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Understanding Bicycle Accident Liability: Who's at Fault and What You Need to Know

The consequences can be devastating when a crash occurs between a bicycle and a motor vehicle. Cyclists are more exposed, leaving them more vulnerable to serious injury or even death. Cyclists hit by vehicles often sustain head, spine and brain injuries. Accident victims are left to cope with pain and suffering, lost income, and costly medical treatments.

Who is at fault for bicycle-motor vehicle accidents? What legal options are available for an injured cyclist? Here’s what you need to know about bicycle accident liability in Ontario.

a man wearing a helmet happily riding his bicycle with cars in background

What Legal Options Does an Injured Cyclist Have?

If you are an injured cyclist, you have several options for claiming injury compensation:

  • You can bring a lawsuit against the at-fault driver.

  • If you have car insurance, you can claim accident benefits through your insurer to cover out-of-pocket expenses, including ambulance fees, housekeeping expenses, medication, childcare expenses, and lost income.

  • If you don’t own a vehicle or have car insurance, you can file an accident benefits claim through the insurance policy of the owner of the motor vehicle involved in the crash.

  • If you’re injured in a hit-and-run accident with a vehicle, you can make a claim to the Motor Vehicle Accident Claims Fund.

It is so important to know that you are entitled to claim accident benefits regardless of who was at fault for the accident and that you can still sue the vehicle driver if you were partially responsible for the collision. Speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer as soon as possible after the accident to make sure you get the compensation that you deserve. Your lawyer can help you navigate the complex accident benefits claims process and advise you on the strengths of your personal injury case.

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Who Is Liable For A Bicycle Accident?

Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act applies to bike/motor vehicle accidents. The law gives significant protection to injured cyclists by setting out a “reverse onus” for determining fault. Here is how the reverse onus works: when an injured cyclist sues a driver for damages arising from a crash with a vehicle, the vehicle driver is presumed to be at fault for the crash; the cyclist only has to prove that the collision occurred and that it caused loss or damage. The burden is on the vehicle driver to prove that the loss or damage did not arise through their negligence or improper conduct. The vehicle driver will be 100% responsible for the cyclist's damages if they’re not able to prove otherwise.

Is The Cyclist Ever At Fault?

The reverse onus is extremely beneficial to an injured cyclist, but it doesn’t eliminate the possibility of the cyclist being found at fault for the accident. If the vehicle driver can provide evidence that the cyclist was also responsible for the accident or for their own injuries, it will reduce the cyclist’s claim for compensation. This is a legal principle known as “contributory negligence.”

When sued, motorists will point to all manner of “fault” on the part of the cyclist in an attempt to defend themselves. Common allegations against cyclists include not following the rules of the road, failing to keep a proper lookout, wearing dark clothing, not using a light or reflective gear, and not wearing a bicycle helmet.

If a cyclist is found partially at fault for the accident or for their own injuries (e.g., a brain injury that could have been avoided had the cyclist been wearing a helmet), it will reduce the cyclist’s potential damage award to the extent of their own fault. The court will assess the degree of fault and assign a percentage to the cyclist and motorist. For example, if the driver is found to be 75% liable and the cyclist is found to be 25% contributorily negligent, the cyclist will recover 75% of their damages.

It all comes down to the facts and how your lawsuit is presented. That’s why it’s crucial to hire an experienced personal injury lawyer if you’re injured in a bicycle accident. They’ll take every aspect of your case into consideration and defend your rights if the driver tries to make misleading claims.

Reach Out to Our Experienced Bicycle Accident Lawyers Serving the Algoma District

If you’ve been injured following a cycling accident involving a motor vehicle, you should immediately seek the professional advice of a personal injury lawyer. At Feifel Gualazzi, our team understands that personal injuries can be life-changing and costly. We are committed to getting you compensation for your damages.

When you contact the team at Feifel Gualazzi, we’ll take over the entire legal process to ensure you get all the benefits and compensation you’re entitled to. We’ve represented thousands of clients in Sault Ste. Marie and Algoma District.

Contact us today for a free consultation.


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