negligence of Bicyclists
Under the laws of most states, the contributory negligence of a bicyclist may prevent recovery for damages sustained in an accident between the bicyclist and a motor-vehicle driver if the bicyclist’s own negligence is found to have accounted for a certain percentage of fault (usually, more than 50%). In some cases, the negligence of a bicyclist that amounts to less than 50% of the fault for an accident may reduce the amount of damages to which the plaintiff is entitled.
The rules of contributory negligence may vary somewhat from state to state. Your attorney will evaluate your case and advise you on the law that applies in the jurisdiction in which your action will be filed.
If your child has been injured in a bicycle accident as a result of someone’s negligence, you may be entitled to damages in compensation. Contact child bicycle-accident lawyer Jeff Killino today at 877-875-2927 to learn more about your legal options.